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Testing with Learning Disabilities

June 6, 2011 / Posted by in Blog

Why the ACT is better for ADHD

(Written by Julia H.)

Junior year, I took the PSATs, along with every other Sophomore and Junior in my school. If it were possible to fail the PSATs, I would have. As a student testing with ADHD, I would hardly get halfway through the problems when time would already be up. So, when it came time to take my actual standardized tests, my family and I knew I would need extended time. Now let me just say—getting extended time isn’t easy. It’s not like you just wake up one day and decide to get extended time (Click here for more information on SAT extended time.). Extended time on the SATs allows students time and a half on each section. On my first SAT test (which I had done nothing to prepare for) my score jumped 300 points from my previous PSAT score and by the last SAT test (which I definitely DID prepare for) it had jumped 500 points from the original PSAT. Standardized tests make a lot of kids with ADHD really anxious and if you can get the extended time, I fully recommend it.

There is, however, something even better than SAT extended time that not a lot of people know much about: ACT with extended time. Although the extended time on the ACT requires a lot more effort to get (Click here for more information) it is absolutely worth it. Like I said before, students with learning disabilities often get anxious during timed tests, but the ACT extended time program takes most of the anxiety out of testing. The ACT is formatted differently than the SAT in which the student will do each of the 4 or 5 subjects (English, Math, Reading, Science and optional Writing) only once (instead of the SAT which has multiple critical reading, math, and writing sections). So, instead of doing time and a half for each section, students are allowed 5 hours (5 hours and 45 minutes with writing) to take the entire test at their own pace. That means that if the student wants to take 2 hours on math and 1 hour on the rest of his subjects, he can.

Possible ACT Pitfalls:

  • The science section – although it is mostly reading comprehension the big words and tricky graphs in the science section are likely to freak a student with learning disabilities out
  • The math section requires students know math up to Pre-calculus but the SAT only requires math as advanced as Algebra and Geometry

Why I recommend the ACT:

  • Taking the test at the student’s own pace takes a bunch of pressure off
  • Unlike the SAT, the ACT does not try and trick you with its wording
  • On the SAT if you get a question wrong .25 of a point is deducted from your raw score, but on the ACT there is no wrong answer penalty


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