Tag Archives: testing

Applying for Accommodations on College Entrance Tests

IDA FACT SHEET  (International Dyslexia Association)

The application process for individuals planning to enter college can be a daunting experience. For individuals with disabilities who are requesting testing accommodations, this can be even more challenging, as it often requires assembling necessary documentation, completing additional paperwork, and anticipating deadlines. This IDA Fact Sheet gives a broad overview of the process in order to assist individuals who are requesting test accommodations on high stakes tests such as the SAT and ACT. It provides guidance about what forms to submit, how to provide sufficient disability documentation, and how to gather supplemental information if needed to support accommodation requests. Keep in mind that each testing agency sets its own requirements for requesting accommodations.

The Application Process

  • Test takers should read the test information on the program’s website. Many tests are administered on computer and incorporate functions such as a built-in calculator, clock, etc. Additionally, most testing agencies provide supplemental information or a handbook for test takers with disabilities.
  • The testing agency website will give specific information about how to apply for accommodations. This should be read carefully to determine which accommodations are necessary (e.g., additional testing time, or breaks, separate room, a reader, etc.).
  • Special Services and/or counseling staff in the student’s high school or district may be able to assist in completing the application and acquiring the required documentation.
  • Early submission of applications is important, as it’s not unusual for testing agencies to request additional scores, updated testing, or clarification, which can cause delays. This is particularly true during peak application periods.
  • Once the agency receives an application for accommodations, it may be two months before the applicant is notified. If additional testing or an appeal is needed, all this must be accomplished and submitted at least 60 days in advance of the test date.
  • Since most testing agencies no longer “flag” scores obtained under non-standard conditions, it is important to request accommodations that are needed.


  • Typically, all documentation should be sent in one complete packet. This pertains to supporting documentation (IEP, transcripts, letters re: past accommodations).
  • Testing agencies often require current documentation according to their individual “recency” criteria. For example, many testing agencies request documentation for learning disabilities to be dated within the last three to five years to reflect the test taker’s need for specific accommodations. Test takers should review the documentation guidelines posted on the website.
  • Often, a current, comprehensive evaluation is needed, as an adult version of some tests may be required. For example, most testing agencies will not accept a handwritten prescription-pad note from a doctor. Documentation should be complete, dated, signed, in English, and on official letterhead. Disability documentation should address all of the following:
    • The existence of an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, as compared to most people in the general population
    • A diagnosis of the disability and the current impact of impairment and how it limits the student’s ability to take the test under standard conditions
    • A rationale for why the requested accommodations are necessary and appropriate. For example, if extra time is requested, the evaluation must say how much extended time should be provided and on what basis.
    • The accommodations that are requested should generally match those provided in the past.
  • Some accommodations may not require prior approval, such as braces or crutches, eyeglasses, insulin pump, etc. Lockers that can be accessed during breaks are typically provided for storage of food, water, and/or medication, if applicable.
  • If sufficient disability documentation is unavailable or outdated, it may take up to nine months in advance to find a qualified professional with a qualified professional with experience and expertise in diagnosing and documenting the disability in question. That evaluator will need relevant historical information, including:
    • Letters documenting a history of accommodations in school, such as IEPs or 504 plans, or proof of accommodations on statewide assessments.
    • A description of tutoring or coaching services provided in the past.
    • A comprehensive evaluation report for diagnosis of the disability and accommodation determination.
  • Additionally, school records from elementary and high school as well as teacher comments will help support a history of a disability. High school transcripts may provide good evidence if they showed the impact of the disability on grades (e.g., dropped classes, withdrawals, incompletes, or failing grades). It is not always the case that accommodations in the past will automatically continue. An ongoing need for accommodations can be described in a personal statement.
  • Many colleges and universities with strong school psychology programs perform evaluations at a reduced fee if a private evaluation is not feasible.

