At a glance
The SAT and ACT both offer accommodations, but the process of applying for them is different.
Kids who get testing accommodations through an IEP or a 504 plan can often get the same accommodations for the SAT or ACT.
Your child’s high school can be helpful in the application process.
Would having extra time or using a computer help your teen on the SAT or ACT test? Both of these college entrance exams offer for eligible students with learning and thinking differences. But the process for applying to each is different.
Below is an overview of the types of accommodations available and the application process.
But first, here are some important things to consider:
- Decide on the SAT, ACT, both, or neither. Consider which college entrance exam is a better fit for your child. Keep in mind that some colleges are now test-optional.
- Start the application process early. For the SAT, the review process can take up to seven weeks. And tests are only offered on specific dates.
- Kids with IEPs and 504 plans have to apply for accommodations, too. Accommodations on the SAT or ACT aren’t automatic for students with or . Check out the SAT documentation requirements, or download a copy of the ACT requirements.
- Apply through your child’s high school. Most high schools have at least one staff member to help students apply. But you can always apply on your own if needed.
- Use the SAT and ACT websites as the final word. The SAT and ACT sites are updated when new information is available.
Types of SAT and ACT accommodations
Current SAT accommodations include:
- Extended time
- Extra and extended breaks
- Reading accommodations (like a reader or pre-recorded audio)
- Use of a four-function calculator for math sections
- Multiple-day testing
- Small group setting
ACT accommodations include:
- Taking the test within the standard allotted time, but with additional breaks
- Alternate testing formats (like pre-recorded audio or screen reader software)
- Using a computer for the essay
- Time-and-a-half extended time
- Reading accommodations (such as assistive technology and readers)
If your child has an IEP or a 504 plan, review it to see what accommodations your child has for tests. Think about whether your child will need additional ones on the SAT or ACT. Keep in mind that neither the SAT nor the ACT offers modifications, like fewer or easier test questions.
In general, the types of accommodations available on the SAT and ACT aren’t that different. But the way you apply for them is. Read on for more details on how this works.
How to apply for SAT accommodations
A not-for-profit organization, the College Board, administers the SAT. It refers to accommodations on the SAT as Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD).
The College Board’s SSD website offers specific instructions for applying. But here’s a general overview of suggested steps in the process.
- Look at the calendar of SAT test dates on the College Board’s website, and choose a target test date. Your child should apply for SAT accommodations before registering to take that SAT test.
- If you’d like to apply with your high school’s help, contact your child’s special education case manager (or guidance counselor or 504 coordinator, if your child has a 504 plan) or the school’s SSD coordinator. Tell this person when your child would like to take the test.
- Sign the Parent Consent Form and give it to the staff member you’re working with. Check that the school has documentation of your child’s learning and thinking differences on file. Provide the school with anything you believe is missing. Make sure the documentation explains how your child’s differences affect test-taking.
- Ask the staff member you’re working with to fill out an online application for SAT accommodations for your child on the SSD website. This person will submit your child’s disability documentation along with the application.
- If you want to submit a request on your own, without the school, you must print and fill out the Student Eligibility Form from the College Board. You’ll still have to gather documentation and fill out the application.
- When you get the approval letter, look for something called an SSD number. Use this number when applying online to take the SAT. This will ensure that your child gets the approved accommodations. (Some testing sites may have a limited number of seats available to kids with accommodations on any given day. The earlier you sign up, the better the chances of getting the desired time and location.)
How to apply for ACT accommodations
The nonprofit organization ACT administers the ACT test. You can go to the ACT website for specific and up-to-date instructions on applying.
ACT’s application process has been streamlined, simplifying the process for requesting accommodations.
- Register online for the ACT test. On the online form, you can indicate a request for accommodations. You will specify which type of accommodations you’re requesting.
- After you submit your online registration, you’ll get an email telling you how to work with your school to submit the documentation. To begin the process, forward that email to your school along with the Consent to Release Information to ACT form.
- Your school will submit your request and the documentation. ACT will review the request and then will notify your school. You should hear back from the school within two weeks.
Taking college entrance tests is a key step in the process of applying to college. And like everything else in the process, it can be stressful for you and your child.
- Try these last-minute strategies to help your child prep for the test.
- Explore tips for helping high-schoolers cope with test anxiety.
You will need to submit documentation that verifies your child’s need for testing accommodations.
Getting approved for accommodations can take some time, so start the process early.
The easiest way to apply for accommodations is through your child’s high school.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Manju Banerjee, PhD is vice president of educational research and innovation at Landmark College, Putney, Vermont.