Student Planning Guide: Testing and Accommodations

This image shows two young kids using their yellow colored pencils to write on the practice papers.

This step-by-step guide explains how to ask for and use accommodations on tests to help you meet your goals after high school. Accommodations can give you a fair chance to show your knowledge and skills.

Types of Tests

High School Equivalency Tests

Your high school transition plan might include taking a test in place of getting a regular high school diploma. The GED and HiSET are two of these tests.

College Entrance Tests

Colleges and universities sometimes use entrance tests to figure out whether you are ready to be successful there. Usually, these tests measure your knowledge, skills, and abilities in reading, writing, and math. Common entrance tests include the ACT and SAT for undergraduate college entrance, and the GRE and GMAT for graduate college entrance.

College Placement Tests

Many colleges and universities use placement tests to figure out which classes you should start with. For example, some students may need to take basic math or basic English classes before they take their first college-level class. These tests might be called ACCUPLACER, TOEFL, ACT, or SAT.

Step 1: Get Information About the Test

Start planning early! You can usually find registration information, testing dates, costs, and accommodation request procedures on the testing company’s website. Sometimes you may find a testing guide or other resources online or at bookstores that you can buy. Here are some of the things that are most important for you to find out.

When planning accommodations, keep the following in mind:

  • Test dates available(s)
  • Test registration deadline(s)
  • Accommodations request deadline(s)
  • Test fee(s)

Note: Some tests have scholarships, or the option to waive fees!

Who Can I Ask For Help?

Ask parents, teachers, or school counselors to help you navigate each step and gather the documentation you need, such as your individualized education program (IEP), transition plan, accommodations needs, history of accommodations, school grades, and possibly medical records.

Step 2: Request Accommodations

First, it is important to understand which testing accommodations are the best fit for you. Talk with your parents, teachers, or school counselors to explore which test accommodations are right for you. 

If you have already used test accommodations, think about what has been helpful. What have you used in class and on other kinds of tests? Before requesting accommodations, make sure you know how to describe the accommodations you need and why you need them. If you are requesting an interpreter, include information about what kind of interpreter certification is needed, and your preferred signing style. See Why Test Accommodations are Important for Deaf Students for more information.

Rules for requesting accommodations are usually found on the testing company’s website and can sometimes be found in test preparation books. If you cannot find this information, contact the company directly to get the information from them.

Practice Describing the Accommodations You Need

Example: “I am requesting [extended time, a separate testing room, an assistive listening device, a sign language interpreter] for this test because _______________________________________________________.” 

Consider these questions when requesting accommodations: 

  • What accommodations are generally accepted for this test? 
  • When is the deadline to submit requests to the testing company?
  • What documentation do you need to submit with your request? (For example, doctor’s notes, audiogram, history of using test accommodations, IEP.) 
  • Where do you submit the request? 
  • What do you need to bring with you? (For example, your own assistive technology.)
  • When will you know if the request was approved? 
  • Who do you contact with questions? 

Accommodation request forms usually have a write-in space for adding accommodations that are not listed. Use the write-in space to add to your request. 

If you have used test accommodations before, be sure to submit documentation that shows your history with testing accommodations. Testing companies can be more likely to approve an accommodation if there is a history showing that you have used that accommodation in the past.

Common Accommodations for Testing

Extended time

Separate Room

Assistive Listening Systems

Sign Language interpreters

In some cases, you might need to bring your own equipment, such as your hearing aid, cochlear implant, or assistive listening system (FM/DM system). Some equipment might require help to set up (for example, an FM system), so be sure to check with the site ahead of time to make sure you can get the help you need. 

If the testing company has approved a sign language interpreter, contact the testing company ahead of time to understand the rules. Ask: 

  • Can you meet with the interpreter before the test day to practice? 
  • Can you meet the interpreter on the day of testing, before the test starts? 
  • Which parts of the test can you use the interpreter for? Can you use the interpreter for instructions only, test questions, or other sections?

Audio, Video, or Speaking Parts of a Test

If the test has audio or video parts, it needs to be accessible to everyone who takes the test. Ask the testing company if your test has audio or visual parts. If they say yes:

  • Audio-only sections: Is a transcript available? (If not, request a transcript.)
  • Video sections: Are the videos captioned? (If not, request closed captioning.) 

If the test requires you to respond via voice (for example, the TOEFL or tests of English-language skills) and you prefer to use American Sign Language or to write your response, include that information in your request for accommodations.

Will All Accommodations be Approved?

Sometimes accommodations are not approved for specific parts of a test. Also, a testing company may not allow a particular accommodation if it changes what the test is measuring. For example, a test may not allow a sign language interpreter during a reading skills section, but allow an interpreter for other sections.