Types of Decision Letters

There are three basic types of decision letters that the testing agency sends:

  1. Approval—This type of letter will list the accommodations that have been approved.
    • Once accommodations have been approved, directions on the approval letter regarding how to schedule the test and other pertinent information.
    • Be aware that extra time may be needed to schedule the test after approval for accommodations. For example, extra time may be needed to secure a reader or scribe.
  2. Request for Additional Information—This type of letter is not a denial of the request. It specifies that the agency needs more information to complete the review.
  3. Denial—If the testing agency finds the documentation insufficient to support the accommodation request, this letter will explain the decision and will include options for requesting further review.
    • Appeal Process: Each testing agency has established a procedure to allow an appeal of its decision. The information on how to appeal a decision is typically stated in the denial letter or on the agency’s website. When the requested information is submitted, the request will be reconsidered.

Preparing for the Test

Whether or not an accommodation request is approved, it is important for the student to become familiar with the upcoming test.

  • Most testing agencies have a wide range of practice materials at no or low cost available to test takers.
  • Areas of particular focus are the test format, the types of questions used, and the test directions for each type of question. This can reduce the amount of time spent familiarizing oneself with instructions on the test day. Alternate-format practice materials can be requested if this is one of the desired accommodations.
  • The sample test questions can be practiced with and without the requested accommodations. The goal is to increase the number of questions correctly completed within the time limit. As you practice, try to increase the number of questions you can complete correctly within the time limit.
  • Test sites differ, so it is a good idea to check out the location in advance.


The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) thanks Loring Brinkerhoff, Ph.D., Nancy Cushen White, Ed.D., BCET, CALT-QI, and Diana Sauter, Ph.D., for their assistance in the preparation of this fact sheet.

© Copyright The International Dyslexia Association (IDA). For copyright information, please click here.  IDA site: https://dyslexiaida.org 

Reading / writing tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


+ Rapid Automatized Naming Tests: What You Need to Know

By Kelli Johnson,  Understood.org

[O-G Tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

At a Glance

  • Rapid automatized naming (RAN) is the ability to quickly name aloud a series of familiar items.
  • There are a number of published RAN tests; they’re similar to one another.
  • RAN test scores can predict future reading skills.

If your child is being tested for reading, executive functioning issues or slow processing speed, you may hear the term rapid automatized naming (RAN). It refers to the ability to quickly name aloud a series of familiar items on a page. These include letters, numbers, colors or objects. Other names for it are rapid automatic naming or rapid naming.

Performance on a RAN test is based on how fast a child can name in order all the items presented on the page, compared to other kids her age. Kids with reading issues are frequently slower on RAN tests. So the tests are often used as part of a comprehensive reading evaluation. They’re also used for the early identification of kids who are at risk for reading problems.

How RAN Tests Work

RAN tests generally show four types of items: objects, colors, letters and numbers. Small sets of items in the same category (for example, five small squares of several different colors) are presented in rows on a page. But the order in which they appear changes from row to row.

The examiner typically starts by going over the names of the set of items with the child. Then, for the test itself, the child has to name all of the items aloud as quickly as possible, from first to last, row by row.

Both the time the child needs to name the items and her accuracy are recorded. But the time is what’s of interest.

RAN tests don’t measure vocabulary knowledge. Nor are they about recognizing letters and numbers. They’re really tests of fluency.

That’s why, to get the best information from a RAN test, the evaluator should test only items the child knows well. For example, a preschooler may not know her letters or numbers. So she might be shown only colors and objects.

How RAN Connects to Reading

Experts agree that RAN tests can tell us a lot about kids’ reading skills. But they don’t all see eye to eye on why. There are two main viewpoints. Both have plenty of research to support them.

One view focuses on how we recall and say the sounds for the names of the items. The belief is that RAN affects reading because it involves how well we can retrieve phonological information.

Research shows that kids who struggle in this area are very likely to struggle with reading. But some experts think it involves more than just phonological awareness.

