Extra Time Guide: Sample Student Letter Petitioning for Extra Time

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

The sample student letter below is intended as a model example of the kind of letter a high schooler can write in the appeals process for extra time from the ACT or College Board. See sample parent and tutor letters in Forum’s guides to getting extra time on the SAT and getting extra time on the ACT.

Dear ACT board/College Board,

My whole entire life during tests I have been the student to raise my hand and ask how much time is left in the period before I can leave because I’ve finished way before the rest of the class. In February of my freshman year, this all changed: I became the student frantically raising my hand asking how much time is left in the period for me to finish my test.

My third concussion was traumatizing for me. I nearly missed the whole entire second semester of ninth grade and was completely isolated in a dark room with no stimulation. When I did try to come back to school, I would sit in a classroom, unable to understand anything being said, and get so dizzy and disoriented that I had to leave by second period and go back home. At home, I would do assigned reading, but then right when I finished annotating the last line, would realize that I remembered absolutely nothing from anything I had just read; my ability to retain information had temporarily been suspended. I was able to physically recover over the summer, however, it wasn’t until the fall of my sophomore year that I realized how much things had changed.

Taking tests prior to my third concussion had always been one of my strong suits. The majority of the time, I would finish my tests with twenty or so minutes to spare and would have time to check my work over at least once without rushing. The only anxiety I ever got taking tests was before I went and sat down for the test; I had anxiety when studying out of desire for success, but that was all.

Now, in addition to that pre-test anxiety, I have immense anxiety while taking tests. Out of stress, I find myself rereading questions multiple times before actually understanding them and being able to answer them. Repeatedly, I began finding myself barely finishing tests at school and only finishing because I had to rush the whole entire last page. I do not think I have been able to check over my work on a test since January of my freshman year. Taking tests became one of my weaknesses. Sitting at my desk during a test, I would hear people flipping the pages of their tests while I sat there still on the first page. Or with five minutes left, I would hear my peers drop their pencils on their desk signifying that they were completely done with their tests, when I would still have two full pages left.

This situation makes my head spin. Anxiety kicks in and I start feeling massive pressure. Knowing how much I have left of my test with minimal time gives me enormous stress out of fear of not finishing. This massive stress makes me nauseous, gives me a headache, makes my eyes hurt, and shifts my focus to failing, hence distracting me from my test. As much as I have tried to remain focused on my test when this anxiety comes over me, my stress outweighs my desire to focus.

What frustrates me the most is when I have studied countless hours for an exam that I know I should do extremely well on, but then am leaving the exam in tears because when the teacher announces five minutes left, I still have much I have not answered. Because of this, my anxiety increases and I begin to frantically rush to finish. In the end, I do not do as well as I know I should and my hard work seems useless. I feel as though my concussion has set me back in this area and all I want is my brain to work like it did before my third concussion, but it won’t.

When taking the ACT without studying with regular time, I left crying and basically shaking. Out of the four sections, I did not finish a single one and had to randomly fill in many bubbles with a minute to spare for each section. For the Math, Science, and Reading sections, I was not even able to finish half of the questions. I had never experienced so much test induced stress in my life because that test was not even close to a representation of who I am as a student. Walking out of that test, I could have sworn I was going to faint. My anxiety was pushed to the limit because of the time constraint, and as a result I was physically impacted.

When I took the ACT again without studying, but this time with extra time (x1.5), I had a completely different experience. Not only was I able to finish each section, but I walked out of there feeling the same way I felt when I walked in. I did not experience any anxiety and physically was not impacted because of it. This immense change in experience rattled me. Ultimately, I had a revelation about my issue with taking tests: time constraint-induced anxiety.

I believe that extra time could compensate for this test-taking anxiety I developed with my third concussion, and I hope you do too. I just want to be able to reach my fullest potential and be the best student I can be. Thank you so much for considering me for extra time on the ACT.

To see the full guide to Extra Time, go here.

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