Plan Ahead for Accommodations for College Board Testing

Parents frequently seek evaluations to support their request for accommodations intended for students with specific learning disabilities during standardized testing such as the SAT. It is not uncommon for us to receive frantic calls from parents who are seeking such evaluation but who have waited far too long. They find that the professionals who complete such evaluations are often backlogged in their testing calendars and cannot readily absorb new, last-minute requests. Consequently, the already stressful ordeal of the SAT’s becomes all the more taxing for student and parents. It is important to think ahead in the college planning process to avoid this pitfall.

The evaluation supporting the request for accommodations must be no more than three years old. Since most students take the College Board tests late in their junior year or early in their senior year, these students will need to have been evaluated in most cases since they have been in high school. Other students may be seeking accommodations for the PSAT as well, which is typically administered in the sophomore year. Once approved, as long as they are enrolled at the same school, the school-approved accommodations will remain the same throughout high school.

Students seeking accommodations for College Board tests must submit an eligibility request well in advance of the test date. Because the eligibility request requires documentation from a school counselor, who may have additional lead-time requirements, even more time must be allowed. The deadline to submit the completed request to the Board is typically six weeks in advance of the test date, though the website recommends that the application be submitted by June 15 of the year prior to the testing.

As of late 2003, the College Board discontinued their prior practice of flagging score reports given with “nonstandard administration.” As a result, requests from families for testing accommodations are increasing, and the College Board is reportedly taking a more rigorous look to screen out those that some might see as “opportunistic” efforts to gain an edge in the testing. The most commonly requested accommodation is extended time. This accommodation is meant for those students to whom the additional time is critical in order to adequately demonstrate their knowledge. It is only given in a specific area when it is possible to demonstrate that the student has the need; for example, one might receive this extension in reading tests but not in math tests, or vice versa. The College Board can request that a student have a written record of such a need on file with their school for some time prior to the request for accommodations.

It is important to think ahead when considering the question of a student’s eligibility for testing accommodations. Check for test schedules well in advance. Getting an early start on all aspects of the college application process can go far to reduce the strain associated with that milestone decision.

© Mark A. Carey, M.A., and Kaulele Education Services, Inc. 2010