Standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, and AP exams are significant milestones for students, often determining their educational futures. However, for students with disabilities or special needs, navigating these exams can be challenging. In this blog post, we'll explore the criteria and conditions for different types of special students when taking the SAT, ACT, and AP exams and provide guidance on how to prepare best and succeed.
Think of standardized tests as the sorting hat from Harry Potter. They help colleges and universities decide which students are the best fit for their programs. Just as the sorting hat places students into different houses based on their characteristics, standardized tests help institutions sort applicants based on their skills and knowledge.
Accommodations level the playing field, ensuring that individuals are judged by their talents, not hindered by their disabilities. They open doors, dismantle barriers, and pave the way for individuals with disabilities to fully engage in education, work, and life. It's about ensuring everyone gets a shot at success. Inclusivity is the heart of it all. They come in all forms, from extra time during exams for students with learning disabilities to assistive technology for individuals with sensory impairments. The goal is to address each person's unique needs.
In this blog, we will get to know more about the different types of accommodations that are provided for students for the different types of standardized tests.
SAT Exam Accommodations
The College Board provides accommodations for disabled students taking the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) to ensure that these students have equal access to the exam. Here's an overview of SAT exam accommodations for disabled students:
- Extended Time: Before taking the SAT with accommodations, secure approval from the College Board's Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). Test centers offer accommodations like time and a half, a 14-point test booklet, large-print answer sheets, and extra breaks. School-based accommodations apply at the student's school and include double time, human readers, scribes, and pre-recorded audio. Confirm your accommodations with your school's SSD coordinator before test day, and bring your SSD eligibility letter. For an extended time, you must stay the full duration allocated, and the unscored section is removed. Extended time includes 4 hours and 30 minutes for time and a half and 6 hours for double time.
- Breaks: Certain students with documented disabilities may need additional or longer breaks during the SAT Exam. These breaks can be for various reasons like taking medication, testing blood sugar, resting, using the restroom, or managing focus issues in the case of students with ADHD.
Breaks come in three types:
- Extra Breaks (5 minutes),
- Extended breaks (10 minutes), and
- Breaks as needed, often for specific medical conditions, not counted as testing time, and may involve small group testing settings.
To access these accommodations, explicit requests, such as permission to eat, take medication, or test blood sugar, are necessary.
- Reading and Seeing Accommodations: Accommodations cater to students with documented disabilities affecting reading or visual abilities, including screen readers, Braille, large print, raised line drawings, and magnification devices. Accommodation requests should specify the needed support, ensuring accessibility for those with disabilities.
- Recording Responses: Accommodations are available for students with disabilities impacting response recording. Eligible disabilities may include visual impairments, physical limitations in writing, and dysgraphia. Accommodations encompass large-print answer sheets, recording answers in the test book, dictation/speech-to-text, a writer/scribe, or word processing on a computer. However, they are not suitable for students with handwriting or keyboarding challenges unless due to a disabling condition. For paper and pencil tests, computers are limited to recording essays and free responses, with no spell-check, grammar-check, word prediction, or cut-and-paste allowed. Additional features require specific approval.
- Use of a Four-Function Calculator: The College Board's calculator policy varies by exam, so check the specific exam's calculator policy. For the digital SAT exam, calculators are permitted in all math sections, negating the need for a four-function calculator as an accommodation. However, for other exams, refer to the exam-specific calculator policy. Four-function calculators are basic and perform limited functions. To qualify for this accommodation, students must have a diagnosed disability impacting their math calculation abilities, like a specific learning disorder with impairment in mathematics.
- Assistive Technology: During College Board testing, each device or software for assistive technology requires separate approval. Approved technology is usable for digital SAT, PSAT-related assessments, or AP exams. Universal tools like zoom, color contrast, and text highlighting are accessible to all test-takers without additional requests. Eligibility covers various disabilities affecting test-taking. Detailed descriptions of assistive technology are necessary. It's important to note that not all school-used technology is suitable for the test due to security concerns. No network connection is allowed during testing, and specific configurations might be needed for digital tests. Unapproved aids must be disabled, and unauthorized functions or software are not permitted during the test.
- Other Accommodations: The College Board offers a range of accommodations for students with documented disabilities. These accommodations encompass various categories, including timing and scheduling (e.g., extended time and breaks), presentation (e.g., human reader and assistive technology), response (e.g., verbal responses dictated to a scribe and computer usage), math calculations (e.g., the use of a four-function calculator), setting (e.g., small group setting and wheelchair accessibility), and physical or medical accommodations (e.g., permission for food, drink, or medication). Note that the use of a cell phone during testing is not permitted unless explicitly approved by the College Board, and epinephrine auto-injectors can be brought to the testing room without requiring specific accommodations, provided they are stored appropriately. The College Board evaluates all reasonable requests for accommodations from students with documented disabilities.