Appealing a Denial of Accommodations

Sometimes, a testing company will deny an accommodation request. You can appeal a denial of your accommodation request. To do this:

  1. Review the reasons given for the denial of accommodations. 
  2. Check on whether there is a deadline by which you must submit your appeal. For example, a testing company might require that an appeal happen within 30 days of when you first learn about the denial.
  3. Research the testing company’s policies about appealing denials. This is usually either found in a letter to you or in informational materials on the company’s website. 
  4. Ask a parent, teacher, or counselor for help when writing an appeal request. 
  5. Send the appeal paperwork to the testing company before the deadline.

Step 3: Create a Study Plan

Review the content areas (for example, math, English, reading, science) and types of questions (multiple choice, essay, short answer, true/false) that you will need to practice.

Make a schedule for weekly test preparation time, and what you will focus on each week.

Build in time to take practice tests to see which subjects you need to study more.


Often, testing companies provide practice questions and/or practice tests. Use these materials to get an accurate feel for the test. If possible, practice with the accommodations you will use so that you feel more comfortable during the real test. If you have time, try breaking down and practicing each portion of the test, and then try to complete a mock test when you feel ready. This will give you information about how much time it takes to answer the questions.

There are also books, apps, and other practice materials that are not made by the testing company. For these materials, ask for recommendations from your parents, teachers, and counselors.

Strategies for Practice

  • Study and practice over an extended period of time–avoid cramming! 
  • Follow the directions given to you before the test. 
  • Read all the instructions carefully. 
  • When given answer options, start by eliminating the answers that you know are wrong. 
  • Mark answers clearly and as instructed. 
  • Make sure your handwriting is clear and easy to read. 
  • Pace yourself, especially for timed tests.

Step 4: Prepare to Take the Test

Final Preparations

Write down the test location address: 
  • Write down the test room: 
  • Make sure that your equipment is all working well. 
  • Check with the test company about what you can and cannot bring into the testing room (for example, food, water, calculator, smartphone, headphones). 
  • Prepare the following materials to bring with you to the test: 
    • Copy of your accommodations approval letter (e-mail or written letter) 
    • Copy of your test registration confirmation (e-mail or written letter) 
    • List of colleges and universities to send your scores to
    • If required, driver’s license or another identification card
    • Extra batteries for hearing aids, cochlear implants, and FM/DM systems 
    • Any permitted testing supplies (for example, scratch paper, pens and pencils, calculators)
    • Snacks and water bottle if permitted 
  • Get a good night’s rest the night before your test!

Test Day

Arrive at the test site early, with enough time to find your testing room and check in.

Sign In.

Give your accommodations approval letter to the test proctor.

If possible, meet with the interpreter before the test begins.

What if Your Approved Accommodation Was Not Provided?

Be prepared to advocate for yourself!

If an accommodation that was already approved for you is not available on the day of the test, you should not feel that you need to complete the test without accommodations. It is your decision, but if you go ahead and take the test anyway (without the approved accommodation) this can make it harder for you to appeal later. The testing company might say that since you agreed to take the test without the accommodation, this meant you were fine without the accommodation.

To find out how to register a complaint with the test company, ask the test proctor. If you can’t file a complaint on-site, contact the testing company as soon as possible afterward. Follow up with the test company if you do not receive a response within a reasonable amount of time (about three business days).

Step 5: Review Scores and Additional Materials

There are a couple of things to do after you receive your test scores.

First, review your scores with a high school counselor or college admission counselor. Discuss what the scores mean for college acceptance or placement decisions. If the test scores are lower than what you want, think about taking the test again.

Next, think about all of the information that you will submit for admissions or applications, in addition to the test scores. Most colleges look at many things when making a decision about acceptance or class placement, including: 

  • Personal statements 
  • Letters of support 
  • Transcripts of coursework 
  • Work samples and portfolios 
  • Awards and honors 
  • Community service 
  • Athletic accomplishments


A placement test to assess a person’s skills in a subject area to determine which class level to begin with in that subject. The College Board is the publisher for the ACCUPLACER.


Formerly known as the American College Testing Program, is a college entrance admissions test to measure a high school student’s readiness to complete college-level coursework.


is the process of formally challenging a denial, which may include several different methods, such as submitting additional evidence, setting up a hearing, or providing further justification for a request.


The rejection of an accommodation request.


Another word for test (it means the same thing).


A person who manages the testing site and keeps watch over students as they take a test.

The Graduate Management Admissions Test, is used for admissions to graduate business school programs.


The Graduate Record Examinations, measures skills for admissions to graduate college programs.

The High School Equivalency Test, is a high school equivalency credential of a regular high school diploma.


the General Education Development, or General Education Diploma, is a high school equivalency credential for a regular high school diploma.


The Scholastic Assessment Test, measures a high school student’s readiness for college-level coursework. It is published by the College Board.

Formerly known as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, measures the English knowledge and proficiency of non-native English speakers.

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