Digital Testing: How Will Accommodations Work?

Jed Applerouth, PhD
February 8, 2022
min read
Digital Testing: How Will Accommodations Work?
With the SAT going digital in 2024, many parents of students with learning differences are asking how this will affect their children.

As standardized tests continue their decade’s long march towards a digital format, students with disabilities will generally find that accommodations are easier in a digital world. Since 1997, the major admissions tests have been moving from paper to the computer screen: from the GRE and GMAT, to the MCAT, LSAT, and TOEFL, admissions tests are all moving away from paper and Scantron sheets.

The new world of assessment is digital, vastly more secure than paper, and generally more student friendly.

Extended Time

The overwhelming majority of accommodations sought for standardized tests, 74% of requests, are for extended time. In a digital format, extended time is incredibly easy to administer, and is actually more reliable.

Students with accommodations for extended time will work on a device that is configured to automatically deliver the sections in the appropriate amount of time, 1.5x normal time, double time, or triple time, based upon the accommodation granted. The device will have a built-in read-out of the time remaining, and the student will no longer have to rely upon a proctor to manage time or call out when 5 minutes are remaining.

Reading Accommodations

Students with dyslexia or other reading challenges may benefit significantly from accommodations built directly into digital testing systems. The Tao platform, used by the ACT to administer digital ACTs internationally since 2018, has built in accessibility features, allowing students to adjust the screens to meet their needs.

Students can use line-readers to mask content and visually isolate lines of text. Students can adjust the contrast, change the colors of the background and the text, and zoom in to increase the font size to allow better readability. Other students will benefit tremendously from the embedded text-to-speech functionality which eliminates the need for a human reader and allows students to adjust the speed of delivery and repeat lines of text as often as needed. This is a huge step forward.

The College Board has been integrating assistive technology into the digital SAT and PSAT for several years. The test coordinators/administrators are able to configure test settings for every student testing with accommodations. Students can adjust the screen display, the font size, work with text-to-speech and refreshable braille. Here you will find a list of digital accommodations currently available on the digital versions of the PSAT and SAT.

Math Accommodations

The new SAT will have the powerful Desmos calculator directly built into the software. The Desmos calculator incorporates accessibility features for vision-impaired and blind students and integrates seamlessly with assistive technologies, such as screen readers.

Extended or Extra Breaks

Five percent of accommodation requests are for extended or extra breaks, and these breaks are easily delivered in a digital format. For those students who need the ability to take extra breaks or breaks on demand, the technology can be set to include these additional breaks into the administration of the tests or to allow students to stop the test and take breaks as needed.

A Paper Test Form

Some parents have asked whether students with disabilities will be able to request an accommodation for a paper version of the SAT. Because the test is adaptive in nature, it is unlikely that a paper test will be available as an accommodation.

Other adaptive tests such as the GRE and GMAT offer a variety of accommodations, ranging from having a reader to a scribe to record responses, to a sign language interpreter, but a paper accommodation is not available.

In recent years both the College Board and the ACT, Inc. have made it easier for students with disabilities to secure accommodations on SAT and ACT tests, and the move towards digital assessment will make delivery of those accommodations more seamless and integrated.

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