Future Reflections Winter 2014 TESTING
by Jill Green
From the Editor: The journey from high school to college is filled with exciting possibilities, but it can also be highly stressful. Preparing for and taking college entrance tests such as the SAT and Advanced Placement exams is stressful for nearly all students. Students who are blind or visually impaired have the added challenge of requesting and obtaining the accommodations they need in order to take these tests successfully. Jill Green serves as senior director of Case Management Services for Students with Disabilities at the College Board. In this article, she offers practical suggestions to help students get the accommodations they need.
When you are preparing to apply to college, you will likely take the SAT and other College Board tests. In order to use a Braille test, a live reader, or any other testing accommodations, you will need to request and obtain permission prior to taking the test. Understanding the accommodations requests process and starting early will ensure that all needed test materials are ready for you on the testing day.
The College Board is a not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. It provides many different types of accommodations for students with visual and other disabilities to take its tests, which include the SAT, SAT Subject tests, PSAT/NMSQT, and Advanced Placement exams. Some examples of accommodations are the use of Braille or large print, a computer, a Braille device such as the BrailleNote or Braille Sense, or a live reader or scribe. There are many others. Accommodations have been provided on College Board tests since 1939--decades before they were required by federal regulations. Last year, the College Board received approximately ninety thousand requests for accommodations from students with disabilities, of which the vast majority were approved.
Before you can use accommodations on one of the College Board tests, your request must be approved by the College Board's Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). Once approved, with limited exceptions, your accommodations remain in effect until one year after your high school graduation. Students do not need to apply again when taking another College Board exam.
The fastest and most efficient way to request testing accommodations is to work with your school counselor or SSD coordinator. Your school's SSD coordinator can submit accommodation requests online. Check with your SSD coordinator before your request is submitted to make sure all of the accommodations that you need are included in the request. If you are home-schooled or if you wish to request accommodations without the assistance of your school, contact the College Board to request a paper accommodations request form (also called a Student Eligibility Form).
Start the request process early--as early as your freshman year of high school. When documentation review is required, the process can take approximately seven weeks. By starting early you will have plenty of time in case any corrections or additional document submissions need to be made.
In some cases, the College Board will ask for documentation to be submitted. Be aware that requirements may vary, depending on your disability and requested accommodations. Blind students should send in a statement from their school or doctor, confirming their blindness. Students who are visually impaired but not blind should send in the full report from a current visual examination, including all visual measurements.
If you are blind or visually impaired, you may have to provide documentation to explain why you need certain accommodations. For example, if you require accommodations that are not normally associated with reading or seeing, provide documentation to explain your need for these accommodations. (For instance, provide medical documentation to support a request for food or medication during the testing session.) Similarly, if you are requesting more than one accommodation that serves the same purpose (such as a Braille test book and a recorded test book), provide information from your school or doctor to explain why you need both accommodations and how they will be used. Requests for assistive technology should include detailed information about the technology, including the model/version of the device or software and why you need it to take the College Board tests.
When you request accommodations, discuss with the SSD coordinator the accommodations that you plan to use on test day. Be sure to request all the accommodations that you need. Don't request accommodations that you use in your classes but which would be of no use during College Board tests. While accommodations can be added if your situation changes, don't wait until test day to find out that something you need has not been requested or approved. Some accommodations that you might need include the following:
These are only some of the accommodations that are available. The College Board provides many others, and will consider all requests for accommodations, even if they have not been provided previously.
If you need additional information about accommodations on College Board tests, contact the College Boards Services for Students with Disabilities at (609) 771-7137, or firstname.lastname@example.org.