Extra Time Guide: ACT

by Alicia Carpenter, Test Prep Specialist
alicia@forumeducation.nyc

Who is responsible for applying?

You are. You and the student’s school fill out the application form together (see below).

What you need to do

If the student has already been approved for accommodations on a previous ACT, they can simply register online and check “yes” when asked if they’d like to test again with the previous accommodations and they will be automatically arranged.

If the student is applying for ACT accommodations for the first time, the first step in the application process is to register for the ACT on a specific test date.

After you have the student’s registration ticket for the ACT, you must work with your school counselor to complete the appropriate Request Form, and assemble the required documentation.

Depending on what accommodations are needed, the student will need to apply to one of two types of testing (consult us or the learning specialist for which is appropriate):

National Testing: 50% extended time

○ Students have 50% extra time on each section

○ Students can request large type booklets, sign language translators, and a word-to-word dictionary, but other accommodations are not allowed

○ Offered at any ACT location in the US and Canada

Special testing: varies by student, but can include testing over multiple days, more than 50% time, braille, use of computers, etc.

○ Needs to be taken at a school that supports special testing. If this isn’t the student’s own school, their own school will need to coordinate with another.

Once complete, you will mail in the form and documentation to the ACT, along with the ACT registration ticket and the appropriate fee

A Calendar for Applying:

You’ll need to book a test date first to get approval for accommodations. Ideally, this will be a date before you even start prep (like sophomore year). That way, you’ll be able to lock in accommodations for future use and prep accordingly (you can cancel the test date once accommodations are approved).

At least 6 months but not more than 2 years before desired test date:
[ ] Have student evaluated through in-school or private testing

After receiving neuropsych report:
[ ] share report with school learning specialist and indicate desired accommodations based on report

At least 3–6 months before desired test date:
[ ] Begin utilizing extra time in school

At least 8–12 weeks prior to test date:
[ ] Register for the desired test date and print out ticket to include with application
[ ] If it’s your first time applying for accommodations, notify the counseling office you’re planning to apply for a test date and ask for them to begin preparations
[ ] Have one or more teachers fill out Teacher Survey Form and/or write letter(s) if needed (coordinate with school)

At least 4 weeks prior to test date:
[ ] Double check admissions ticket to confirm your location and accommodations (both tests)

Documentation Needed

The guidelines listed for the ACT are similar to the PSAT — again, it’s very important to have the specific accommodations recommended by the learning specialist, and testing support for these requests.

The official requirements for documentation on the ACT are below, and details can be found on the ACT SSD page. The documentation must:

● State the specific impairment as diagnosed

● Be current

● Describe presenting problem(s) and developmental history, including relevant educational and medical history

● Describe the comprehensive assessments(neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluations), including evaluation dates, used to arrive at the diagnosis:

○ For learning disabilities, must provide test results (including subtests), with standard scores and percentiles, as well as documentation addressing:

1. a neuropsych/aptitude assessment using a complete, valid, and comprehensive battery

2. a complete achievement battery

3. an assessment of information processing, and

4. evidence that alternative explanations were ruled out.

○ For ADHD, must include:

1. evidence of early impairment

2. evidence of current impairment, including presenting problem and diagnostic interview,

3. evidence that alternative explanations were ruled out, results from valid, standardized, age-appropriate assessments, and

4. number of applicable DSM-IV criteria and description of how they impair the individual.

○ For visual, hearing, psychological, emotional, or physical disorders:

1. Must provide detailed results from complete ocular, audiologic, or other appropriate diagnostic examination.

● Describe the substantial limitations (e.g., adverse effects on learning, academic achievement, or other major life activities)resulting from the impairment, as supported by the test results

● Describe specific recommended accommodations and provides a rationale explaining how these specific accommodations address the substantial limitations

● Establish the professional credentials of the evaluator, including information about licensure or certification, education, and area of specialization

When you should begin the application process

According to the ACT, the application for accommodations must be submitted by the registration deadline for the chosen test date. That said, if you have completed testing and have extra time accommodations in school, budget 2–4 months. If you haven’t completed testing yet, you should budget 6–10 months. (Read more on our FAQ).

We recommend that you register your student for the earliest test date possible to determine if they will be approved — once they are approved, they can use the same accommodations on any future test. They do not need to take the exam initially — they can cancel or change the date and retain the approval for accommodations.

Insider Considerations

START EARLY! Once a student is approved for accommodations by the ACT, they do not need to be approved again. Knowing if you will be approved is a huge factor in deciding which test format will be strongest for them.

The more recent the testing information, the more likely a student will be approved: this goes hand in hand with the earlier recommendation — if they were tested in 8th grade and are applying as a sophomore, this makes the testing more recent than if they wait until they are a junior.

The longer the student has been using the accommodations in school, the better chance they have of being approved for them — if your student has been approved for accommodations and has not been using them in school, this can hurt their chances of being approved, despite ACT’s official statement. If the student is not using their accommodations, they should begin doing so immediately.

If the student has never used the accommodations in school testing prior to their application, it will be more difficult for them to be approved.

Appeals

The ACT accepts several additional documents for consideration other than the official required documents. While you want to make sure you include the student’s relevant educational history and use of extended time as well as a detailed description of the disability and how it affects the student, you can also submit these up front, or after accommodations have been denied if you didn’t do this the first time.

● One or more Teacher Survey Forms, which outline how the student’s disability affects their performance in school, and how much of their accommodations they use

● An Occupational Therapy Evaluation

● Comparisons of the student’s performance under timed and untimed conditions (can be provided by the tutor)

● Student Letter, in which the student speaks personally to their need for extended time, and their emotional/mental experience with and/or without it. See sample here.

● Parent letter. See sample here.

● Tutor letter. See sample here.

If all else fails, you can also file a complaint with the Department of Justice (click here and then on the Disabilities section) and cite that in your letter. The DoJ will likely decline to act, but the fact that you have a complaint on file can strengthen your case. It doesn’t take long — you can do it online here.

Finally, be persistent! The ACT purposely uses intimidating language in their rejection letters, and many parents (and even some experienced counselors!) take an initial rejection as a sign of defeat. However, we have found through experience that if you are consistent and persistent in sending new materials to the ACT Accommodations board and advocating for the student’s needs, the application is almost always successful, even if it takes one or two appeals.

Important Links

Link to registration

Link to extended time applications/info

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