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Psychiatric Disorders

To take College Board exams with accommodations, students with psychiatric 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 psychiatric disorders as diagnosed. The diagnosis should be made by someone with appropriate professional credentials, be specific, and reference the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 or whichever edition was current at the time of diagnosis).

Information Current

Because psychiatric disabilities can change over time, documentation must be up to date and include the following:

  • A current psychiatric update, completed within the past year, if the initial diagnosis is more than one year old 
  • The initial evaluation in which the disorder was diagnosed

The update should describe the current impact of the student's disability on participation in College Board exams. It does not need to be a full evaluation or be conducted by the initial evaluator.

History Presented

Provide relevant educational, developmental, and medical history in support of the psychiatric diagnosis and 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 disability and the need for accommodations.

Include the following:

  • Historical information about the onset of the impairment.
  • The student’s response to medication and other interventions.
  • School records and logs.
  • Teacher observations of the student’s disability during class, its impact on school-based testing, and the student’s use of accommodations. You may want to use the Teacher Survey Form (.pdf/240KB).

Diagnosis Supported

Documentation should describe the comprehensive testing and techniques used to arrive at the psychiatric diagnosis. The symptoms and needs of students with psychiatric disorders vary greatly among individuals. In most cases, a medical note is not sufficient and cannot substitute for comprehensive testing.

Documentation should describe the student’s symptoms in detail and support the need for the specific accommodations requested — not just the existence of a disability. Include the following:

  • Psychiatric evaluation, including a summary of the assessment procedures and evaluation instruments used to make the diagnosis.
  • Narrative summary of the evaluation results.
  • Full description of the current symptoms, including their frequency, duration, and intensity.
  • Psychoeducational or neuropsychological evaluation is sometimes required. Include test scores and narrative summary.

Common Diagnostic Tests lists frequently used tests. 

Functional Limitation Described

Explain how the psychiatric disorder impacts the student’s daily functioning and ability to participate in College Board exams. For example, how frequent are the student’s symptoms? How do they impact the student in and out of school? When is the student impacted?

In most cases, anxiety about test taking by itself is not a psychiatric disorder and does not qualify a student for accommodations.

Functional limitation can be documented in a variety of ways:

  • Psychoeducational evaluations, including both test scores and narrative.
  • 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 diagnosed psychiatric 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

A detailed description of the student’s current symptoms, including their frequency, duration, and intensity, could be helpful.

Students requesting extended time should document difficulty taking timed tests, 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. If time is not a factor, consider accommodations other than extended time, such as extra breaks or small group settings.

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. Evaluators must be authorized by the state in which they practice to administer the necessary tests and to diagnose psychiatric disorders.

Related Topics

Who Is Eligible?

Learn how eligibility for accommodations on College Board exams is determined.

Find Out Who’s Eligible

Requesting Approval

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

Get an Overview