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Who is Eligible to Receive Test Accommodations and How to Get Extra Time on Standardized Tests

By Dr. Rimma Danov, PhD, founder of Brain Academy Tutoring, Testing & Coaching Center in New York
Test accommodations are offered by the College Board, Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and other organizations that oversee standardized testing, such as GRE, SAT, ISEE, PSAT, LSAT, and professional examinations, such as the Bar exam, Social Work licensure exam, Nursing licensure exam, and other exams. Test accommodations include extra time (typically 50% more time) on standardized tests, additional breaks and longer break time between the portions of a lengthy exam, the use of a calculator, computer with a spell check, extra scrap paper for notes, and/or scribe services. These test accommodations allow the students to take more time to read and answer test questions, write an essay, and respond to open-ended questions. Some are allowed to take extra breaks to fight mental fatigue. Others are allowed to compute math operations using a calculator or have their responses written for them by a scribe.

In order for students to qualify for any of these test accommodations, they must provide medical and neuropsychological documentation showing that they suffer from a specific neurological, learning or cognitive disorder that puts them at a disadvantage when they compete with their peers who do not suffer from these disorders. Some of such cognitive, learning and neurological disorders are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Attention deficit Disorder (ADD), fine motor disorder, dyslexia, math learning disorder, or other learning disability.

These learning, cognitive and neurological disorders cause substantial difficulty sustaining focus on the test questions, reading test instructions and questions, quickly processing written information and producing a response, writing their responses and essays, or calculating math operations in mind without the calculator. Students with attention deficit frequently overlook important details of math problems, skip words or lines while reading, cannot organize information to answer reading comprehension questions or write an essay, omit portions of verbal instructions, carelessly copy test assignments that they cannot later decipher. While they may study for hours and days for a particular test, when students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) take the test, they may impulsively select the wrong answer, misunderstand the test question due to inattention to key words such as 'but' or 'except', or skip or misperceive digits in a math problem. They may also get distracted from time management and completely forget to keep track of their time limit while answering difficult and easy questions on a test. Those who learned to double check their work, may need more time to recheck their work and correct their errors.

Thus, students with learning disabilities and cognitive and neurological disorders end up answering fewer test questions and get lower test scores than they could have if they did not suffer from these disorders. As a result, students with learning disabilities, attention deficit, slow processing speed and motor disorder are unable to adequately compete with their peers who also take the same test. Thus, in situations involving timed standardized tests, individuals with learning disability and attention and processing deficits are unable to adequately demonstrate their knowledge and ability on the subjects tested on the ISEE, SAT, GRE, PSAT, LSAT, MCAT or the others. What is the acceptable documentation of learning disabilities, ADHD, and other cognitive and neurological disorders that put some students at a disadvantage? Acceptable and required documentation for the test accommodations application is a comprehensive neuropsychological and educational evaluation report provided by a neuropsychologist.

Neuropsychologist are doctors who were trained for many years to administer multiple academic and cognitive tests with the purpose of diagnosing children and adults with learning disabilities and cognitive disorders. A thorough academic and neuropsychological evaluation involves administration of many tests of visual and verbal memory, visual and auditory attention, processing speed, reading rate, word reading, spelling, math problem solving, reading comprehension, auditory processing, visual spatial processing, planning, organization, and visuomotor coordination. Neuropsychologist then analyzes these test scores and concludes a diagnosis, which may include reading or math learning disability, attention deficit, memory disorder, or visuomotor coordination disorder.

A report detailing all test results, student's academic background, prior history of test accommodations and learning difficulties, and current diagnosis and recommendations is what required by the College Board, Law School Admission Council or other appropriate agencies overseeing the administration of standardized tests. Students who are granted test accommodations are provided with an opportunity to compensate for their cognitive problems, such as attention deficit, slow processing speed, slow reading rate, or reading disorder. Thus, they are able to demonstrate their true intellectual potential by answering more questions on the exam and getting a higher test score.

Dr. Danov, PhD, is a Harvard-trained pediatric and adult neuropsychologist and the founder of the Brain Academy Tutoring, Testing & Coaching Center in New York. This Center provides comprehensive cognitive and academic evaluations in order to diagnose dyslexia, math learning disorder, auditory and visual processing disorders, mental retardation, ADHD, and other conditions that require educational services, test accommodations, tutoring, special class placements, private school placements, speech and occupational therapy, and other treatments and educational services. The center also provides individual tutoring, test prep, and effective remediation of cognitive deficits that cause learning problems for children and work-related problems for adults. For more information about the Brain Academy Tutoring, Testing and Coaching Center and how to diagnose and remediate learning disabilities, call 877-55-MyTutor (877-556-9888, 646-355-3395), or visit our website Offices are located in New York City, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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