Extra Time Guide: Frequently Asked Questions

Help! What’s the first step I should take towards getting extra time?

The first step is definitely ensuring that the student has a valid evaluation that makes a specific diagnosis and supports the need for the special testing accommodations you will be requesting. If the testing is within the last two years, you should be all set, and you should start the applications process! If the testing is older or if the student is being evaluated for the first time, the student should get evaluated ASAP to allow plenty of time for the testing and applications process.

When should I apply for extra time?

We recommend that you start applying for accommodations for the first test date available before you begin test prep. (The cutoff for accommodations for the SAT/ACT is typically 7 weeks prior to the desired test date.) Though this means you’ll have to sign up for an actual ACT (though not SAT—see below), you can cancel or move the test date once the accommodation is in place. This way, the student and tutor know which accommodations to prep for. It’s also wise to start early since many applications are rejected on the first try.

This usually means applying no later than the summer before junior year, though of course a student may still apply later (and many do so successfully).

How long will it take me to get extra time from start to finish?

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.

Here’s the breakdown:

If you are approved for accommodations on your first try, your timeline will only be about 8 weeks if your testing is already up to date.

If you need to get testing, you should anticipate 4–8 weeks for the testing, as well as 3–6 months to use the accommodations in school. In other words, you should anticipate a minimum of 6 months, though the process will likely take longer, especially if you need to engage in an appeals process.

In either case, however, you may need to engage in an appeals process that can take a few more months.

How long does the appeals process take?

If your initial application is rejected, the appeals process can take anywhere from an additional two weeks to several months, depending on how swiftly they review the materials, how long it takes you and the school to compile appeal materials, how many appeals are made, and how responsive your school learning specialist is.

Should I have the school perform the evaluation or get a private test?

The waiting time for school evaluations can be long (6 months or more), so many families choose to have their students evaluated through a private learning specialist. The testing usually takes several days, and depending on the provider full results and reports are usually available 4–8 weeks after testing is completed.

What are the typical diagnoses that are granted extra time and other accommodations?

The most frequent we see are attention disorders, processing and/or executive functioning issues, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and other visual/spatial learning differences, and dysgraphia. Other students of ours have been granted accommodations for physical disabilities (such as concussions, hearing and vision disorders, and others), psychological issues (such as anxiety and OCD), and more.

Are specific accommodations guaranteed for specific diagnoses?

No. The accommodations granted depend entirely on the evaluation and the needs that it supports, along with additional context from the family and the school in the application.

What’s the most important factor for getting extra time?

Let’s say this: it’s much more important to have a strong evaluator letter that connects a student’s neuropsychological test results clearly with the accommodations needed than it is to have one specific or “magic” diagnosis. However, the severity of the impact of the learning difference/disability will also affect the accommodations. For example, some students with mild dyslexia are typically granted time-and-a-half, while students with very severe cases are sometimes granted double time, recorded reading passages, or other options if their test results support that.

What are the best accommodations to try to get?

It’s best to speak with your learning specialist and/or a Forum rep regarding the accommodations that would best serve your student given their specific needs and evaluation. Some students may benefit from multiple day testing, for example; others will find the endurance challenging.

Do sophomores and juniors get equal consideration for accommodations?

From the College Board and ACT, yes. From schools… it depends.

We’ve often seen school learning specialists prioritize the applications of juniors who are taking the tests in the Spring over those of sophomores and earlier juniors, since there’s not as much time pressure; we’ve seen this lead to very spare applications for students they view as applying “too early” and often little effort is given until the student goes through appeals. Be prepared to push the counselor to submit in a timely manner and pursue additional materials if needed.

How can students use accommodations for future tests?

For the SAT, the student can use the SSD number given to register for all future tests with the same accommodations. For the ACT, the student can choose to register with the same accommodations that they received for their first test, even if they didn’t go.

Can I get extra time accommodations if I’ve never had them in school?

Yes, though you should plan to use them in school first. The easiest path forward is to identify a specific learning difference or disability through a neuropsychological analysis. If your testing supports the need for extra time or other accommodations, your school will likely support it and put together an IEP (public school) or Formal Plan (private school) outlining those that will be used. Again, though, it’s important to establish a history of accommodations use in school (at least 3–6 months) to maximize the success of your SAT/ACT application.

Do I need my school to support my student getting extra time?

The short answer is that it’s much easier—though not required—to get extra time and other accommodations on a standardized test if the school supports it. The SAT now automatically approves certain accommodations granted through an IEP or formal plan, while the ACT gives preference to those, and both place an emphasis on history of school use, since it often generates evidence of a student’s improvement and, thus, need for those accommodations.

If my school doesn’t support my student getting extra time, what should I do?

If the school is not supporting the use of extra time, it’s important to address that disconnect in the application through the use of the evaluation letter and additional materials such as a parent letter, student letter, and teacher and/or tutor feedback. In some cases, we have experienced the school changing their minds and eventually supporting the accommodations (which usually resulted in appeals success). If not, the application can still ultimately be successful, but be prepared for an uphill climb.

What are the primary differences in applying for extra time for the ACT and SAT?

The biggest difference is in how and when the student registers for the actual test. For the SAT (as well as the PSATs and APs), the school has to apply for College Board accommodations first before registering online for tests with an SSD code that they’ll be provided. For the ACT, the student must register for a specific test date first before sending in an application, and they must include the admissions ticket with the other materials.

Requirements for materials and documentation are very similar for both tests, though the SAT’s automatic approval for certain accommodations through an IEP or Formal Plan may decrease the need for additional materials, depending on what is being requested.

What should I do if my application is rejected?

First of all—don’t panic, and don’t give up! Many extended time/accommodations applications are rejected the first time through and are then successful through one or more appeals. Both the College Board and the ACT use intimidating language in their rejection letters that can make parents, students, and even some seasoned learning specialists feel that there’s no hope of receiving the accommodations. However, by submitting additional materials (see our test-specific accommodations guides for suggestions and sample materials) and persisting in advocating for the student and their needs, nearly all applications are ultimately successful, as long as there is a clearly established need through an evaluation.

Can colleges see if I have received extra time or other accommodations?

No. When you submit your test scores, colleges cannot see whether a student used special accommodations including extended time. The only exception to this is with the essay, if you’re using computer accommodations, since the colleges can see it was typed. However, computer use is not synonymous with extended time, so all this will tell colleges is that the student has a documented learning difference related to physical writing — they are not allowed to discriminate admissions based on this, and, to be honest, they don’t care.