According to a recent article in Education Week, the number of students requesting and receiving some form of accommodation on either the SAT or ACT has been rising in recent years. Accommodations are modifications made to the standard testing procedures for students with special needs such as learning disabilities, ADHD, or anxiety disorders.
The most common accommodation is extended time to take the test. Other accommodations include allowing a student to type his or her essay on a laptop computer or having reading passages read to him or her.
According to ACT spokesman Ed Colby, the large and diverse testing pool in Illinois, as well as in other states where students are tested as part of state exams, has sparked a rise in the number of requests for special accommodations, as well as in the number of approvals.*
The Education Week article also quotes ACT spokesman Ed Colby, "During the 2010-11 school year, 5 percent of all test takers were provided with some feature that was intended to adapt the test to their needs, compared with 3.5 percent of test takers in the 2007-08 school year.
SAT test takers have also increased their requests for accommodations. According to Kathleen Steinberg, spokeswoman for the College Board, 80,000 students requested accommodations on the SAT during the 2010-11 school year, an increase of 14.3% over the number requesting accommodations five years earlier.
About 85% of requests for accommodations on the SAT are approved, as are 90% of requests made for the ACT. Please note however, that while the percentage of students applying who actually are granted accommodations is quite high, the process is not an easy one. Generally students must already receive the same or similar accommodations in school, and must be able to provide results of psycho-educational testing from a licensed school psychologist to prove they have been diagnosed as having one of the conditions which qualifies them for accommodations.
Psycho-educational testing used as part of the application for accommodations must be deemed "current" by the testing agency. The following language, on the College Board website, gives the policy for SAT test takers:
"In most cases, the evaluation and diagnostic testing should have taken place within five years of the request for accommodations. For psychiatric disabilities, an annual evaluation update must be within 12 months of the request for accommodations. For visual disabilities, documentation should be within two years, and for physical/medical, an update must be within one year from the time of the request."
For more information about the respective accommodations policies for both the SAT and ACT, see the following links:
*Source: Chicago Tribune, 04-29-12, Many Illinois high school students get special testing accommodations for ACT