Dyslexia and the New SAT

Katya , 04-01-2016

Because of increased reading demands of all sections of the SAT, we are strongly recommending that students who have accommodations at school for coursework (typically audiobooks and extra time) apply for reading accommodations for the new SAT.

Reading sections will be more challenging than many high school texts (they are meant to test dense college reading), and the challenging text will be seen in more sections (Writing and Math) than seen in previous versions of the exam.

We also strongly recommend requesting time accommodations for slow readers because of the increased quantity of reading and the need to read information closely for even math and writing questions. To date, the best reading assessment for college-bound dyslexic students in the Nelson-Denny Reading test. Although the Nelson-Denny is not perfect, the model of the Nelson-Denny test has passages that are more comparable to the college-bound assessments tests like the SAT, and the multiple choices require complex analysis and inference. The Woodcock-Johnson has students silently reading passages then answering with a single word answer. The WIAT Reading Comprehension Test requires more than a single word answer, but the passages are shorter and simpler and don’t involve academic literary or historical passages. The Nelson-Denny also has norms for extended time which can also be valuable.

Don’t Make This Mistake!

It is very common for bright college-bound dyslexic students to think they may be able to ‘get by’ without accommodations for college-bound tests, but most don’t have the experience of taking a 3 1/2 hour test (with accommodations 5 hrs or 7 hrs). Students taking tests with extended time will have extra breaks; double -time accommodation students will usually have their tests over two days instead of one. Once a college entrance exam is taken without accommodations, it may be harder to receive accommodations from the College Board.

More Vocabulary Demands in Context

Most dyslexic students do better with vocabulary in context, but the challenge for vocabulary in the New SAT will be the use of longer passages and literary, historical, and science texts where words may have multiple meanings, and simple memorization of ‘SAT’ words may not give you quick answers.

For example, in a sample question from the New SAT, a passage and question based on Ethan Frome are included:

The description in the first paragraph indicates that what Ethan values most about Mattie is her

A. fitness for farm labor.

B. vivacious youth.

C. receptive nature.

D. freedom from worry

From the passage: “The fact that admiration for his learning mingled with Mattie’s wonder at what he taught was not the least part of his pleasure. ”

The correct answer is C, but students may have never seen the words ‘receptive nature’ together before, and the passage does not refer to any reception or receiving either. The sentence uses a non-typical sentence structure and double negative (not and least) which also can be complicated for dyslexic (and non-dyslexic) students.