ACT Special Testing

During my time teaching in Tennessee, the ACT was a required test for high school graduation. Students didn’t have to earn a certain score, they just had to take the test once.

I don’t get it, either.

Anyway, because of this special rule, every high school in the state administered the ACT on the same Tuesday in March. As you might have guessed, as a teacher I was wrangled into proctoring the ACT every year. Part of this experience included training on and proctoring ACT special testing.

In this article, I’m going to impart some first hand knowledge of ACT special testing. If you’re going to take the ACT this way, or are just curious about what special testing is, this is the article for you. Let’s get started!


What is ACT special testing?

ACT test centers (where most student take the ACT on a Saturday morning) are able to handle some accommodations such as time-and-a-half testing, where an eligible student receives 50% more time to take the ACT. Beyond this, a student requires special testing.

ACT special testing always occurs at the student’s school during the school day. Examples of special testing include:

  • Testing over multiple days.
  • Extended time on the ACT Writing Test.
  • Having the ACT read aloud.
  • Taking a Braille version of the ACT.
  • Use of a computer or scribe.


ACT Special Testing -Magoosh

ACT mails modified tests (Braille, large print) directly to a school’s special education teacher well before the test date.

Photo by

A student may have one or more of these accommodations during testing. Special testing usually takes place in a small room, likely the special education teacher’s office. Also, special testing can happen with just one student or a small group that receives similar accommodations.

Another thing to know is that since special testing occurs during the school day, the student’s teachers are informed in advance so the student is not counted absent in any class. Also, it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure the student receives all the information taught during the missed class(es).

Yet how do teachers and ACT decide who receives special testing? Good question.


Who receives special testing?

Though anyone can request special testing, ACT requires documentation from a medical professional (a doctor) to process the request. In the instructions to apply for special testing, ACT also lists specific documentation required for different medical conditions.

The majority of students who receive ACT special testing have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with their school’s special education teacher. The IEP is a legal document that details a student’s disability and describes accommodations the student will receive in the classroom and on high-stakes tests such as the ACT.


ACT Special Testing -Magoosh

In most cases, a student’s IEP will already contain all the necessary medical documentation required by ACT.

Photo by Mt. Herman Wiki

In short, there are a lot of hoops between a student and special testing. Though no doubt a hassle for students and their families, this process reduces the chances that someone will abuse the system.


Is it fair?

Though you might dream of being able to take the ACT over multiple days, it would most likely give you an unfair advantage compared to your peers. I know from first hand experience working with students of all ability levels that ACT special testing only levels the playing field.

If you’re still unconvinced, here’s an example. You and your best friend, let’s call her Sally, are identical in intelligence. But Sally has Dyslexia, a condition that has made school tough her entire life. Last year Sally’s school wrote an IEP for her. Now Sally’s teachers give her handouts in a special font for easier reading. She also has the option to listen to her textbook rather than read it. With these accommodations she is doing much better in school. In fact, she gets the same grades you get.

In short, accommodations only brought Sally up to where she should be academically. Special testing on the ACT does the exact same thing.


Final Thoughts

If you are a student who will receive ACT special testing, and have further questions, feel free to ask your school’s special education teacher. He or she will know everything about the upcoming test, and what the experience will be like for you.

That’s all for now, ACT scholars. No matter how you take the ACT, best of luck on test day(s)!



  • Thomas Broderick

    Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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