The Ins and Outs and Ups and Downs of College Admissions Test Accommodations

Thanks to Jenn Cohen for this guest post!

In my work as an SAT and ACT tutor specializing in students with ADD/ADHD, intimate knowledge of test accommodations is a must.    Most students have already received a good diagnosis and are already getting accommodations in school by the time they start working with me.  A school plan is a great place to start thinking about which accommodations are right for the SAT or ACT, but the accommodations that are right for the school day aren’t necessarily right for test day.  That’s where an expert can help!

The first step is to determine which test you want to take.  Since most colleges now accept either one, it’s in a student’s best interests to give both a try.  You can download a free, full-length practice test from or  Block out several hours to take the practice test in as close to real test conditions as possible.  Most students prefer the feel of one over the other.   If a student doesn’t have a clear favorite, consider the types of accommodations available on the two tests.  Each has pros and cons.  If needed, contact a test accommodations professional, or make an appointment with your school counselor to discuss the possibilities.

Once you’ve made a choice, visit that test’s website to find the details for applying for testing accommodations.  For both tests, your school counselor will most likely complete the request with you.  Be sure you have current diagnostic test results from an educational psychologist or neuropsychologist.   For the SAT, testing must have been completed within the last five years.  For the ACT, the acceptable time frame is only the last three years.

In general, I tell students that the more recent the testing the better.  It’s a stronger support for your request since it clearly outlines how you’re functioning now (vs. how you were doing as an 8th grader!).  Also, the report written for an evaluation conducted for the purpose of requesting accommodations can specifically address the types of accommodations you’re seeking.  Finally, a recent evaluation may apply for accommodations you may request from the college you attend.

Once you have your diagnostic results, you can plan a strategy for applying for accommodations.   It’s a good idea to take another practice test at this point, strictly adhering to the accommodations you’re considering requesting.  Extended time is the most requested accommodation, but students sometimes find it surprising that having extra time doesn’t always have a positive impact on their scores!  Again, a test accommodations pro can help you strategize.

Finally, submit your application.  I can’t stress strongly enough that you should start this process early, at least three months prior to test day, but preferably closer to six months.  It may take a month or more just to get an appointment with an educational psychologist.

Jenn Cohen is owner of Jenn Cohen Tutoring and President and Chief Word Nerd of, an SAT vocabulary website.  She specializes in tutoring ADHD students for the SAT, PSAT and ACT.  You can find her on Twitter @satprepforadhd.


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