SAT Tips for Students with Learning Disabilities - La Jolla LearningWorks

SAT Tips for Students with Learning Disabilities

By November 1, 2019 tutoring 2 Comments
SAT Tips for Students with Learning Disabilities, Image of 4 dice with the word STUDY on it

High school students have been tackling the SAT since 1926, and for most of that time, recommended preparation strategies and even resources have been pretty one-size-fits-all. If you took the SAT in high school, you may remember hearing about or even participating in some SAT prep strategies: read a book, take a practice test, take a prep course centered around a series of practice tests. While there is certainly merit to these strategies, students with learning disabilities have unique struggles when it comes to test prep and test-taking. For this reason, we’d like to share some of our favorite SAT tips for students with learning disabilities.

Research Accommodations for Learning Disabilities

The most common testing accommodation is extra time, but depending on your child’s abilities and needs, there may be other accommodations they qualify for that could make a significant difference. Computer usage may be an option if your child has trouble with handwriting, for example due to motor difficulties. Special testing areas may be available for students with attention deficit disorders. Your child may also qualify for more frequent and longer breaks throughout the exam. You can start exploring the accommodations your child may qualify for on the College Board website. Be sure to do so in advance of the testing date, as you will likely need to submit an application for your child to be considered for accommodations.

Read the Directions Ahead of Time

Did you know that you can access PDFs of the directions for each section of the SAT on College Board’s website? Students with learning disabilities may need more time to process information, so help your child get familiar with the directions for the different sections of the SAT in advance. That way, your child can devote their full attention to processing and working through the exam questions on test day.


Upcoming SAT Test Dates

December 7, 2019

March 14, 2020

May 2, 2020


Strategize Around Your Child’s Learning Style

Students with learning disabilities can often benefit from aligning test-taking strategies with their learning style. If your child learns best visually or through writing, encourage them to write in their test booklet; there is no penalty for doing so, and nothing written in the test booklet is scored. They can cross out incorrect answers, mark the parts of speech in a question, sketch a diagram, etc. If your student is an auditory learner, they may benefit from accommodations that allow them to hear the test questions, or from taking the test in a quiet room where they can read the questions and reason through them aloud. Kinetic learners or students with ADHD may find it easier to focus when they can use hand gestures or twirl an extra pencil in their fingers while reasoning through a question. 

Provide Extra Encouragement

Students with learning disabilities may feel that their disability constitutes an extra hurdle they have to overcome, particularly in academic situations. When they hear their peers without learning disabilities discussing how difficult and anxiety-inducing the SAT is, conquering the exam with a learning disability can start to feel overwhelming, even downright impossible. Be sensitive to the emotions that surround the SAT, and standardized testing/college admissions in general, for your child. Rather than downplaying or dismissing their concerns, take care to make them feel heard. Leading up to exam day, check in with your child and be aware of how their outlook may shift depending on how studying is going or how they scored on a practice test. Also be sure to cultivate a rational mindset regarding the SAT: remind them that one test is not going to make or break their future. Going into the SAT with the right mindset can make a big difference!

These SAT tutoring tips for students with learning disabilities can also be applied to the PSAT, the ACT, and other standardized tests. Individualized one-on-one support can go a long way toward setting your child with a learning disability up for success when it comes to standardized testing and test prep in general. Connect with us to learn how our experienced and caring teachers can support your student during exam season and beyond.


  • Patrick says:

    My son has ADD and will be taking the SAT next year. Are there test prep materials for students with ADD that you use / recommend?

  • Karina Fowble (Program Coordinator) says:

    Hi Patrick,
    We use a variety of resources with our students such as note cards, vocabulary cartoons, and practicing time management strategies. It is also important for your son to start studying and practicing long before his test date. This will give him time to break the test into sections and concepts that need the most practice and focus on those areas.

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