They believe reading brings together a number of complex processes. These involve our verbal, visual and motor systems. Experts say RAN covers all of them, serving almost as a small-scale version of reading even before kids actually learn to read.

Kids with problems in both RAN and phonemic awareness have what’s called a “double deficit.” They usually have more severe reading problems. And they may have a harder time improving their reading than kids who only struggle with phonemes, the smallest unit of sounds in words.

Strengths and Weaknesses of RAN Tests

By itself, a poor RAN score may not tell you very much about your child’s needs. Kids may have difficulty with RAN for many different reasons. These include attention issues, executive functioning issues, language issues or even math issues.

Sometimes, a poor RAN score is nothing to worry about at all. That’s especially likely if there aren’t any other areas of concern.

But a RAN test plus other carefully chosen measurements can be important in spotting reading issues. Many kindergarten classrooms give a screening test at the start of the school year.

They may also give tests that monitor a child’s progress throughout the year, like the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills (DIBELS). These often look at rapid naming and phonemic awareness, among other skills. But the format may be different than the RAN tests.

RAN tests can be an important tool in recognizing that your child might be at risk. That can be the first step to getting extra help for your pre-reader if she needs it. Ask her school to make sure you get the information about these tests and results.

For older kids with reading issues, the tests can help identify core reading problems. They can also guide the plan for teaching your child more effectively.

No matter what age your child is, RAN scores are a key element in pinpointing her exact reading needs. Once you know what they are, there are many treatments and therapies that can help her learn to read more easily.

Key Takeaways

  • Screening tests, progress monitoring tools and neuropsychological evaluations include measures of RAN.
  • Researchers are still studying the link between RAN ability and reading skills.
  • RAN tests can be very helpful for early identification of reading issues. Testing for RAN skills should be considered as one part of a reading evaluation.

Kelli Johnson, M.A., is an educational speech-language pathologist in Minnesota.   Source:    https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/evaluations/types-of-tests/rapid-automatized-naming-tests-what-you-need-to-know

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


by Henry L Roediger III in the New York Times

Low-stakes quizzes help us retain what we’ve learned..

TESTS have a bad reputation in education circles these days: They take time, the critics say, put students under pressure and, in the case of standardized testing, crowd out other educational priorities. But the truth is that, used properly, testing as part of an educational routine provides an important tool not just to measure learning, but to promote it.

In one study I published with Jeffrey D. Karpicke, a psychologist at Purdue, we assessed how well students remembered material they had read. After an initial reading, students were tested on some passages by being given a blank sheet of paper and asked to recall as much as possible. They recalled about 70 percent of the ideas.

Other passages were not tested but were reread, and thus 100 percent of the ideas were re-exposed. In final tests given either two days or a week later, the passages that had been tested just after reading were remembered much better than those that had been reread.

What’s at work here? When students are tested, they are required to retrieve knowledge from memory. Much educational activity, such as lectures and textbook readings, is aimed at helping students acquire and store knowledge. Various kinds of testing, though, when used appropriately, encourage students to practice the valuable skill of retrieving and using knowledge. The fact of improved retention after a quiz — called the testing effect or the retrieval practice effect — makes the learning stronger and embeds it more securely in memory.

This is vital, because many studies reveal that much of what we learn is quickly forgotten. Thus a central challenge to learning is finding a way to stem forgetting.

The question is how to structure and use tests effectively. One insight that we and other researchers have uncovered is that tests serve students best when they’re integrated into the regular business of learning and the stakes are not make-or-break, as in standardized testing. That means, among other things, testing new learning within the context of regular classes and study routines.

Students in classes with a regimen of regular low- or no-stakes quizzing carry their learning forward through the term, like compounded interest, and they come to embrace the regimen, even if they are skeptical at first. A little studying suffices at exam time — no cramming required.

