Homeschoolers Applying for Accommodations on the College Board Exams: PSAT and SAT

Accommodations on the SAT?

While I was homeschooling my son, he received accommodations for the SAT in 2004 because of his LD and ADD. Here are some notes from our experience, with updates as described below. This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer or a special education teacher.

There are two applications. First, you apply to determine if your student is eligible for services for students with disabilities (SSD). If so, after receiving a Letter of Eligibility, your student applies to take College Board tests.

Accommodations means extra helps to give the disabled student a fair chance at a standardized test. You can apply for extra time (50% or 100% extra), a larger print test (very good for LD), use of a computer for dysgraphia, and more. Check the list under Accommodations on the College Board website and e-mail them your questions. They can always say no.

In a nutshell, here’s the process as of late winter 2004, when I applied, with additions from Judy Fulton, whose latest experience with the SAT was for the May 2006 test. Judy kindly lets me quote her in the passages marked with an asterisk. Her remarks originally appeared February 14, 2007, on Yahoo!’s homeschool2college message board.

For the latest updates, check the College Board webpage titled Services for Students with Disabilities.

Six Steps:

  1. Go to and find the page for Services for Students with Disabilities.You want to apply far in advance of when the student will take his or her first college board test. When we applied for services for students with disabilities, I think the website said there was about a six to nine month wait for them to review our case and decide. We waited about five months to receive a Letter of Eligibility. Since then, they have improved their turnaround time. As of April 2008, their website says:
    Because the College Board process includes a thorough review of information on the Form, it takes 5 weeks from the point that the Form information is complete (and, when the College Board needs to review the disability documentation, 7 weeks from the point that the disability information is complete.)Once you have the Letter of Eligibility your student can apply to take a test and get the accommodations he or she qualified for. The “Calendar Dates” page at the college board will list the deadlines for each test date. As of this writing (June 2007), the deadlines are about 5 weeks before the test dates.In addition, Judy adds:
    ….although students with time-and-a-half don’t need to be tested at their “home school” [i.e., the public school they would attend if they were in public school], some accommodations do require testing at the home school, such as use of a computer. Consequently, the College Board said that, before I could register Brian for the SAT I, a letter needed to be submitted by the testing school saying that it was his home school. If you think that you’ll need to go through this convoluted process, be sure to allow several more weeks.*

    But even if it is too late to get accommodations in time for the PSAT, you might have child take it anyway, just for practice for the SAT. That’s what we did. I told my teen, “No pressure. This is just practice, so you can get familiar with a formal test setting in a strange building.” He took the PSAT with some homeschooling friends at a small private high school. His bright idea was that they would all go out to lunch together afterwards. Looking forward to that lunch reduced the stress of the morning.

    To apply, you will need documentation of disabilities. This documentation must be no more than 3 years old. This could be psychologist’s reports, neuropsychological evalutions, doctors’ reports, etc.

  2. Go to your local high school. Pick up a Student Eligibility Form for Services for Students with Disabilities form from the guidance office.Our local school’s friendly guidance counselor told us to fill it out and take it back to him. But College Board said mail it to them, so that’s what I did.Note: You cannot print the form off the web because the College Board does not post it, since parts of it are machine readable. But you can download the instructions here.
  3. Fill out and mail in the Student Eligibility Form. As well as being the parent, you are the “offical school representative,” so don’t stop where it says “Students and Parents stop here” on the instructions. If you have questions about the application, e-mail the College Board SSD. (Their address is on the site.) I sent short, clear questions. They always replied promptly & helpfully, though it took several rounds of e-mail for me to be clear on everything.With the form, submit current test results that document your child’s diagnosed disability. As I said above, these must be no more than three years old. When you are homeschooling a teen, schedule your evaluation so that the results will be valid as your child is taking the PSAT, SAT and AP tests and enrolling on college. For example, we put off our son’s most recent evaluation until summer after tenth grade, so that his results could still be used even if he took a year off before college. Generally once a college accepts students as needing accommodations, they will not need to be re-evaluated as long as they remain enrolled.If your student received accommodations in public school, even long ago, I would mention that, too. But make it clear which conditions are on-going.The eligibility form also asks questions about accommodations your child usually receives at her school. This confuses some homeschool parents because they don’t think in those categories. Just think over what you usually do for this child. Do you provide extra time, a quiet setting, or large print? Do you read instructions aloud, take dictation, or give oral exams? Translate from your homeschool setting into the form’s language.

    Reporting of Scores Until 2003, if the College Board gave a student extra time or other accommodations, they marked the scores as “non-standard administration.” Someone sued them and they no longer do so. Knowing some parents would go to great lengths to get extra time for students who do not really need it, the College Board has learned to be strict and wary so that only students with serious, well-documented learning difficulties and special needs receive accommodations.

    Notes about extended time. Curiously, with the new longer SAT, my son wished he didn’t have extended (extra) time. He was in the first group to take the new SAT in March 2005. It ran nearly 5 hours for the average students, and the students getting extended time stayed another 60 or 90 minutes. So he was utterly exhausted. We aren’t sure it was worth it.

    Judy Fulton, whose two sons took the SAT with accommodations, writes:

    My younger son, Brian, took the new SAT I last May [2006]. Part of the problem for students with extended time is that they usually get the same number and lengths of breaks as the students with regular time. Extended time with just two 5-minute breaks and one 1-minute break is absurd. To address this problem, I asked the neuropsychologist who evaluated Brian to include in her written recommendations that “Brian should be allowed at least a continuous ten-minute break every hour during assessments and other graded work. No other break should be limited to less than five minutes.” Since this recommendation was accompanied by an appropriate justification, his accommodations included extended and extra breaks.

    Another possibility for avoiding exhaustion is to get an additional 100% of time, instead of an additional 50%. With 50% extra time, students have to take the SAT I on one day; with 100% extra time, the student takes the test over two days. However, the justification for the 100% extra time has to be extremely strong, or the College Board won’t grant more than 50% extra. *

    [Note from Kathy–As Judy says, this is very hard to qualify for. Judy noted elsewhere that her “older son’s evaluation at age 18 indicated that his handwriting was at the kindergarten level, even though his writing content was good enough for him to get into an Ivy.”]

  4. Wait to see if your application for eligibility for services is approved. If the website doesn’t say, e-mail and ask how long you should expect to wait.Meanwhile, practice a few testing techniques at home or in a small class. (Our homeschool group, Centreville Homeschool Enrichment Support Services, C.H.E.S.S., in Fairfax County, VA, offers one, for instance.) Or get a workbook and do a few exercises. At the very least, work through the practice in the test application booklet.Don’t practice too much and don’t stress out. Just get them familiar with the format and a few tricks–like not guessing when you have no idea.
  5. If your child qualifies you will receive a Letter of Eligibility. Then you can apply to take the PSAT, the SAT or AP exams. You can apply online.Not every testing center (location) has the staff to offer every accommodations, so you when you register your child to take a test, pick a test center that offers the accommodations your student qualified for. Some accommodations must be given at the “home school,” the school the child would have attended were they in public school. Check with the College Board website about where your student can receive the accommodations he or she qualifies for. If you aren’t sure, e-mail them. But you do not have to go to an LD or alternative school. Several of the local high schools in our area offered them.Ours stated that it renewed automatically, so we did not have to reapply. Check your letter and the website.

None of the above constitutes legal advice. I am not a special educator, lawyer, or professional. This is just one mother describing her own experiences and those of one acquaintance.

That said, I’m happy to reply to questions e-mailed to me. I am available for consulting by telephone or in person.
Contact me at the “learn differently” e-mail address below to arrange an appointment.

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