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Big Change Coming to ACT’s Extended Time Policy

ACT 50% Extended Time Will Be Similar to SAT’s Starting September 2018

On May 21, the ACT announced a significant change in the way it administers extended time. Up until now, test-takers receiving an accommodation for time-and-a-half on the nationally administered ACT test were given one five-hour block of time and allowed to divide it between the four multiple-choice sections as they saw fit. Those taking the Writing test were then given an additional hour to complete their essays. This was different from the SAT, which allots 50% extended time for each section, one section at a time in a directed, proctored way. Students receiving extended time on the ACT who finished a section “early” were able to simply go on to the next section, while those who were done on the SAT had to wait until the extended time limit was up for that section before moving on.

Starting in September 2018, the ACT is changing the way it administers extended time to be similar to the SATs. This means that all test-takers receiving 50% more “national extended time” can only tackle one section at a time, according to this pacing schedule:

Standard Time (Minutes)

Extended Time (Minutes)























3 hours, 50 minutes

6 hours, 20 minutes


The ACT explains its rationale for the change in its May 21 press release: “Self-pacing was intended to provide flexibility to students with disabilities, but feedback from examinees suggests that it can have the reverse effect: Having to pace themselves requires an additional demand of them beyond what is required of examinees testing with standard time or other types of extended time. Self-pacing may also differentially impact students with specific learning disabilities who require structure and pacing to achieve maximum performance.” While the ACT claims this change will bring about an “improved testing experience,” not all test-takers agree. Those with attention difficulties, for example, may have trouble sitting through a longer test and be more likely to burn out before the challenging Science and Writing sections.

If you are a test-taker who qualifies for 50% extended time, what should you do about this change?

  • Consider taking the ACT on July 14, 2018. If you’ve already been approved for an extended time accommodation, time will still be allotted in one block for the June and July tests. Only standby registration is available for the June 9 test, but you have until June 15 to register for the July 14 test.    
  • Consider taking the SAT instead. If you haven’t spent much time preparing and the extended time difference was your main reason for choosing the ACT, you may consider switching tests.
  • Practice the test in the same way you’ll take it. If you’re taking the ACT in September 2018 or later, you’ll want to incorporate the new timing system into your practice tests. This means that even if you’re done with a section, continue checking your work and let the timer run out before moving on to the next section so you practice sustained focus.
  • Choose your accommodations carefully. While extended time is the most common accommodation, it’s not the best choice for every student. If you have an attention disorder, an accommodation for extra breaks might be a better choice than extended time, as the risk of losing steam before the end of the test might be worse than any points lost from running out of time. Practice the test under the new accommodations policy and see how it goes before you make a decision.

And remember, no matter how your extended time is administered, the best way to get a high score is to be prepared!

Katherine Friedman

Author Katherine Friedman

As the Program Co-Director at LA Tutors, Katherine is responsible for developing LA Tutors' curricula and contributes to the LA Tutors educational resources and blog. She has over ten years of classroom teaching experience in a variety of settings with diverse groups of learners: in the United States and internationally, special and general education, and public and private school. With a Masters degree in Education, she has been tutoring throughout her career and loves the opportunity to reach students in a one-on-one or small group setting. She began working as a test preparation tutor in graduate school and enjoys helping students build their understanding and confidence of standardized tests, including the ISEE, SAT, GRE, and CBEST.

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