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Learning Disorders

To take College Board exams with accommodations, students with learning disorders must request accommodations from the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD).

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Accommodation requests must be documented. Make sure your documentation meets these seven criteria:

Diagnosis Clearly Stated

Documentation should state the specific learning disorder as diagnosed. The diagnosis should be made by someone with appropriate professional credentials, should be specific, and should reference the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 or whichever edition was current at the time of diagnosis).

Information Current

Because disabilities change over time, documentation must be up to date. In most learning disorder cases, the educational evaluation and testing should be no more than five years old. Cognitive testing may be older than five years, but testing performed before third grade may not provide a valid indication of the student’s current ability.

History Presented

Provide relevant educational, developmental, and medical history in support of the diagnosis and the functional limitation. Information about the student’s history of receiving school accommodations and current use of accommodations helps the College Board understand the nature and severity of the student’s learning disorder and the need for accommodation. Teacher observations are often helpful as well; they may be recorded on the Teacher Survey Form (.pdf/240KB).

Diagnosis Supported

Documentation should describe the comprehensive testing and techniques used to arrive at the specific learning disorder diagnosis. Provide the evaluator’s full report, including the following:

  • A summary of the assessment procedures and evaluation instruments used to make the diagnosis
  • A narrative summary of the evaluation results
  • Test results with subtest scores (standard or scaled scores)

Tests used to diagnose learning disorders should be: 

  • Comprehensive cognitive and academic assessments
  • Individually administered
  • Nationally normed
  • Administered under standardized conditions

In addition, testing should include the following:

  • Both timed and untimed/standard time measures, if extended time is requested
  • Test of written expression if a computer is requested
  • Measure of symptom validity

Common Diagnostic Tests lists frequently used tests.

Functional Limitation Described

Explain how the learning disorder impacts the student’s daily functioning and ability to participate in College Board exams. For example, does the student work more slowly than other students? Is the student able to read the test? Write an essay?

Functional limitation can be documented in a variety of ways:

  • Psychoeducational evaluations, including both test scores and narrative.
  • Standardized test scores, including standard and scaled scores. Use national norms to support both the diagnosis and functional limitation.
  • Summary of the student's developmental, educational, and/or medical history.
  • Teacher observations. You may want to use the Teacher Survey Form (.pdf/240KB).

Recommended Accommodations Justified

Describe the specific accommodations requested, and explain why they are needed. The reason for requesting a particular accommodation is not always evident from the diagnosis.

Be sure your rationale for specific accommodations focuses on the following:

  • Connection between the student’s learning disorder and the requested accommodations
  • Current needs of the student
  • Reasons requested accommodations are needed on the College Board’s standardized exams, which are primarily written

Students requesting extended time should document difficulty taking timed tasks, include the amount of extended time required or the maximum amount of time the student can be tested in a day, and include current scores on timed and untimed/extended time tests.

Students requesting a computer should include documentation of problems with writing.

See Accommodation Documentation Guidelines for documentation requirements specific to extended time, computer use, and other typical accommodations.

Professional Credentials Listed

Establish the evaluator’s professional credentials. Most learning disorders are diagnosed by psychologists or learning specialists. Evaluators must be authorized by the state in which they practice to administer the necessary tests and to diagnose learning disorders.

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Who Is Eligible?

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Requesting Approval

If you’re new to SSD, start here for the big picture on getting accommodations on College Board exams.

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