Many colleges require students to take the ACT exam (formally known as the “American College Testing” exam) as part of the admission process. It is recommended that students take the exam at least 2 months prior to college admission deadlines, but it is also encouraged to take the exam in the student’s Junior year. The test is made up of four different sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science, with an optional Writing section. Each section has a score of 1-36, and the overall ACT score is an average of the four sections (also on a scale of 1-36).
Like other standardized tests, the ACT is timed and has a total allotted time of 3 hours and 15 minutes (times per section vary). For students with learning disorders, taking such a lengthy test under time pressure can be extremely challenging. For example, students with dyslexia read more slowly because their brains do not process words as quickly as other students. They may have a hard time remembering or understand what they have just read, so they must go back multiple times to review the same information. In these situations, students with dyslexia (or other learning disorders) may not finish the test before time is called.
Luckily, the ACT gives accommodations to students who demonstrate a strong need. In order to do this, students must have a recent evaluation (within the past 3 years) with a qualified professional (i.e., a licensed psychologist or neuropsychologist). These evaluations must include specific tests and information in order to meet ACT standards, and it may be most helpful to work with an evaluator who has done these types of assessments before. The purpose of this evaluation is to diagnose the student with a learning disorder or other disorder causing impairment (such as a psychological disorder or autism spectrum disorder). Additionally, the evaluation will show how the student performs on tests and under time pressure, explaining why accommodations are needed. After the evaluation, the student will work with his or her school to submit the evaluation to ACT officials. It can take several weeks for ACT to review these materials, so it is best to seek out testing at least a couple of months before the student plans to take the ACT.