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  • Writer's pictureJesse Sherman

ACT Accommodations & English Learner Support

The ACT Exam offers a range of accommodations for students with disabilities or conditions that may impair their performance. It also offers support to students for whom English may be a second language. These accommodations are intended to level the playing field during the exams to ensure that each student has an equal opportunity to show their true abilities, regardless of any challenges they might face. Accommodations don’t alter the sections, order, or questions of the ACT; they mostly influence the timing and testing environment.


Available Accommodations

These are most (but not all) of the available accommodations:

  1. Timing and Scheduling Accommodations

    1. Extended time (such as time and one-half, or even double testing time)

    2. Breaks (more breaks, longer breaks, or both)

    3. Limited-time testing (testing over multiple days) may or may not include extra time

  2. Presentation Accommodations

    1. Human reader (who reads the entire test)

    2. Sign language interpreter for verbal instructions

    3. Braille

  3. Response Accommodations

    1. Verbal responses dictated to scribe

    2. Assistive technology: Speech-to-text

  4. Setting Accommodations

    1. Small group setting

    2. Preferential seating

    3. Wheelchair accessibility

    4. School-based setting

    5. One-to-one setting

  5. Physical or Medical Accommodations

    1. Permission for food, drink, or medication

    2. Permission to test blood sugar: permits access to most diabetes testing supplies


Who is eligible for accommodations?

To be eligible for test accommodations, one must have a documented disability or condition recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These disabilities may include learning disabilities, physical or medical impairments, attention disorders, or visual or hearing impairments, among others. For example:

  • Physical and medical disabilities such as (but not limited to):

    • Seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, diabetes, visual or hearing impairment

  • Learning disorders such as (but not limited to):

    • ADHD, dyslexia, or dysgraphia

  • Autism diagnoses based on DSM-IV




What is the ACT looking for?


According to the ACT, quality documentation:

  • Identifies a professionally diagnosed physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; and

  • Requests allowable accommodations that are appropriate and reasonable for the documented disability.


Knowing that, here are the steps:

  1. Meet with an evaluator who has a professional license with appropriate credentials.

  2. Your evaluator should use formal diagnostic testing and document the disability.

  3. Make sure the documentation is up-to-date and the diagnosis clearly stated.

    1. Note: “For mental impairments, including learning disorders and ADHD, ACT follows the guidelines of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5)”

  4. Your evaluator should include an educational history as well as a medical history.

    1. If your evaluator does not include the history, then you should prepare an educational history and medical history to submit with your documentation.


IEP & 504 Plans

Here is the great news for you, straight from the ACT Documentation Guidelines:


“For examinees who have a valid, current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan (504 Plan) that authorizes allowable accommodations that have been requested for the ACT, a copy of the IEP or 504 Plan will be sufficient to demonstrate eligibility and need for the same allowable accommodations on the ACT test.”



Other Plans (or No Plan)

If you can, submit a current and official accommodations plan (even if it is not an IEP or 504). If you or your student are no longer in school, go ahead and submit an expired IEP, 504 Plan, or other accommodation plans. Here is the goal: you want to show the ACT that there is a history of using accommodations in similar testing settings. If you can do that, then the ACT will think it is “appropriate and reasonable” to approve accommodations now.


If you have a good relationship with one of your teachers, ask them to fill out the ‘Teacher Survey Form.” This will strengthen your submission and allow your teacher to discuss specific ways the condition affects testing performance.


If you do not have a documented history of receiving accommodations, then you will have to fill out and submit an extra form: the Exceptions Statement Form, “providing a detailed explanation of why accommodations are needed at this time.”


Exceptions Statement Form (if you do not have a documented history of accommodations):


Each request for accommodation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis using appropriate documentation. The documentation must be reflected in a letter or report from a licensed, qualified professional, and complete diagnostic documentation may be required in some cases to substantiate a need for accommodations. If a particular element of documentation is not provided, the diagnostician must explain why it is not included in the submission. The ACT has different standards based on the following groups and criteria:


Criteria for Diagnostic Documentation and Documentation Guidelines by Disability Type


  • Learning Disabilities

  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders or Serious and Persistent Mental Illness

  • Visual Impairment

  • Hearing Impairment

  • Autism, Asperger's, Pervasive Developmental, or Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Speech and Language Disorders

  • Medical Conditions

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries

If you want to know specific details about documentation based on specific disabilities, a list is provided at the bottom of this article.



Doctors' Notes

Remember that a doctor’s note is generally not sufficient and cannot substitute for comprehensive testing, except in the case of certain physical/visual conditions. The ACT will want to see your credentialed evaluator use some common tests to diagnose and document the disability.



