SAT Testing Accommodations_ Your Guide

SAT Testing Accommodations: A Guide

SAT Testing Accommodations: A Guide

1 in 5 children in the U.S. have learning and attention challenges. Such challenges include ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, processing deficits, and others.

Such learning and attention challenges can be hard enough in a general education classroom! Many educators simply do not have the resources necessary to support students navigating learning challenges.

When it comes to college admissions, students face a potentially greater challenge: standardized testing.

With tests like the SAT and ACT, students are expected to work through a large amount of material in a short amount of time. For students with learning challenges, this can feel virtually impossible--even if they are well-versed in content and strategies.

The good news is that students with learning challenges and/or documented disabilities may be able to qualify for SAT testing accommodations, which can enable extended time, online testing, and more.

Going about acquiring SAT testing accommodations can be a complex process. The College Board requires specific documentation, and there are lots of nuances to the process that most parents are simply unaware of.

We get asked about testing accommodations all the time as test prep experts, and we’re here to give you everything you need to understand and pursue SAT accommodations.

Here’s what we cover in this post:


What are SAT Testing Accommodations?

The SAT is a marathon of a standardized test, requiring test-takers to work through the following five sections in just under four hours, with only 15 minutes of "breaks:"

  • Evidence-Based Reading (52 questions, 65 minutes)
  • Writing & Language (44 questions, 35 minutes)
  • Math, No-Calculator (20 questions, 25 minutes)
  • Math, Calculator (38 questions, 55 minutes)
  • Essay, optional (1 question, 50 minutes)

For students with learning challenges, it can be incredibly difficult to get through each of these sections in the time and minimal breaks allotted. 

The generic paper-and-pencil format of the SAT may also be an obstacle for students with sight impairment and/or other disabilities.

To ensure that such students are not at a disadvantage when taking the test, the SAT offers testing accommodations. These may include extended time, for example, or extra breaks, as well as accommodations for seeing and reading.

Here’s what the College Board says, in general, about SAT accommodations:

“The College Board is committed to making sure that students with disabilities can take tests with the accommodations they need. All reasonable requests are considered.”

Accommodations apply to any test the College Board publishes, including the SAT, AP exams, SAT subject tests, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT.


Is My Student Eligible for Accommodations?

Students must meet the College Board’s eligibility requirements in order to apply for (and ultimately receive) testing accommodations.

According to the College Board,

“Some students with documented disabilities are eligible for accommodations on College Board exams. Students cannot take the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, or AP Exams with accommodations unless their request for accommodations has been approved by Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD).”

The College Board boils this eligibility down to four criteria:

  • Applicants must have a documented disability
  • Participation in a College Board exam is impacted
  • Students need the requested accommodation
  • Applicants receive accommodation on school tests

“Applicants must have a documented disability”

This is probably the most important eligibility requirement for College Board testing accommodations. Without documentation, students will not be approved for accommodations.

While the type of documentation depends on the specific disability, examples include a medical report or psychoeducational evaluation.

We’ll talk more about documentation later on in this post. (Jump there now.)

“Participation in a College Board exam is impacted”

Basically, this requirement means that a student’s disability limits “functionality” on some or all aspects of a College Board exam. 

A student may not be able to sit for an extended period of time, for example, or may have trouble reading small-print exam material. Medical issues may require a student to take breaks as needed during a standardized test.

"The student needs the requested accommodation"

Applicants have to show that they actually need (and could benefit from) testing accommodations. Again, this is where documentation comes into the picture.

"The student receives accommodation on school tests"

Most test-takers approved for College Board accommodations already get accommodations on exams in high school. 

But, just because you receive accommodations on school exams does not immediately qualify you for CB accommodations. You’ll still have to provide adequate documentation to support your need and go through the College Board’s request and approval process.


Types of SAT Testing Accommodations

What kinds of testing accommodations are available to students? 

These are the most common:

  • Extended time (time and a half, double-time, or more time)
  • Extended breaks and/or extra breaks (breaks between test sections, breaks as needed)
  • Using the computer for the SAT essay component
  • Reading and seeing accommodations (such as Braille or large-print text)
  • Four-function calculator (for use on non-calculator sections)

However, the College Board makes clear that this list is not finite. It’s willing to provide any accommodation according to documented need.

SAT Testing Accommodations_QUOTE

Keep in mind that accommodations don’t necessarily apply to all sections of the SAT. 

