College Essay

April 28, 2017, by

Students confront many decisions when determining which standardized tests will help them put their best foot forward for college admissions. Students with learning differences and physical challenges have an additional layer of considerations and preparations.

Accommodations for Standardized Tests Address Different Needs

By leveling the playing field, accommodations enable students with learning differences and physical challenges to more effectively demonstrate their knowledge on these standardized tests. Commonly granted accommodations include: additional time to complete a test; use of a computer for drafting essays, or use of a calculator for certain math sections; small group testing; and, more frequent breaks. Accommodations do not affect the fees associated with taking these tests. Further, as standardized test score reports do not indicate whether students have received accommodations, privacy can be maintained in the admissions process.


PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Test, and ACT Accommodation Guidelines

The College Board (the organization that administers the PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP exams) and ACT have clear guidelines for how a student with a learning difference or physical challenge can request and receive accommodations. You can learn more about the extensive accommodations available for students and find important details of the process for the College Board here and for the ACT here. For example, certain documentation along with the formal request may be required; accommodation requests often involve up to seven weeks for review; and students can appeal decisions (if the original request is denied), or submit additional documentation to seek different accommodations.


Notably, the College Board announced in January that students who have school-based accommodations (i.e., an IEP or 504 Plan) will be automatically approved for those same accommodations on College Board exams. While a student’s request for accommodations on the ACT is much stronger when there is an established history of school-based accommodations, the ACT still requires a review process (including educational and/or neuropsychological testing conducted within the past three years) before granting accommodations.


Preparing for Standardized Test Accommodations

For both the College Board and ACT, it is important for students to plan ahead to ensure that they obtain any needed accommodations in time for their test date. We strongly encourage students to work hand-in-hand with their high school learning specialists or resource counselors to efficiently and effectively request accommodations. These educators act as advocates, ensuring that students who most need test accommodations will receive them. If you have any questions about requesting accommodations, talk with a Marks Education counselor or tutor. We are happy to help you navigate this important part of the college application process.

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