Written by Dr. Nicole M. Vienna

February 18, 2021

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Stack of books on school deskLearning Disabilities and Standardized Testing Accommodations

Fourteen percent of k-12 students in the US have an identified learning disability. More than half of those students receive academic accommodations within their school district. These rates are similar in higher education as 11% of college students self-identify with a learning disability, but very few disclose this information to their university. Only 17% of college students with learning disabilities receive academic resources. Managing a learning disability does not become easier to manage in higher education, and students are entitled to academic accommodations at this level as well.

Many students are unaware that these accommodations can also be applied to standardized exams. Standardized testing is required for many academic pathways. It is not uncommon for students to experience anxiety when completing a standardized exam for a university, graduate school, law, or medical school. Students are required to complete standardized exams in addition to stellar grades, compelling personal statements, extracurricular activities, and strong recommendations.

This process can be especially challenging for those with disabilities. However, many students are not aware that they can assess reasonable accommodations in school as well as on standardized tests such as:

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

Students are entitled to reasonable accommodations. That does not mean that a student with a disability is entitled to any accommodations that they request. Reasonable accommodations include modifications to tasks or the testing environment to ensure that a student with a disability has an equal opportunity to fairly compete and participate in an academic program or examination. An accommodation allows students with disabilities to reach their true potential but cannot change the specific skill that is being tested during the examination. For example, a student with ADHD may have an accommodation that allows for an extended test period with multiple breaks. While this accommodation levels the playing field for the student with a disability, it does not alter the actual content of the assessment.

Types of Accommodations

In school

  • Reduction of homework
  • Additional time for homework and exams
  • Changes in school or testing environment
  • Placement in a different classroom
  • Time management assistance
  • Instructional aid during class
  • Oral responses on tests rather than written responses
  • Type answers rather than handwrite answers
  • Assistive technologies
  • Calculator during math exams

Standardized Exams

  • Extended time
  • Accommodations for hearing impairments
  • Additional and extended breaks
  • Oral presentation of the exam
  • Changes to scheduling
  • Changes to testing environment

The accommodations permitted for standardized tests vary greatly and are determined by the specific test or licensing board. Each standardized test or licensing exam has specific requirements and deadlines for requesting accommodations. Below are the links to several common exams:

Learning Disability Evaluations

A learning disability evaluation will include a comprehensive clinical interview, review of records, and psychological assessments.

During a clinical interview, we will gather background information about your psychological, medical, educational, and social history. During this time, we will also evaluate your current cognitive and psychological functioning through paper and pencil type tests. This process can typically be done in one visit.

The review of records will include information from medical, psychological, and academic sources. This allows us a better understanding of academic performance and psychological functioning.

Psychological and Neuropsychological examinations can assess the following:

  • General intellectual abilities
  • Academic achievement
  • Executive functioning
  • Attention and concentration
  • Visual-spatial skills
  • Memory impairment
  • Motor and sensory skills
  • Mood and personality
  • Psychological diagnosis

Following the evaluation, all of the information collected will be integrated and provided to you and your school (if you consent) in a comprehensive report. The report can also be given to specific organizations upon request. In addition, you will be invited to a feedback session to review the results of testing and discuss treatment recommendations.

Many children and adults struggle with learning disabilities. Learning disability evaluations can help ease some of the stress and frustration that comes with managing assignments and exams in school and in standardized settings. Appropriate accommodations can provide students with disabilities the same opportunity as their peers in order to perform at their true ability.

To book an appointment for a learning disability evaluation or assessment for academic accommodations, please call our office (626)709-3494 and speak with Letty, our administrative assistant.




Life with LD: Navigating the Transition to College. NCLD. (2020, August 23).


NCES. (2020, May). Students With Disabilities.


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