How to Apply for ACT and SAT Accommodations

Getting approved for accommodations and more
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Every year, more than 160,000 high school students apply to receive accommodations on the SAT. More than 85% of those requests are granted, according to a May 17, 2019, post on Education Week. Even with the high odds of approval, navigating the application process can still be intimidating. 

Whether you’re seeking extended time for a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or a learning disability, or a version of the test with enlarged text for a student who has a visual impairment, there are time-sensitive steps and specific documentation that will be required. We’ll break down everything you need to know, starting with the procedures for procuring SAT accommodations. 


How to Get Approved for SAT Accommodations

Typically, a student’s guidance counselor will submit an online request to the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities. Documentation in the form of a re-evaluation and individualized education program or 504 Plan should lead to “automatic approval,” a policy the company adopted in 2017 that automatically grants accommodations that are already part of a student’s school-based educational plan. However, the level of documentation required by the College Board varies by disability category. For example, an ADHD diagnosis must be made by a medical or psychological professional, and the report should be no more than five years old. If the basis for seeking accommodations is a psychiatric condition, a current psychiatric update no more than one year old is required. 


How to Get Approved for ACT Accommodations

Like the College Board, the ACT recently revamped its application procedure to simplify the process and ensure that more students receive the accommodations their school teams have already put in place. As such, they will want to see the accommodation pages from the student’s most recent IEP or 504 Plan service agreement. Submissions are made through the Accommodations on College Board Exams section of the College Board’s website. As with the SAT, required documentation on the ACT differs depending on a student’s disability category. Students with learning disabilities will need to submit cognitive testing results while those who have a visual impairment would need to submit documentation from an ophthalmologist or other medical professional.


Extended Time Allowances for the SAT

The typical amount of allotted time for the SAT is three hours of actual testing time without the essay, and three hours and 50 minutes with the essay. Here’s how extended time options work:

• 50% additional time for the SAT equates to four hours and 30 minutes without the essay, and five hours and 45 minutes with the essay.

• 100% additional time equates to six hours without the essay, and seven hours and 40 minutes with the essay.

• 150% additional time, which is only granted in rare cases, equates to seven hours and 30 minutes without the essay, and nine hours and 35 minutes with the essay.


Extended Time Allowances for the ACT

All exam-takers granted this accommodation will be provided 50% extended time for each section of the ACT. This total amount of exam time for those with the 50% extension is five hours without the essay and six hours with the essay. Without extended time, the test takes two hours and 55 minutes without the essay, and three hours and 35 minutes with the essay.

If your child has a disability that genuinely impacts her ability to excel on standardized tests, you shouldn’t think twice about applying for accommodations. Colleges will never know whether it took your student six hours or three hours to complete the exam — they will only see the score, and a higher score will only help your teen when she applies to the school of her dreams. 


Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. He is also co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” Learn more at


Categories: College Planning, Solutions