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ACT Testing Accommodations

Some students have learning disorders or physical impairments that affect their ability to read, write, or concentrate for long periods of time. For these students, taking the ACT can present unique challenges. Fortunately, there are a variety of ACT accommodations that make the testing process easier. Read on to learn about testing accommodations and how to receive them. 

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Am I eligible for accommodations? 

To be eligible for testing accommodations, students must have a disability that “substantially limits one or more major life activities that are relevant when taking the ACT test.” Examples include learning disorders or physical impairments that limit students’ capacity to read, write, listen, or sit for extended periods. Students must also provide documentation of their disability.

Fortunately, ACT streamlined the documentation requirements in 2021. Students who already receive accommodations at their school under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are automatically eligible for testing accommodations. A current IEP or Section 504 plan is considered sufficient documentation. 

For students who do not have a current IEP or Section 504 plan, documentation from a qualified professional (such as a doctor) is required. Documentation must come in the form of a letter or report. Learn more about documentation guidelines on the ACT website

What kind of accommodations are available? 

There are a variety of accommodations available for students looking to take the ACT. Some accommodations can be provided in National Test Centers, while other accommodations require special testing environments. Depending on your specific needs, you’ll either participate in National or Special Testing: 

Also see: Top scholarships for students with learning disabilities

National Testing 

This form of testing occurs at a National Test Center on a designated Saturday or Sunday. The following accommodations can be administered in national test centers:

  • One and one-half time or additional breaks 
  • Large print (18-point font) test booklet
  • Writer/scribe to assist with recording responses in the test booklet
  • Sign language interpreter for verbal instructions 
  • Written copy of verbal instructions 
  • Use of an authorized bilingual dictionary or translated written test directions
  • Permission for food, drink, or medication while testing
  • Preferential seating
  • Single room for individual testing
  • Ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones

Related: SAT vs. ACT: How to decide which test to take

Special Testing 

If the student’s requested accommodations cannot be provided in a National Test Center, arrangements will be made for special testing. Special testing occurs at the student’s home school during a designated two-week window. The following accommodations must be administered in a special testing environment: 

  • Double time, or triple time 
  • Multiple-day testing
  • Alternate test formats (human reader, pre-recorded audio, braille, tactile graphics) 
  • CCTVs, Geoboard, iPad, or other assistive technology
  • Personal aide for page turning, pressing calculator buttons, positioning materials
  • Speech to text software for essay
  • Environmental adaptations (special lighting, air conditioning, slant board, adaptive furniture)
  • Background music (must be through speakers and not headphones)
  • Verbal cues to stay on task 

For a detailed list of both National and Special Testing accommodations, you can consult this list on the ACT website

Also see: ACT test dates

How do I receive accommodations? 

To receive accommodations, students must reach out to their school’s test coordinator. If you’re not sure who this is, ask your guidance counselor. The test coordinator will submit a request on your behalf through the Test Accessibility and Accommodations System (TAA). ACT will then review the request and provide a decision in 10 – 14 business days. The ACT website also has a detailed list of protocols for requesting accommodation.

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Preparing for the ACT

After requesting accommodations, make sure to get some studying in as you gear up for test day. There are several test prep resources on the ACT website. Many of these resources are free, which we’ve listed below: 

  • ACT official full-length practice test: The official practice test covers all 4 subject areas, and comes complete with a score report that lets students know exactly what they missed. 
  • ACT half-length practice test: This practice test is great for students who want to get a feel for the ACT without taking the full-length practice exam. For even shorter test prep activities, take the ACT Pop Quiz or sign up for the ACT Question of the Day.
  • Online test prep events: The ACT offers online sample classes, parent workshops, and Kaplan events to help students prepare for the exam. 

Also see: Free SAT prep resources

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Students with documented disabilities that “substantially limits one or more major life activities that are relevant when taking the ACT test” are eligible for accommodations
  • Accommodations can range from large-print tests, extra time, additional breaks, scribes, and more to ensure that the student’s needs are met
  • Students should reach out to their school’s test coordinator to receive accommodations. The process can take a while, so the earlier before your test, the better
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about ACT accommodations

Can I get ACT accommodations for anxiety?

Students with a documented history of anxiety may be able to receive accommodations. However, the accommodations are contingent on the student presenting a connection between the nature of their anxiety and the accommodations they hope to receive. Students with anxiety can receive ACT accommodations but are not guaranteed it.

It should also be noted that generally, test-taking anxiety will not qualify as a factor that justifies accommodations. However, we do have a list of pointers to help students with this problem do their best on standardized tests.

Related: Top mental health scholarships

How far in advance do I have to request ACT accommodations?

After you register for an exam, you’ll have to submit a request for accommodations. The ACT will review this in between 10-15 business days, and get back to you with a decision. They might accept your submission, request additional supporting information to approve your request, or deny it altogether. In either case, it’s best to file your request as soon as you sign up for the exam to ensure that you have time to appeal if need be.

How much extra time can I get on the ACT?

If the ACT approves your extra-time request, you’ll receive 50% more time per section. There is one other adjustment that occurs for the timing of students with accommodations. You’ll be stopped at the end of each section and told to begin a new one, so you won’t be self-pacing throughout the exam.

Are there ESL ACT accommodations?

As of 2017, the ACT has begun offering a wide range of accommodations for students whose first language is not English. These can include additional time, tests written in the students’ first language, and the use of a bilingual glossary.

In order to qualify under this statute, students must demonstrate their ESL status by showing one of the following:

  • Documentation of a learning plan formed with the student’s school
  • Results from an English language proficiency test that demonstrate that the student struggles with the language
  • Documentation proving that the student’s level of English proficiency presents problems in participating in class and/or in American society
  • Proof of enrollment in an ESL program

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Do I need documentation of my disability to get ACT accommodations?

Yes – regardless of the grounds under which you are applying for accommodations, you will need some form of documentation to back it up. In most cases, the ACT offers several different options for documentation to prove your justification. Most disabilities, whether mental or physical, require documentation from a professional.