Extra Time on the SAT and ACT

I want to preface this with: if you’d spoken with me ten years ago, you wouldn’t have heard what I’m about to say. 

I want to talk about extra time on the SAT and ACT.

I’ve met so many students who, admirably, qualify for extra time and don’t want to take it—they don’t want to be singled out at school as having what they perceive as a “deficit” and they like the satisfaction of working and competing against everyone else.

I love this can-do attitude. I really, honestly do. It’s a sign of a student who is self-respecting and wants to play a fair game. Ten years ago I would have said, “You don’t want to take it? Fine. Good. Don’t.”

But now? If you can get extra time on the SAT or ACT, I say you should take it. Period.

Here’s what’s changed my mind: I’ve met so many students who have qualified for the extra time who do take advantage of it…students you might meet on the street and would never think for a second that they’d qualify. I’ve worked with dozens and dozens of this type during my career and at this point, it’s time to face it: at the end of the day, students who use extra time when they qualify for it are providing themselves with a leg up in admissions over qualifying students who choose not to take it. Colleges are required not to (and I don’t believe they would anyway) hold a learning disability against a student. There is no harm in using extra time. That means your 26 in regular time pales against the 31 of a student who took advantage of the extra time.

Let me spell it out: the kid of comparable skill who took the extra time is most likely going to be accepted to college before you do because that kid will have a higher score than s/he otherwise would have.

Qualifying for extra time on the ACT and on the SAT is a little different for each. You’ll want to check with the ACT and College Board themselves, but what it generally takes is a diagnosis as having one or multiple qualifying learning disabilities or differences or, occasionally, anxiety disorders, OCD, etc.* Sometimes it can take a few months to get approved, and many students need to reapply and bolster their cases to get it. Some students receive accommodation on one test and not the other.
Either way, think strategically. Don’t be afraid to take the time if you qualify…. After all, higher test scores are higher test scores.

*This is by no means a complete or definitive list and we recommend your check with the testing companies for their official word on qualifying diagnoses/requirements.

Elizabeth KingComment