This is Part 3 in a four-part guest series.
In this series, Dr. Martin Friedmutter, a licensed psychologist, explains how test accommodations can help your student optimize his or her performance for standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT, GRE, and LSAT.
The importance of academic testing when evaluating an individual for test accommodations
It is important to first review the purpose of test accommodations. Test accommodations are adjustments or modifications to the standard testing conditions made in order to alleviate the impact of an applicant's impairment on the examination process.
The most common accommodation request for the SAT, SAT subject tests, and ACT is for extended time (one-and-one-half time). Test accommodations may also include the following:
- Amanuensis (a scribe to write essays).
- Audio version of exam.
- Questions in electronic format to be read by screen reader software program (such as Text Aloud).
- Reader (proctor who will read the examination aloud to the individual).
- Waiver of Scantron answer sheet and permission to mark answers in the question booklet.
An evaluation will include a comprehensive battery of achievement tests, more commonly referred to as academic tests. The tests will measure current levels of academic functioning in relevant areas such as reading (transforming information from one format to another, as well as comprehension) and writing.
In order to qualify for test accommodations, the evaluation must include a rationale for all requested accommodations. More specifically, recommendations need to be tied to specific test results. For example, in order to qualify for extended time on the SAT or ACT, the evaluation must document that the student cannot complete the test within the standard time due to the impact of the disability.
In order to substantiate the need for extended time, the evaluation will consist, in part, of standardized reading and vocabulary tests that are administered in two parts: standard time and extended time. The student would have to have a significantly improved score on the extended time administration in order to demonstrate the need for this accommodation.
The evaluation will also explore how the student goes about completing a reading comprehension and/or mathematics test. Can the student retain the information after reading the material once? Does the student have to read an entire passage in order to answer each comprehension question? Does the student become distracted while attempting to solve a mathematics problem? Can the student focus for an extended period of time? All of these clinical observations help to document that the student may require extended time for the SAT, ACT, or other standardized tests (including graduate exams).
An individual can also qualify for extended time due to a difficulty with his or her handwriting. A need to focus heavily on the physical act of writing in addition to the content while writing an essay can indicate a disability. This can be evaluated by having an individual copy a statement within a pre-determined amount of time. Signs of a disability in this area might include illegible writing, inconsistent spaces between words and letters, cramped or unusual grip, and slow or labored copying or writing—even if it is neat and legible.
An extensive evaluation of all academic areas—in addition to a detailed history of learning and a range of cognitive tests—will help to determine if an individual qualifies for test accommodations.
Part 4 will discuss how a comprehensive report is prepared when requesting test accommodations.
Dr. Friedmutter is the Director of the Westchester Career & Learning Center and is a licensed psychologist with over twenty years of experience (www.drfriedmutter.com). One of his areas of specialization is the treatment and diagnosis of children, adolescents and adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities (LD). He has extensive experience with the evaluation and treatment with children and adults who have ADHD and/or LD. He also specializes in evaluations for test accommodations.
*It is important to remember that test accommodations are not a substitute for individual test prep and are not necessary or appropriate for every student.