Students must demonstrate a need for individual and/or all sections (Reading, Writing/Language, Math, Essay) to receive full test accommodations.

If a student earns reading accommodations, however, they earn accommodations on all sections, given that reading is an inherent component of the entire SAT.


Documentation Guidelines

Proper documentation is probably the single most important component of requesting SAT testing accommodations!

Be sure to follow the College Board’s documentation guidelines carefully, even if you're working with your student's school. 

Basically, this means submitting the appropriate, extensive documentation for the following two things:

Keep in mind that doctor’s notes and/or IEPs don’t guarantee testing accommodations. If you don’t have an IEP, you can still request accommodations with other documentation (this just requires a formal documentation review).

Here’s what documentation is needed for a student with ADHD requesting testing accommodations:

  • Clearly stated ADHD diagnosis by a licensed professional, with reference to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Current evaluations and testing (i.e., no more than five years old for educational evaluations)
  • Detailed history of ADHD, through teacher observations, medical reports, etc.
  • Evaluator’s full report of the diagnosis
  • Common Diagnostic Test results
  • Description of functional limitation
  • Rationale for accommodations
  • Professional credentials (for all evaluators, etc.)

This likely sounds like a lot! For this reason, working with school coordinators/personnel is essential to ensuring you have the documentation needed to get approved for accommodations (see below).

The College Board has different documentation guidelines for different disabilities. Find the full list here.


Requesting SAT Testing Accommodations

Documentation is the hardest part of requesting accommodations. The actual process of submitting a request is relatively straightforward.

1) Work with your school

The College Board strongly encourages families to work with their student’s school to request accommodations. Quite simply, it’s a lot easier to do so and enables a more streamlined process.

(It is possible to request accommodations on your own. Here’s how.)

Parents will work with a school-appointed SSD Online Disability Accommodation Management coordinator, who will submit a request for accommodations (including all viable documentation) using SSD Online.

Please note that parents must sign a parental consent form prior to this process if the student is under 18 years of age.

The College Board notifies the SSD coordinator and the student when a decision is made. If approved for accommodations, you’ll receive an eligibility code, which students will need when they register for a College Board test.

SAT Testing Accommodations_QUOTE (1)

2) Request accommodations as soon as possible

This is a long process--in fact, it can take seven weeks to request and earn accommodations! This is true even if you work with your school to request accommodations.

We strongly encourage families to request testing accommodations as soon as they can, preferably at least three months out from the testing date.


Registering for the SAT With Accommodations

If you are approved for testing accommodations, congrats! Now, it’s important to register for the SAT with those accommodations.

When approved, students receive a seven-digit SSD Eligibility Code. SSD coordinators also have this code on their online dashboards.

When registering for the SAT online, all you need to do is input this code when prompted. Your SAT admission ticket should also specify this code. (If it does not for any reason, contact SSD online.)

On Test Day, it’s essential to bring your SSD Eligibility Letter with you. Depending on the accommodations requested, you’ll either take the SAT at your school or a local testing center.

Once approved for SAT testing accommodations, a student enjoys accommodations until one year after they graduate.

Remember: accommodations apply to any College Board test--not just the SAT!


What Happens if I’m Not Approved?

If you aren’t approved for accommodations, don’t worry! You may still have a shot at getting approved.

The College Board will explain its reasoning for rejection in a follow-up letter. Most often, the CB denies students’ requests for accommodations because of the following:

  • Insufficient or non-supportive documentation
  • "More information is needed"

In some cases, the College Board may partially approve a request. This means that the College Board may grant only some of a student's requested accommodations.

If you need to provide more sufficient documentation, you can resubmit a request with your SSD coordinator. You can also resubmit a request with your coordinator that supplies more information or "appeals" the decision for partial approval.


A Counselor Weighs In

We recognize that the process of requesting SAT testing accommodations can be strenuous. So we spoke with Princeton High School counselor, Nipurna Shah, about the components of the process.

What are the best resources available to parents navigating testing accommodations?

Typically to receive accommodations, a student usually has to have either a 504 plan or an IEP.  A 504 is not special education.

What are the common challenges you see in the process of getting accommodations?  

The most common difficulty is documentation that does not identify the specific diagnosis and reason for the diagnosis.

What is your best advice for getting SAT testing accommodations?

Speak to your school personnel as soon as you can. They can support and advise you throughout the process.


