Extended Timing Accommodations for the Redesigned SAT

Extended Timing Accommodations for the Redesigned SAT

The College Board’s Students with Disabilities Service (SSD) has released guidelines for extended timing on the new SAT and, to the chagrin of many, SSD has decided to continue its long-standing policy regarding the allocation of extended time. The College Board and the ACT, Inc. have historically taken differing approaches to the allocation of extended time on their flagship tests. On the SAT, a student who receives an extended time accommodation must remain within the bounds of each discrete section until the time allocated for the section has expired. The ACT, by contrast, allows students with extended time to navigate sections at their discretion, self-pacing according to their needs. Many were hoping that the redesigned SAT, which adopts many key structural features of the ACT, would also adopt the ACT’s more flexible model for extended timing.

This is a missed opportunity by the College Board. The ACT’s model of granting extended time is better for many students with disabilities. While some students have general processing speed, working memory, or attentional deficits which may impair them equally on all sections, many students require an accommodation only in one or more content areas. A student may suffer from dyslexia (primarily impacting reading speed) or dyscalculia (primarily impacting math speed). When students with extended time on the SAT finish a section and are forced to remain in that section, in their seats, waiting for 10, 20, or even 30 minutes (primarily for double time), this forced waiting can actually offset some of the benefit of the accommodation. Unable to move forward, forced to wait at length for the next section to begin, students must grapple with mental endurance, attention and focus, which may ultimately impair performance, negating some of the benefits of the accommodation.

Students with an accommodation for extended timing on the ACT simply have it better. As soon as they complete a section, they can move on to the next one, where their need for time may be much greater. Students can continue to self-pace until they have completed the test (or the section(s) if they have an accommodation for multi-day testing). A student may have a full hour remaining at the completion of the test, but will not be forced to wait at great length between sections.  

Here are the timing allotments for standard time, 50% extended time and double time:

Section Standard Timing (Minutes) 1.5 x Timing (Minutes) 2 x Timing (Minutes)
Reading 65 98 130
Writing 35 53 70
Math Calculator 55 83 110
Math No Calculator 25 38 50
Essay 50 75 100
Total Testing Time 3 hours
50 minutes
5 hours
45 minutes
7 hours
40 minutes

It is noteworthy that students taking the SAT with 100 percent extended time will take the test at their school over two days. Apart from this, the College Board is not offering multi-day testing, one of the ACT’s most valuable accommodations. Between sections, the College Board will offer standard breaks of 10 minutes and 5 minutes during the test and a 2-minute break before the essay. Students can apply for extended breaks between sections, additional breaks, or breaks as needed, contingent upon their individual needs and circumstances. Some students may actually benefit more from extended or extra breaks on the SAT than from extended time.  

It remains to be seen how the SSD will view requests for extended time on the new SAT, given that the College Board has designed the new SAT to allow for more time on every question type. When the new PSAT was administered in October, the only section that provided a significant timing challenge for most students was the calculator-prohibited math section, with its time-intensive hand calculations. To what extent will additional time matter on an assessment that puts far less of a premium on processing speed? The value of additional time on the new SAT will depend on the individual needs and abilities of each student. In contrast, additional time will continue to benefit nearly every student who secures an accommodation for the ACT, which remains a speed test at its core.

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