Moreover, retrieving knowledge from memory is more beneficial when practice sessions are spaced out so that some forgetting occurs before you try to retrieve again. The added effort required to recall the information makes learning stronger. It also helps when retrieval practice is mixed up — whether you’re practicing hitting different kinds of baseball pitches or solving different solid geometry problems in a random sequence, you are better able later to discriminate what kind of pitch or geometry problem you’re facing and find the correct solution.

Surprisingly, researchers have also found that the most common study strategies — like underlining, highlighting and rereading — create illusions of mastery but are largely wasted effort, because they do not involve practice in accessing or applying what the students know.

When my colleagues and I took our research out of the lab and into a Columbia, Ill., middle school class, we found that students earned an average grade of A- on material that had been presented in class once and subsequently quizzed three times, compared with a C+ on material that had been presented in the same way and reviewed three times but not quizzed. The benefit of quizzing remained in a follow-up test eight months later.

Notably, Mary Pat Wenderoth, a biology professor at the University of Washington, has found that this benefit holds for women and underrepresented minorities, two groups that sometimes experience a high washout rate in fields like the sciences.

This isn’t just a matter of teaching students to be better test takers. As learners encounter increasingly complex ideas, a regimen of retrieval practice helps them to form more sophisticated mental structures that can be applied later in different circumstances. Think of the jet pilot in the flight simulator, training to handle midair emergencies. Just as it is with the multiplication tables, so it is with complex concepts and skills: effortful, varied practice builds mastery.

We need to change the way we think about testing. It shouldn’t be a white-knuckle finale to a semester’s work, but the means by which students progress from the start of a semester to its finish, locking in learning along the way and redirecting their effort to areas of weakness where more work is needed to achieve proficiency.

Standardized testing is in some respects a quest for more rigor in public education. We can achieve rigor in a different way. We can instruct teachers on the use of low-stakes quizzing in class. We can teach students the benefits of retrieval practice and how to use it in their studying outside class. These steps cost little and cultivate habits of successful learning that will serve students throughout their lives.

Henry L. Roediger III is a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and a co-author of “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning”.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Take a Test Instead of Cramming

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Pam Belluck, in the NY Times, reports on a research study that shows students who read a text and then took a recall test retained 50 percent  more than students  who re-read or diagrammed the information.

Re-reading and diagramming have been thought to be the “gold standard” of study methods.

Re-reading is used by students who cram before an exam.   Diagramming is used as a way to make connections between ideas.   These have traditionally been teachers’ most prized  learning strategies.

But in addition, it seems that re-reading and diagramming can give students the illusion that they know more than they actually do.

This study appeared in the journal Science.  Lead author Jeffrey Karpicke, assistant professor of psychology at Purdue, says

“I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about restructuring our knowledge.  I think that we’re tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval.”

In the experiments, students were asked to predict how much they would remember a week after using whichever method they were assigned to learn the material. 

In fact, those who read the text and then took the test  predicted they would remember less than the re-reading or diagramming students predicted they would remember. 

The results were just the opposite.  Why might that be true?

Marcia Linn, education professor at UC Berkeley, says that perhaps students who took the recall tests may recognize some gaps in their knowledge.  “They might revisit the ideas in the back of their mind or the front of their mind.”

So when these students are later asked what they have learned, says Linn, they can more easily retrieve and organize the knowledge in a way that makes sense to them.

It is possible that when remembering information, a person organizes it and creates cues and connections for his or her brain to recognize later.

They discovered that students in the “testing” group  did much better than the concept mappers.  They even did better when they were evaluated not with a short answer test, but with a test requiring them to draw a concept map from memory. 

A psychologist at UCLA who was not involved in the study, Dr. Robert Bjork, says 

When you’re retrieving something out of a computer’s memory, you don’t change anything — it’s simple playback.  [But] when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information.

“What we recall becomes more recallable in the future.  In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need later.

In addition, it is possible that the struggle involved in recalling something helps reinforce memory. 

Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College, thinks that “you feel like:  ‘I don’t know it that well,  This is hard and I’m having trouble coming up with this information.’ ”

 But students who re-read texts, or draw diagrams, are thinking  “Oh, this is easier.  I read this already,” he says.

A recent spate of research shows learning benefits from testing — including benefits when students get questions wrong.  They support the findings of this study.

Daniel Willingham, of the University of Virginia, finds these results interesting,  but he offers  a caveat. 

It really bumps it up a level of importance by contrasting it with concept mapping, which many educators think of a sort of the gold standard.  

[But] it’s not totally obvious that this is shovel-ready — put it in the classroom and it’s good to go — for educators this ought to be a big deal.

Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor who advocates “constructivism” — the idea that children should discover their own approach to learning — says that these results throw down the gauntlet to progressive educators, “myself included.”

Educators who embrace seemingly more active approaches, like concept mapping, are challenged to devise outcome measures that can demonstrate the superiority of such constructivist approaches.”

  Testing is a highly charged issue in education.  Testing has drawn criticism.  For example, too much of testing promotes rote learning;  it swallows valuable time; it causes excessive anxiety.

Dr. Linn thinks that more testing isn’t necessarily better. 

Her work with California school districts has found that asking students to explain what they did in a science experiment offers more benefits than simply having them conduct the hands-on experiment.

Some tests are just not learning opportunities.  We need a different kind of testing than we currently have.”

But Dr. Kornell feels that even though in the short term it may seem like a waste of time, retrieval practice appears to

make things stick in a way that may not be used in the classroom.  It’s going to last for the rest of their schooling, and potentially for the rest of their lives.”

sole source: NY Times article by Pam Belluck on 1/21/2011.  http://www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ College Board To Offer 8th Grade Test

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Among growing challenges to its role in the world of college admissions the College Board, which owns the SAT and PSAT, has announced a new endeavor according to Sara Rimer’s article in the NY Times.

They unveiled a new test that they claim will help prepare eighth graders for rigorous high school courses — and ultimately college.

The test will be available to schools in the fall of 2009.  It is intended only for assessment and instructional purposes; it has nothing to do with college admissions, they say.

“This is not at all a pre-pre-pre-SAT,” says Lee Jones, a College Board vice president.  “It’s a diagnostic tool to provide information about students’ strengths and weaknesses.”

The College Board made its announcement when an increasing percentage of high school students are taking not the PSAT bus the rival ACT , and amid mounting concern over what critics call the misuses of the SAT and ACT and other standardized tests in college admissions.

These critics dismiss the need for such a test.

“Who needs yet another pre-college standardized exam when there is already a pre-SAT and the SAT test itself?” asks Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, a nonpartisan group that has called for colleges and universities to make standardized tests optional for admissions.

“The new test will only accelerate the college admissions arms race and push it down onto ever younger children.”

The new test, called ReadiStep, can be completed within two hours and is divided into three multiple-choice sections of critical reading, writing skills and mathematics.

It costs less than $10 per student say College Board Officials, and schools and districts will pay for it.  They describe the test as voluntary and “low-stakes.”  They say the results would be shared only with teachers, parents, students and schools.

The new test has been developed in response to the demand from schools and districts, which had requested a “tool that would help them determine before high school what measures should be taken to ensure that students are on the path to being college ready,” according to Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board.

However Caperton and other officials refused to identify any of the schools and districts that had requested the test.  They said that they had done market research in “well over 1000 schools and districts,” and that “well over 50 percent” of them had expressed strong interest in the new test.  But they did offer to provide the names of educators from interested schools and districts.

John D’Auria, a former principal of Wellesley Middle School in suburban Boston, and now the superintendent of schools in Canton, Mass, says that with all the testing currently in place, he was skeptical about the need for the College Board’s new offering.

