The SAT is now fully digital for all international students. Starting in 2024, US students will be in the same boat. Of course change (and the uncertainty that comes with it) can be scary, so if you’re a parent or counselor, this shift in format might come with a healthy dose of anxiety, especially if your student is used to receiving testing accommodations. You might be asking a string of questions:
Is the digital test right for my student?
Are testing accommodations going away?
Is the SAT becoming less accessible?
In short, don’t worry! Though the test is changing, the process of applying for accommodations isn’t. If the College Board has already approved your student for accommodations, there’s no need to re-apply; they’ll already get those some accommodations on the digital test.
In fact, the shift in test format means the digital SAT is designed to be even more accessible than before. As part of the new test’s design process, in 2022, the College Board administered the digital SAT to statistically significant groups of English learners and students with disabilities, ensuring that the new test is both accessible and fair.
Rather than limiting access to accommodations, the digital SAT has actually increased the number and variety of accommodations that students can qualify for.
In this post, we’ll hit the highlights of exactly how accommodations work on the new test. If you’re interested in a deeper dive into digital SAT accommodations, see for reference the Assessment Framework for the Digital SAT suite, section 2.2.7, and visit the dedicated page on the College Board’s website for links to more resources, including in-depth guides on how to qualify and how to apply.
How do students qualify for accommodations?
To qualify for accommodations, students with disabilities must submit a formal request to the College Board. The steps for doing so vary depending on the student’s school, medical diagnosis, and past history of receiving accommodations. You can find all the necessary forms and procedures here.
In most cases, if a student receives accommodations at school through a current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan, then they will be automatically approved for comparable accommodations on the SAT.
For situations in which a student doesn’t automatically qualify, in order to be granted accommodations, their application must show that…
- they have a documented disability
- their participation in the digital SAT is impacted by that disability
- and the accommodation they’ve requested is needed.
The good news is that once a student with disabilities qualifies for accommodations for one digital SAT, they then automatically have those same accommodations for future College Board tests.
English learners can qualify for accommodations if…
- they’re enrolled in school in the US or in US territories
- they are defined by state or federal policy as an English learner
- and they receive comparable accommodations in class or for other tests.
Accommodations for English learners are only available for school-day tests, PSAT 8/9, and PSAT 10. They’re also temporary, meaning they only last for a single test date.
What accommodations are there?
There are too many to list in full, since the College Board will consider “any reasonable accommodation for any documented disability as long as a student qualifies for testing accommodations.”
The following is a list of the most commonly offered accommodations for students with disabilities:
Timing and Scheduling
- Extended time: time and one-half, double time, and more than double time
- Extra/extended breaks
- Text to speech
- Magnification device (electronic or nonelectronic)
- Color contrast
- Braille with raised line drawings
- Raised line drawings
- Braille device for written responses
- Writer/scribe to record responses
- Braille writer
- Small-group setting
- Preferential seating
- Wheelchair accessibility
- School-based setting
- One-to-one setting
- Food/drink/medication accommodations
- Permission to test blood sugar
- eSign language interpreter for oral instructions
- Printed copy of verbal instructions
- Assistive technology
- Auditory amplification / FM system
English learners may be eligible for the following accommodations:
- Translated test directions
- Use of bilingual word-to-word dictionaries
- Time and one-half
What practice materials are available for students who receive accommodations?
The College Board has released four full-length practice tests for the digital SAT, which students can access by downloading the Bluebook app. After opening the app and logging into their College Board accounts, they should click Full-Length Practice (under Practice and Prepare), select which practice test they’re taking, then toggle on “I will be testing with accommodations.”
The app has support for several of the most common testing accommodations, including three different extended time settings, which you can selectively activate for the Reading section, the Math section, or both; three different settings for breaks (extra, extended, and as needed); and a braille option, for use with assistive technology.
If a student’s testing accommodations cannot be provided by the digital testing platform, the student may qualify to take a paper-based version of the new test. This paper-based option is not comparable to the old paper-based test. And unlike the digital test, these paper-based tests do not have adaptive difficulty. So that scores from the paper test are still comparable to those from the digital, the test is a bit longer—66 Reading & Writing questions and 54 Math questions, compared with 54 Reading & Writing and 44 Math on the digital test form.
Students can access paper versions of the digital practice tests here. Students whose accommodations don’t include a paper-based test should not use these paper tests under any circumstances. It’s always best for students to practice with only the accommodations that they’ll receive on the day of the actual test.
Need more individualized advice?
The recommendations above are general suggestions. If you have specific questions, or want to start working with a tutor who specializes in test-taking accommodations, reach out to us here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.
ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.