ACT Exam Accommodations
Students must have documented disabilities or specific needs to be eligible for accommodations, and they should apply well in advance of the test date to allow for proper processing of their requests. The specific accommodations provided can vary depending on the student's individual needs and the documentation they provide. Students, parents, or guardians should check the official website for the most up-to-date information and guidance on requesting and receiving accommodations for the ACT exam.
Here is detailed information about the types of accommodations available for the ACT exam test takers:
- Extended Time: Extended time is one of the most common accommodations. It provides eligible students with additional time to complete each section of the ACT. The amount of extra time can vary based on the specific needs of the student, but it is typically 50% more time than the standard time for each section. For example, if a standard section has a time limit of 45 minutes, a student with extended time might have 67.5 minutes for that section.
- Extra and Extended Breaks: Some students with disabilities or medical conditions may require additional breaks during the exam. These breaks can help them manage their needs and reduce potential stress. The exact duration and frequency of breaks can vary based on the student's documented needs.
- Reading Accommodations: Reading accommodations are designed to help students who have difficulty with reading or comprehending written text. These accommodations may include:
- Reader: A reader is an individual who reads the questions or passages aloud to the student. This accommodation is typically provided to students with visual impairments, reading disabilities, or other conditions that make reading difficult.
- Pre-recorded Audio: Some students may receive pre-recorded audio versions of the test, which allow them to listen to the questions and passages using headphones. This is particularly beneficial for students with visual impairments or reading disabilities.
- Small Group Testing: Small group testing is an accommodation that provides a quiet, low-distraction environment for students who have conditions such as attention deficits, anxiety, or sensory sensitivities. It allows the student to focus better on the exam content.
- Four-Function Calculator: This accommodation allows students to use a basic four-function calculator during the exam. While the standard ACT does not allow calculators in all sections, with this accommodation, students can use a simple calculator to perform basic calculations, which can be especially helpful for students with specific disabilities or mathematical challenges.
AP Exam Accommodations
To access accommodations, students must go through a formal request process, provide documentation of their disability or condition, and receive approval from the College Board, which administers AP exams. It's essential to start the accommodation request process well in advance of the exam date, as it can take time to process and approve requests. Students should work closely with their school's guidance counselor or contact the College Board directly for guidance and up-to-date information on requesting and receiving accommodations for AP exams.
The AP accommodations are mentioned below:
- Braille Exam Format: The Braille exam format is designed for students with visual impairments who read and write in Braille. The exam questions and materials are provided in Braille, allowing these students to read and respond to questions using Braille independently.
- Assistive Technology-Compatible (ATC) Exam Format: This accommodation is for students who rely on assistive technology, such as screen readers or speech-to-text software. The exam is provided in a digital format that is compatible with their assistive technology, enabling them to access and interact with the content effectively.
- Large-Print Exam Format: Large-print exam materials are intended for students with visual impairments who require larger text to read comfortably. The exam questions and passages are provided in a larger font size, making them more accessible.
- Extended Time: Extended time is one of the most common accommodations. It grants eligible students additional time to complete the exam. The specific amount of extra time is determined based on the student's documented needs, typically ranging from 50% to 100% additional time.
- Extra Breaks: Some students may require additional breaks during the exam due to specific medical conditions, attention difficulties, or other needs. These breaks can help students manage their physical and mental well-being.
- Large-Block Answer Sheets: Large-block answer sheets are designed for students who may have difficulty with fine motor skills or visual impairments. These answer sheets feature larger answer bubbles, making it easier for students to mark their responses accurately.
- Permission to Use a Computer for Typing Essays: This accommodation allows students to use a computer to type their essay responses instead of writing them by hand. It benefits students with handwriting difficulties, fine motor skill impairments, or those who are more comfortable typing.
- Permission to Use a Magnification Device (Electronic or Non-Electronic): Students with visual impairments may be granted permission to use magnification devices, which can be electronic (e.g., digital magnifiers) or non-electronic (e.g., handheld magnifying glasses). These devices help students read a text and view content more clearly.
- A Human Reader to Dictate Questions: This accommodation is provided to students who have difficulty reading questions independently. A human reader reads the exam questions aloud to the student, allowing them to listen and comprehend the content.
- A Writer/Scribe to Record Responses: For students who have physical disabilities, difficulties with handwriting, or other conditions that make writing challenging, a writer or scribe can be provided. The writer records the student's responses as they dictate their answers.
- A Written Copy of Oral Instructions: Some students may require a written copy of oral instructions to understand better and follow exam instructions. This accommodation ensures that they receive information in a format they find more accessible.
In conclusion, accommodations for standardized tests empower students with disabilities to reach their full potential. These accommodations are the bridge to equal opportunities, and they emphasize inclusivity and diversity in the education system. By taking advantage of these resources, students can confidently tackle their exams and pave the way for future success.
We hope this article helped you in knowing about the accommodations for different standardized tests.
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