“It’s all about sorting and finding out who the talented are,” he says, “rather than trying to build into young kids the lifelong journey of learning.”

sole source:Sara Rimer’s article in the NY Times on 10/23/08.   www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ U.S. Students Achieve Mixed Results on Writing Test


About a third of the nation’s eighth-grade students, and roughly a quarter of its high school seniors, are proficient writers, according to nationwide test results released Thursday.

That proportion of students demonstrating writing proficiency is about the same as in 2002, when a similar exam was last given.

But the results of the latest test, administered last year, also found modest increases in the skills of lower-performing students. Nearly 9 students in 10 can now demonstrate at least a basic achievement in writing, defined as partial mastery of the skills needed for proficient work.

As in the past, girls outperformed boys by far, most decisively at the eighth-grade level, where 41 percent of them achieved proficiency, compared with 20 percent of boys. The racial achievement gap narrowed slightly, with black and Hispanic students’ writing improving a bit more than did whites’.

The results for eighth graders, though not for seniors, were broken down by states, the top performers of which were New Jersey, where 56 percent of students scored at or above proficiency levels, and Connecticut, where the number was 53 percent. Nineteen states ranked above New York, where it was 31 percent.

That a third of the nation’s eighth graders can write with proficiency may not sound like much, but it is the best performance by eighth-grade students in any subject tested in the national assessment in the last three years. Only 17 percent of eighth graders were proficient on the 2006 history exam, for example.

Though some experts questioned whether the writing test, which requires students to compose only brief essays in a short time, was an accurate measure of their ability, officials of the government’s testing program said they were encouraged by the results.

“I am happy to report, paraphrasing Mark Twain, that the death of writing has been greatly exaggerated,” said Amanda P. Avallone, an eighth-grade English teacher who is vice chairwoman of the board that oversees the testing program, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “the nation’s report card.”

The results were released at the Library of Congress in Washington. The host, James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, drew laughs when he expressed concern about “the slow destruction of the basic unit of human thought — the sentence,” as young Americans do most of their writing in disjointed prose composed in Internet chat rooms or in cellphone text messages.

“The sentence is the biggest casualty,” Mr. Billington said. “To what extent is students’ writing getting clearer?”

Ms. Avallone sought to allay his concern.

“I know that the sentence has not been put to rest as a unit of communication,” she said.

Ms. Avallone also said the difference in scores between girls and boys might result in part from lower literacy expectations for boys in the public schools.

“These days I seldom if ever hear the message that math and science do not matter for girls,” she said, “yet I do still encounter the myth that many boys won’t really need to write very much or very well once they leave school.”

The national writing test was given to 140,000 eighth graders and 28,000 12th graders selected to form a representative sample of all students nationwide in the two grades. Each student wrote two 25-minute essays intended to measure skills at writing to inform, persuade and tell stories.

Thirty-three percent of eighth graders scored at or above the proficiency level, which the test designers defined as competency in carrying out challenging academic tasks. Eighty-eight percent scored at or above the basic level, up from 85 percent in 2002.

“These results pleased and encouraged me,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents the nation’s 60 largest urban districts. “A lot of cities have introduced explicit writing programs. You go into urban schools and you see hallways lined with samples of student writing. Writing programs have gotten better.”

If Mr. Casserly was encouraged, some others were not, particularly in light of other indicators of Americans’ writing prowess. A survey of 120 corporations conducted by the College Board in 2003, for instance, concluded that a third of employees in the nation’s blue-chip companies, including many recent college graduates, wrote poorly.

“American students’ writing skills are deteriorating,” said Will Fitzhugh, founder of The Concord Review, a journal that features history research papers written by high school students.

Mr. Fitzhugh expressed skepticism that the national assessment accurately measured students’ overall writing skills, because, he said, it tested only their ability to write brief essays jotted out in half an hour.

“The only way to assess the kind of writing that students will have to do in college,” he said, “is to have them write a term paper, and then have somebody sit down and grade it. And nobody wants to do that, because it’s too costly.”

source: this is Sam Dillon’s article on 4/4/08 in the NY Times.  www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com