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 on 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. And as you research potential colleges, keep in mind that some colleges are test-optional.
- Start the application process early. It takes time and planning to apply for SAT or ACT accommodations. For the SAT, the review process for accommodations takes up to seven weeks. And tests are only offered on specific dates during the year. So start the process as early as possible. This is especially true if your child is planning to take the SAT or ACT more than once.
- Kids with IEPs and 504 plans have to apply for accommodations, too. Getting accommodations on the SAT or ACT isn’t automatic for students with or . They still have to formally apply for them. Both tests have specific guidelines on the required documentation. Check out the SAT documentation requirements, or download a PDF of the ACT requirements.
- For convenience, apply through your child’s high school. Every public high school (and some private ones) has at least one staff member who helps students apply. This person knows the process well.
- Apply on your own if needed. Schools typically only help students apply for accommodations that are already in their IEP or 504 plan. So if your child needs different accommodations, you may want to apply on your own. This can be trickier than applying through the school.
- Use the SAT and ACT websites. The SAT and ACT websites are updated when new information is available. They’re the final word on applications and available accommodations.
Types of SAT and ACT Accommodations
The SAT offers several different types of accommodations. (You can see a full list on the College Board site.) They include:
- Extended time
- Computer use for essays
- Extra and extended breaks
- Reading accommodations (like an audio test format)
- Use of a four-function calculator for math sections
- Multiple-day testing
- Small group setting
The ACT also offers many accommodations. They include:
- Taking the test within the standard allotted time, but with additional breaks
- Alternate testing formats (like use of a computer for essays)
- 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 accommodations 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. The application and review process can take up to seven weeks, so plan accordingly.
- 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 issues affect test-taking. You can learn more about the specific documentation criteria on the SSD website.
- 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 the SSD 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 your child signs 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 the college entrance tests is a major step in the process of applying to college. And like everything else in this process, it can be stressful for you and for your child. Try these last-minute strategies to help your child get ready for the test. And 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.
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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.