SAT Testing Accommodations: Final Thoughts

Students with documented learning challenges and/or disabilities can apply for SAT testing accommodations. These can enable a student to sit for the SAT with extended time, extra breaks, and other modifications.

The process of requesting accommodations can be fairly involved, even if you work with your school. For this reason, we strongly encourage our families to start this process as soon as possible!

Accommodations are valid until one year after a student graduates.

As the test prep experts, we are here to assist with your student's journey to a competitive SAT score. Learn more about our SAT programs and services here!


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate M.

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University (B.A. in English Literature and Interdisciplinary Humanities) and Boston University (M.F.A in Creative Writing). Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.


Self Study for the SAT (1)

How to Self-Study for the SAT

How to Self-Study for the SAT

There are two myths about studying for the SAT.

The first is that it’s not possible to study for this college entrance exam. On the contrary, students seeking a competitive SAT score can and should study for this test!

The second myth involves how to study for the SAT. Many students assume it’s impossible to self-study for the SAT. 

While we always recommend working with test prep professionals when studying for this exam, it is possible to take the DIY route. 

In this post, we give SAT test-takers the resources and tips they need to pursue a path of self-study.

Here’s what we cover in this post:


What Makes the SAT Different from Normal Tests?

In the world of tests, the SAT is its own special unicorn. In many ways, it is entirely unlike any test high school students experience in the classroom.

How to Self Study for the SAT

In general, the SAT differs from “normal” tests in three ways:

  • Duration
  • Content
  • Strategy

For one thing, the SAT is a marathon. 

Students are expected to sit through over 4 hours of high-intensity interval braining (pun intended) when they take the SAT!

For another thing, the SAT does test specific content, but this may feel very different from content students are learning in high school. 

The SAT Math sections, for example, are heavy on data analysis and algebra, while Writing and Language tests grammar principles many students haven’t seen for ages.

Lastly, strategy is essential for success on the SAT. 

The Evidence-Based Reading section alone is entirely strategy-based, and the SAT rewards test-takers who can strategically approach Math and Writing & Language questions of any difficulty. 

In this sense, it may feel harder to study effectively for the SAT--and to do it alone! Studying content is one thing. Acquiring effective strategies is another.

However, it is possible to independently prepare for all of the components that make the SAT unique. 

The secret to doing so? Be sure to orient your SAT prep to these three things: duration, strategy, and content.

Then keep the following tips in mind.


How to Self-Study for the SAT in 8 Easy Steps

1. Start Early--With a Diagnostic

We recommend that students budget at least three months for effective SAT self-study. In fact, the longer your timeline of preparation, the better!

This may mean starting your SAT prep during the summer, especially if you are a rising senior. 

Prior to starting your SAT prep, it’s also wise to take a diagnostic SAT exam. Treat this practice test like the real thing to get a sense of your current standing, create a study plan, and establish a goal score.

The College Board has released 10 SAT practice tests, six of which have been previously administered as official exams. We recommend starting with one of these for your diagnostic exam (with essay).

(Not sure if the SAT is the right test for you? We can help you decide if the ACT is a better fit (or not).)

2. Choose Your Testing Date

The College Board administers seven SAT exams each year. Find the current testing schedule for 2020 in our regularly updated post on SAT administrations.

Select your testing date prior to preparation to establish a concrete SAT prep timeline. As we’ve already stated, it’s vital to select a date as far out as possible, as effective SAT studying requires sufficient time (and effort).

For example, if you begin your test prep in June, consider registering for a November SAT (at the earliest). Or, begin your test prep in January and take the test in May.

There are registration deadlines for SAT test dates, so be mindful of these! (Although it is possible to register late, with an added fee.)

If you are a senior planning to take the SAT, be mindful of SAT score submission deadlines, especially if you intend to apply to schools early.

3. Plan to Take the Test Twice

We advise our students to sit for the SAT at least twice. What are the benefits of doing so?

Taking the SAT twice gives students the greatest opportunity to increase their scores. Even without prep, most SAT students experience a score increase the second time around of taking the test.

What’s more, taking the SAT more than once enables Superscoring, an option some colleges offer that permits students to submit their most competitive sectional scores to the institutions on their list.

4. Create a Study Plan

If you choose to self-study for the SAT, the only person holding yourself accountable to your preparation is, well, you! Hold yourself to your established timeline by creating a study plan ahead of time.

Such planning cannot be underestimated.

