Both the College Board and ACT, Inc. are committed to ensuring fair and accurate test results by providing appropriate accommodations to examinees with documented disabilities. And while four out of five applications for accommodations request extended time, the other 20% provided cover a wide range of accommodations to meet a variety of special needs.
Computers and Scribes
Students with dysgraphia, physical disabilities that impair their ability to write, or other severe language-based learning disorders may qualify for a computer or scribe. These accommodations are not automatically given to students that use computers as part of their school accommodations. Typically, the accommodation provided is a school computer that may be used as a word processor to record essay and short-answer responses; spell-check, grammar-check, word prediction, and cut-and-paste functions are disabled. Students requiring greater assistance in submitting responses may be permitted to dictate to a scribe.
Dysgraphia can be grounds for accommodations, but plain old poor handwriting is not considered a disability in and of itself. Students who have difficulty bubbling in answers to multiple-choice questions can request an enlarged (large-block) answer sheet.
Readers and Alternate Test Formats
Students with dyslexia, visual impairments, or other severe reading disorders may qualify for a reader or other assistive technology. The ACT offers reading and seeing accommodations such as larger type, braille, raised line drawing, or DVD formats of the test. On the SAT, students can qualify for large-print test books, braille test books, braille graphs, MP3 audio test formats, readers, or magnifiers. Only one reading/seeing accommodation will be approved unless specific reasons are given at the time of application. If a student is able to read, but at a very slow reading rate, extended time may be a more appropriate accommodation.
Calculators for the No Calculator Section of the SAT
Students with disabilities that affect math may be nervous about the new math section of the SAT that does not permit the use of calculators. But Students diagnosed with dyscalculia or other specific learning disorder with impairment in mathematics can qualify for the use of a calculator during the No Calculator Math section. Note that only four-function calculators that are limited addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division will be permitted for use on this section.
Bear in mind that testing accommodations are not automatically provided to students with IEPs, 504s, or existing school accommodations. Students must specifically apply for any desired accommodations through their guidance office. Also remember that there is no mention of the accommodations (or lack of accommodations) used on the ACT or SAT on a student’s score report. Students should use all the accommodations that they need and practice testing with them before test day to ensure optimal performance when it counts.