What if I am just temporarily needing assistance?

Temporary arrangements are also available for situations including, but not limited to a broken limb. Contact ACTAccom@act.org for a request form.




How do I request accommodations?


Let’s talk about requesting accommodations. You must request accommodations no later than the Late Registration Deadline for the scheduled ACT you or your student would like to take.


There are two ways to request accommodations:

  1. Request through the school

  2. Request on your own


Request through your school

If you are requesting through your school, then talk to your school testing official. Your school official will make the request through the Test Accessibility and Accommodations System (TAA) no later than the published late registration deadline for your preferred test date.


Here are the 4 stages for requesting through your school:


Stage 1: Link Your Account and Register to Test

  • Log into MyACT (make an account if you have not already)

  • Link a valid high school to your MyACT account before you register to test

  • Begin registration

    • Select “Yes” when prompted to confirm you need accommodations

      • If you selected ‘no’, you will need to contact ACT as soon as possible to update your registration if you need to test with accommodations.


Stage 2: Meet with Your School Official and Submit Documentation

  • Meet with your school official and have them make a formal request using the TAA before the late registration deadline for your test

  • Sign the “Consent to Release Information” form.

  • Provide the following:

    • Examinee details

    • Test date information

    • Reason for the request

    • Plan details

    • Requested accommodations and/or supports

    • Required documentation

      • Note: all requests with documentation that are submitted by the late registration deadline will be reviewed for the indicated test date. All requests must be associated with a future test date.


Stage 3: ACT Reviews the Request

Requests are normally processed in 10 - 14 business days. Basically, expect it to be 2 - 3 weeks.

  • You'll receive an email when the Decision Notification is available to view in TAA.

  • Review the decision notification.

  • Print at least one copy of the decision notification.

    • To be safe, print two copies. Keep one with the school, and bring one to the test.


Stage 4: Request is Approved or Denied

If you are requesting accommodations through your school:

After ACT reviews a request for accommodations, a Decision Notification is created in the Test Administration and Accommodations System (TAA). When the notification is available, the school official who submitted the request on an examinee’s behalf will receive an email. The

notification contains the:

  • Examinee’s name

  • Examinee’s personal identification number (PIN) for TAA

  • Accommodations approved (including any special authorizations) or not approved, as applicable

  • Reason accommodations are not approved, if applicable


If the request has been approved:

Examinees may be placed into either a National test center or into Special testing, depending on the accommodation approved and test option. Regardless of National or Special testing, the examinee must upload and submit a photo id.


If you or your student is placed into National testing, then the testing location will be provided on the examinee’s admission ticket.


If you or your student are approved for Special testing, then the testing normally happens at the school as part of ACT Special Testing (there is a published special testing window - dates will be shown later). Students approved for special testing usually test at their own school. Once certified, materials for special testing will be sent to the school prior to the test date.


If the school is not able to proctor and host the test, then make sure your school official writes that in the request within TAA. You will need to work with ACT to find another location. In this case, you are responsible for working with your school official to make arrangements to test within the special testing window. We will go through the special testing dates later.


If your high school cannot administer the test, contact ACT as soon as possible.


If the request has not been approved:

  • You may use TAA to edit the existing request and provide additional documentation for reconsideration.

    • Note: if a reconsideration request is submitted after the applicable late deadline, decisions will not be available for the preferred test date.


Request on Your Own

Are you homeschooling? Are you or your student not currently enrolled? Don’t sweat it. Here are your stages:


Stage 1: Create an Account / Login

  1. If you have not already, make an ACT account here:

    1. https://my.act.org/account/update

  2. Login


Stage 2: Register for a Test

  1. Register to test

  2. Fill out the info about accessibility

    1. If you are unsure, go ahead and select “Yes, Accommodations/Supports Needed”

    2. Then select "I can do all of those" to choose a national test center and test date

  3. You will automatically receive an email that will provide a link to the application for your request.

    1. If you do not receive an email, contact ACT by using the ACT contact form.


Stage 3: Prepare and Submit Your Documentation

  1. Fill out an Exceptions Statement Form:

    1. https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/ExceptionsStatementFormandChecklist.pdf

    2. Read the guidelines on Page 3 before filling it out. It has great information about requesting accommodations and/or EL supports.

