ACT Mandates New Time Limits for Extra-Time Students

Starting in September of 2018, students who qualify for extra time on the ACT will no longer have a total of five hours to use as needed. Instead, extra-time students who take the ACT after August of 2018 will be faced with ACT-imposed time limits for each of the four sections of the test.

Starting in September, extra-time students will no longer be able to self-pace through the ACT test.

In the past, extra-time ACT test takers were allowed to spend as much time or as little time as needed on the different sections of the test. For example, a dyslexic student strong in math but weak in English could, if she chose, work quickly through the math and science sections and spend as much time as she felt she needed to do well on the reading and English sections. Not any longer. Starting in September, extra-time ACT test takers will be confronted with the following section-by-section time limits:

Before the ACT imposed time limits per section on extra-time students, many students who were granted extra-time and especially students with learning differences (LDs) often chose to take the ACT over the SAT precisely because they knew they could compensate for an area of special weakness by taking the time needed to compensate for that weakness on one section of the test.

The ACT justifies the change, in part, to “improve fairness” to all students. “The new rules,” said ACT Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe, “will increase fairness for all examinees by better enabling some students to demonstrate their academic achievement without negatively impacting others.”


Given the highly individual way learning disabilities and other challenges to learning are expressed, manifest, and experienced by each child, this change strikes me as both unfair and misguided. I also fail to see how granting extra-time as needed to students with special learning challenges that impact their ability to perform well in the testing situation might negatively impact students who do not have learning challenges that impact their ability to perform well in the testing situation. Finally, not very long ago, students who applied for extra-time based on diagnosed learning differences (LDs) were being decried as liars and cheats, even by university presidents. 


If called on for further justification of this decision, I hope Ms. Delanghe and others at American College Testing Program do not further minimize the needs of learning disabled (LD) and other extra-time students, or deny the last two decades of scientific data evincing the need for extra-time test taking for some students, or suggest any more changes need be made that will further impoverish the country’s intellectual capital by obstructing the learning success of some. 


What does this mean for you as a parent or student? If your student is taking or retaking the ACT in September, prepare your child for the new extra-time allotments. Help your child prepare for the test using the ACT imposed time limits. Consider reaching out to get help from a test prep tutor or coach who is familiar with learning differences (LDs) and how they impact students in standardized timed test situations.


Do you have questions about this change? I’m always happy to help.

Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized plan for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and career aspirations. Her holistic approach helps students perform well in school and secure admission to top colleges.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.