We’re the masters at helping our students create such study plans--we’ve even written an entire post about it!

In the meantime, it’s important to build a study plan that incorporates regular, efficient SAT practice, the right resources, and consistent practice tests. Identify the study tools you’ll need for success ahead of time, such as flashcards. (We’re big fans of Quizlet.)

Treat SAT studying like a high school class, setting aside a certain number of hours each week for it. You may even want to block out study sessions in your personal planner!

5. Choose the Right Resources

This is perhaps the most essential component of a self-study plan for the SAT. There are scores of SAT prep resources out there. How do you know which ones to choose?

We want to emphasize that it’s vital to prep as close to the source as possible. For this reason, we always encourage our students to utilize College Board resources first and foremost. 

This includes the following:

With the exception of the Official SAT Study Guide book, all of these resources are free to SAT students. What’s more, they are likely to provide score increases!

According to the College Board

20 hours on Khan Academy® was associated with an average 115-point increase from the PSAT/NMSQT to the SAT” and 16,000 students who utilized official materials to prepare experienced at least a 200 point increase.

Khan Academy (SAT content) has the added benefit of personalizing student prep through diagnostic quizzes, score submission, and essay review.

When it comes to other resources, keep in mind that these are not as likely to be as representative of the official exam (although they can still prove helpful). Use these as a last resort, and be mindful that practice test scores may not be reflective of your current abilities. 

We recommend supplementing College Board official SAT practice with targeted content work through various reputable third parties. 

Online resources include:

Text resources include:

  • Erica Meltzer’s guides to SAT Critical Reading and Grammar ($)
  • The College Panda’s SAT Math books ($)

6. Set Goals Regularly

It’s important to establish a goal score for your first SAT after completing your diagnostic exam. But this shouldn’t be the only goal inherent to your prep.

Set goals regularly, and set a wide variety of them. Be specific and realistic when creating these goals.

Here are some example goals you may have when it comes to studying for the SAT on your own:

  • Goal #1: Set aside 3 hours a week (three 1-hour sessions) for SAT study, including drill work, content review, and guided practice
  • Goal #2: Take 3 practice tests between now and my official test date
  • Goal #3: Prioritize the following math content areas this month: triangles, systems of equations, and probability

Here are some sample goals you might set before a practice SAT:

  • Goal #1: Complete four of the five passages on the Reading section in the alloted time
  • Goal #2: Obtain 80-100% accuracy on punctuation questions on SAT Writing & Language
  • Goal #3: Obtain 80-100% accuracy on low-difficulty math questions on both sections (No-Calculator and Calculator)

Take the time to evaluate your goals regularly (we suggest weekly!). Adjust if needed, and celebrate successes.

7. Use Those Practice Tests

Practice tests are vital for building stamina and applying what you’ve learned in your self-study. Remember: duration is a huge part of what makes the SAT unique and challenging!

Yet they also have another hidden benefit. You can review previously completed practice tests to identify areas for future growth. 

Plus, you can attempt these questions again for drill work and content review--especially if you took that last test a while ago. A practice test is always so much more than its score.

Find Official SAT Practice tests (free!) here.

8. Start a Study Group

It’s not always best to venture forth alone. Consider starting an SAT study group with your friends or at your school.

The College Board gives students some great tips for doing so.

Study groups can make SAT prep feel more fun and productive. It can also add that much-needed element of accountability (and maybe even competition!).

You may even wish to supplement your self-study with targeted SAT bootcamps or master classes.


Next Steps

It is possible to study for the SAT on your own. With the right resources and a solid study plan in place, you can take charge of your solo SAT prep and work your way towards a higher score.

Of course, the one thing that is challenging to learn on your own is strategy. A lot of the SAT is strategy-based. In fact, more of it is strategy-based than students realize! 

The SAT rewards students who approach the test with a strategic mindset, which may or may not come naturally to some test takers.

You can learn some of these strategies from textbooks. But the best way to develop and apply such a mindset is through professional guidance. 

That’s why we always recommend working with a private SAT tutor or attending an SAT workshop. SAT experts know tried and true SAT strategies that work, time and again, and can help you reach your goal score through customized learning.

Decided to self-study for the SAT? Why not supplement that DIY study plan with some expert guidance? 

Book your free consultation now!


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate M.

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University (B.A. in English Literature and Interdisciplinary Humanities) and Boston University (M.F.A in Creative Writing). Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.