    3. There is even info about what to do if the examinee:

      1. Is not currently a student

      2. is homeschooled

      3. has unofficial accommodations and/or EL Supports

  2. Provide diagnostic documentation and/or English language proficiency scores

  3. Provide documentation to substantiate your need for accommodation, such as:

    1. Prior IEP, 504 plan, or educational plan

    2. Recommendation for test accommodations and/or supports from diagnosing professional including rationale for each requested item

    3. Brief personal statement regarding any previously provided accommodation and/or EL supports in an educational environment, and a rationale for the current request

  4. Submit your electronic request with all required documentation (including your Exceptions Statement Form) by the late registration deadline.


Stage 4: Request is Approved or Denied


Requests are normally processed in 10 - 14 business days when done through a school and the TAA. If you are making a request on your own, expect a response in 2 - 3 weeks. In other words, make your request as soon as possible. You can always request early, but you cannot make a request after the late test registration deadline.


You'll receive an email when the Decision Notification is available. You may have to open your MyACT account to view the details of the decision.


If you are approved:

  • Print at least one copy of the decision notification.

    • To be safe, print two copies. Keep one at home, and bring one to the test.


If you are denied:

  • You can try to provide additional documentation for reconsideration.

    • If a reconsideration request is submitted after the applicable late deadline, decisions will not be available for the preferred test date.



So… how long does the accommodation request process take?


It does not matter whether you are requesting through a school or on your own: expect a response to take 2- 3 weeks once the ACT receives your request. Remember: you can always request early, but you cannot make a request after the late test registration deadline.




National Testing or Special Testing


Based on your approved accommodations, ACT will place you in either National Testing (at a center) or Special Testing (at a school).

National Testing


If you are approved to test at a national test center you will see an “Accommodations” label on your admission ticket once accommodations and/or English Learner Supports are approved by ACT. Your seat at a national test center is confirmed in the applicable room type. So if you get one and one-half half time, you will be placed in the room with one and one-half time.


Some accommodations and all English Learner supports may be administered at national test centers. Here are some (but not all) of the National Testing accommodations:

  • One and one-half time

  • Breaks as needed with standard time

  • Wheelchair accessibility

  • Large Print (18 font) test booklet

  • Mark answers in test booklet

  • Sign language interpreter for verbal instructions

  • Use of an authorized bilingual word-to word dictionary or translated written test directions

  • Food, drink, or medication for examinees with medical need


Special Testing

Special testing is for documented disabilities requiring accommodations that cannot be provided at a test center. If you are approved to test via special testing you will see a “Special Testing” label on your admission ticket once accommodations and/or English Learner Supports are approved.


Here are some (but not all) of the Special Testing accommodations:

  • Double or triple time

  • Alternate test formats such as

    • Braille with raised line drawings

    • Pre‑recorded audio

    • Screen reader software

    • Human Reader in a 1‑1 setting)

  • Scribe to record answers

  • A computer for the writing essay (paper based testing)

  • Assistive Device/Technology

  • Background music/white noise machine (individual room)

  • Personal aide

  • Environmental adaptations like special lighting, air conditioning, slant board, and adaptive furniture


To see the full list of accommodations and English Learner supports, click here:


If you are requesting through a school, you and the school official will work together to make arrangements for testing within the applicable special testing window.


If your school is unable to administer the test, you may find another school and work with ACT to request testing at this location.


If requesting on your own, you are responsible for reaching out to ACT. You will need to find a location for testing during the special testing window.




Can I request a copy of the ACT test questions and answers?


If you receive accommodations or EL supports, you have a rare opportunity. Only certain students who test through National testing or Special testing have the opportunity to purchase a digital copy of their test questions and answers.


By purchasing Test Information Release (TIR), you will receive a digital copy of the multiple-choice test questions, your answers, a copy of your answer document, the answer key, and the conversion table used in determining your ACT scores. If you took the optional writing test, you will receive a copy of the writing prompt, the writing test scoring rubric, and your essay scores.


You can expect digital TIR materials to be provided within MyACT a few weeks after your score release. If you requested and were approved for alternate formats (April testing only), these materials will be prepared once your TIR report is available in MyACT and may take up to eight weeks for processing and shipping.


NOTE: These materials are the confidential copyrighted property of ACT, Inc., and may not be copied, reproduced, sold, scanned, emailed, or otherwise transferred without the prior express written permission of ACT, Inc.


TIR is only offered to 2 groups of students:

  1. National testers: examinees who test on select national test dates

  2. Special testers: examinees who register for the April test date and test during the designated Special Testing Window


If you are a National tester on the below dates, then you have the option to buy your test information.

