Standardized Test Advice for Students with IEPs

Standardized tests sure are stressful, Magooshers. It’s been over a decade since I was in high school, but I can still remember test stress like it was yesterday. As a teacher, I tried to help hundreds of students succeed on a variety of standardized tests.

Everyone has their own roadblocks to standardized test success. Yet in my experience behind the teacher’s desk, I learned that students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) have extra hurdles to overcome. In this article I want to give students with IEPs some essential information they should know before any standardized test.

General Advice

As you may already know, IEPs guarantee that you will have some modifications when it comes to standardized tests. Whether it’s extended time, or taking your test in a smaller setting, these modifications exist to help you reach your true potential.

Here’s my first piece of advice, no matter what modifications your IEP allows you. Pay close attention to how you modifications affect your performance on the tests you take in different classes. You are the one in charge of your IEP. Only you can determine if these modifications are helpful. If something isn’t working, let your special education teacher know right away.


Standardized Test Advice for Students with IEPs -Magosh


Why stress self-advocacy? First of all, it’s the most important skill for students with IEPs to have.  I want to make sure that if you need to make adjustments to your modifications, they happen before you take other high-stakes standardized tests mentioned in this article.


So let’s say that by the time you take the ACT/SAT, you have the correct modifications to your testing experience.  These modifications will certainly go a long way in leveling the playing field between you and your non-IEP peers. Even so, there are other things to consider when it comes to preparing for the ACT/SAT.

Most Important: as you prepare for ACT/SAT test day, you must do so using the same modifications you will receive on the test. If you have a test prep book, for example, ignore the instructions that will not apply to you on test day. If your IEP gives you time-and-a-half, use it on your practice tests. If you will take your ACT over multiple days, take practice tests over multiple days. It’s that simple.

State Tests

In many states across the country, final exams in high school classes are tests developed by the state. These high-stakes standardized tests not only determine whether or not you pass a class, but they also evaluate your teachers’ success in the classroom.

For you, expect the same modifications to your state tests as those you had on the ACT/SAT. State tests tend to be shorter, meaning that it is unlikely you will need multiple days to finish a single test. Though good news, there are a few other things to keep in mind as state tests approach.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that state tests come during a hectic time: the end of the school year. For students with IEPs, the fear of failure can be greater than that of their non-IEP peers. Also, modifications such as extra time can lead to worry about time management. For example, will there be enough time to finish an important project in another class?

During this time, remember that modifications exist to help you. Also, your other teachers are required by law to accommodate your needs if extended testing means you miss a class period or two.

Final Thoughts

Well, IEP Magooshers, I hope you feel a bit more reassured about standardized tests. Let your voice be heard, and you are sure to test to your potential.

Till next time.

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  • 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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