​TIR Test Dates

Availability

April 2023

Saturday & Non-Saturday testing

June 2023

Saturday testing only

September 2023

Saturday testing only

April 2024

Saturday & Non-Saturday testing

June 2024

Saturday testing only


If you are a Special tester in the month of April, then you have the option to buy your test information.

  • Special testers include those in the US, US territories, and Puerto Rico.

  • You will also be able to request TIR materials in any alternate formats you were approved for


Do you know what is unusual?


This Test Information Release service is not offered for any other administrations of the ACT.


In other words, other students do not even have the option to buy a TIR. Other students get scores for their sections, but have no clue what actual questions they got wrong. They cannot go through their questions, review what they got wrong, and learn how to get them right. If you have the financial ability, take advantage of this opportunity. You can order TIR in MyACT during registration and for six months following the test date.


See www.act.org/the-act/fees for pricing and details.

  • Currently, the TIR is $32.00 if the order is placed before the test begins.

  • The TIR price jumps to $40.00 if the order is placed after the test.


FUN FACT: students who register for the ACT with a fee waiver qualify can add a TIR to their registration at no extra cost (as long as the test is on the TIR eligible dates). In other words, if you get a fee waiver (and you take the test on one of the above dates), you could get the TIR for free too!




What documentation do I need based on my disability?


Below you will detailed outlines for:

  • Learning Disabilities

  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders or Serious and Persistent Mental Illness

  • Visual Impairment

  • Hearing Impairment

  • Autism, Asperger's, Pervasive Developmental, or Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Speech and Language Disorders

  • Medical Conditions

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries


Learning Disabilities:

The applicant must provide the results of age-appropriate diagnostic testing performed by a qualified professional within the past three years. Documentation must address the following:

  1. Description of the presenting problem(s) and its (their) developmental history, including relevant educational and medical history

  2. Neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation which includes results of an intellectual assessment using a complete and comprehensive battery

  3. Results of a complete achievement battery

  4. Other appropriate assessments for consideration of a differential diagnosis from co-existing neurological or psychiatric disorders

  5. Specific diagnosis and evidence that alternative explanations were ruled out

  6. Description of the functional limitations supported by the test results and a rationale for the recommended test accommodations specific to those functional limitations


Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder:

The applicant must provide diagnostic results from an evaluation by a qualified professional within the past three years. Documentation must address the following:

  1. Original diagnosis (e.g. date/age/grade, diagnosing professional, symptoms/impairment, course of treatment, and educational/behavioral/social interventions)

  2. Evidence of childhood onset before age 12 (symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity demonstrated in two or more settings)

  3. Evidence of current impairment, including:

  4. A statement of presenting problems (e.g. academic failure or significant struggle, poor social/familial functioning, relationships, behavioral problems)

  5. A diagnostic interview

  6. A ruling out of alternative diagnoses and explanations

  7. Relevant testing using reliable, valid, standardized, and age-appropriate assessments to determine functional limitation (e.g. intellectual, achievement, neuropsychological, and rating scale measures from multiple sources)

  8. Number of applicable DSM-IV or DSM-5 criteria and a description of how the criteria impair the examinee (e.g. measurable impairment in academic achievement, social functioning, sports, extracurricular activities, employment, clubs, daily adaptive functioning, and/or executive functioning. Failure to finish timed tests cannot be used in isolation to demonstrate impairment.)

  9. Specific ADHD diagnosis (ADHD-Predominantly inattentive, ADHD-Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, ADHD- Combined, ADHD-NOS, or Unspecified)


Psychiatric Disorders: Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders or Serious and Persistent Mental Illness


The applicant must provide diagnostic information from an evaluation by a qualified professional within the past year (1- Year). Documentation must address the following:

  1. Specific diagnosis

  2. Age of onset and the course of the illness

  3. Psychological tests used

  4. The history of treatment for the disorder, including medication and/or psychotherapy

  5. Evidence of current impairment, including a statement of presenting problems (e.g. academic failure or significant struggle, poor social/familial functioning, behavioral problems)

  6. In addition, please tell us how the examinee’s impairment affects his/her functioning across settings. Observations and/or rating scales of the examinee’s functional limitations in academic achievement, behavior, mood, and/or adaptive functioning may be helpful.


Visual Impairment

The applicant must provide diagnostic results from a complete ocular examination performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist within the past year (1-Year). Documentation must address the following:

  1. Specific ocular diagnosis

  2. Record of complete, current (within past 12 months) ocular examination including: chief complaint, history of illness, eye health, visual acuity both at a distance and near point, complete ocular motility exam (versions, tropias, phorias, stereopsis), slit lamp exam, visual field, pupil exam, optic nerve, and retina

  3. History of treatment for the disorder, including any evaluations or therapy notes (e.g. vision therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy), and a statement about whether or not the condition is stable or progressive, and whether the examinee needs extended testing time, or the opportunity to take vision breaks during testing.


If the diagnosed condition is purported to affect reading, results of a measure of reading (decoding, rate, and comprehension) are required. Examples of acceptable measures of reading include the WIAT-III and GSRT. Assertions of poor reading speed (or other conditions requiring additional time) made by vision professionals must be corroborated by educational and/or psychometric data. Letters from an eye care professional and/or a Visagraph score are not acceptable as evidence of reading problems requiring extended time on the ACT.



Hearing Impairment:

The applicant must provide diagnostic results from a full hearing test performed by a qualified professional within the past three years. Documentation must also address the following:

  1. Relevant medical history, including date of hearing loss

  2. Specific diagnosis

  3. Description of functional limitation (with and without any hearing aids or assistive devices or treatments)

  4. Related educational history, including information regarding reading and language skills

  5. Specific recommendation for accommodation(s) and accompanying rationale


Autism, Asperger's, Pervasive Developmental, or Autism Spectrum Disorders:

The applicant must provide diagnostic results from an evaluation by a qualified professional within the past three years. Documentation must address the following:

  1. Original diagnosis (e.g. date/age/grade, diagnosing professional, symptoms/impairment, course of treatment)

  2. Current and prior psychoeducational or neuropsychological evaluations

  3. A history of special education interventions (e.g. specialized instruction, self-contained classrooms or schools, one-to-one aides, exemptions from proficiency or graduation exams)

  4. Current information regarding adaptive behavior, attention, executive functioning, language skills, and mental health

  5. Rationale for accommodations, based on current impairment


Speech and Language Disorders

The applicant must provide diagnostic results from an evaluation by a qualified professional within the past three years. Documentation must address the following:

  1. Specific diagnosis and a description of the presenting problems

  2. Developmental history including relevant educational history

  3. Results of speech and language assessments, including measures of expressive and receptive language, and communication skills

  4. Evidence that demonstrates the current impact of a speech and language disorder on reading, written expression, and/ or learning

  5. Description of the functional limitations supported by the test results and a rationale for the recommended test accommodations specific to those functional limitations


Medical Conditions:

The applicant must provide complete medical documentation from the qualified treating professional within the past year. While medical conditions may cause problems in psychological and educational areas, objective evidence that such problems are present is a requirement. Documentation must address the following:

  1. Specific diagnosis and age/date of onset

  2. Current and/or prior course of medical treatment, including the impact of medical treatment specific to the examinee

  3. Current and/or prior therapy outcomes (e.g. physical, occupational and/or speech therapy, mental health counseling/ psychiatric treatment)

  4. Current impact on examinee’s education (e.g. school absence, hospital and/or homebound status, reduced school schedule)

  5. Current impact on academic functioning (e.g. psychoeducational or neuropsychological evaluations, grade reports, transcripts, and/or other standardized testing)

  6. ACT does not require images or lab reports.


Traumatic Brain Injuries:

The applicant must provide complete medical documentation from the qualified treating professional within the past year. While medical conditions may cause problems in psychological and educational areas, objective evidence that such problems are present is a requirement. Documentation must address the following:

  1. The date of accident

  2. Status and diagnosis upon hospital admission

  3. Length of hospital stay

  4. Discharge date, review of type and outcome of outpatient therapy (Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy), if applicable

  5. Length of school absence and/or confirmation of any homebound service or reduced school schedule

  6. Evidence of continued educational impairment and its relationship to the requested accommodations, as supported by objective data. Examples include:

  7. A complete evaluation of intellectual, neurocognitive, and academic skills, using acceptable batteries of assessment (impact results cannot be used in isolation to demonstrate psychological or neuropsychological impairment)

  8. Observations and/or rating scales of the examinee’s functional limitations in academic achievement, behavior, mood, and/or adaptive functioning

  9. Interventions provided by the examinee’s school



Thanks for stopping by!


Wow! You made it to the bottom! Congrats! Do you feel ready? Make sure to bookmark this page. You can come back and read it as you prepare to submit your documents. The great news is that the ACT is very considerate to existing educational plans. If your documents provide a history of accommodations on other school tests, then your request will most likely be approved. Even if it is not, you are allowed to send more documentation and resubmit. Just do your best, and make sure to get the help of a trustworthy and licensed evaluator.


Please reach out to Tried & True if you need any test prep assistance.

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