Items To Read For Carefully In Testing Agency Or College Documentation Requirements
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When college students want to apply for accommodations on graduate admissions exams or at the college they attend, they have to submit proof of their disability (called “documentation”). Students should check these requirements before they submit their application so that they can be sure that their documentation contains what is needed. To learn how to find these requirements, see Elizabeth’s instructions.
Once students have located the documentation requirements for their testing agency or college, they may see that these contain elements that they have never heard of or considered. Here are some things they may notice that they may not have realized agencies or school consider important:
- Qualifications of evaluator – Some colleges and testing boards will not accept cognitive testing (i.e. the Wechsler Intelligence Scales or the Woodcock-Johnson Cognitive Battery) performed by someone with a Master’s degree, even if that person is a state-licensed school psychologist. Many will accept testing from such a professional, so if students have questions about this, they should call the testing board or college disability service office. [Again, see Elizabeth’s instructions for information about how to find these phone numbers.]Students who have decided to pay for private testing should check to see what their testing agency’s or college’s guidelines say before they choose a diagnostician. These students should also check Elizabeth’s advice on how to be an educated consumer of private evaluations, and what they should expect to see in a good report.
- Specifications about use of adult scales – Some testing agencies and colleges require that students be tested with the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV) rather than the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV). (The Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Testing does not have separate versions for children and adults.) Again, there may be some flexibility on this, so students who have been tested with the children’s scale may not need new testing. Before they do anything, they should call the college or testing agency to ask whether the testing they have will be accepted. They should not get new testing until they are absolutely sure that they have to do so.
- Specifications about brand-name testing – Will they accept a Woodcock-Johnson Cognitive Battery (WJ-III) for testing of cognitive ability, or do they require one of the Wechsler batteries (WAIS-IV or WISC-IV) for assessment of students’ cognitive abilities? A few schools may be very specific about this; many will not care. Students should be sure to check the testing agency’s or college’s guidelines carefully for this information. If they say it must be one of these tests, and students were tested with the other one, they should call to ask whether the college will show some flexibility on this point. Students should note that most schools will not accept abbreviated tests, such as the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT) or the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI).
- Specifications about age of reports – Even if students’ testing and report are older than the guidelines say they can be, they should call the office and make sure that their report will not be accepted before they get new testing. Some colleges will be flexible, and students may not need to get new testing. Students should know that the Association on Higher Education and Disability – a professional organization that provides guidance but does not make laws – encourages colleges to show flexibility on this point.
- ADD requirements (if applicable) – Over the past several years, some testing bodies and colleges have increased their demands for ADD documentation, and they now require full psycho-educational testing along with objective measures of attention and additional testing (the entire evaluation is called a “neuropsychological evaluation”). For an example of such guidelines, students see Penn State’s ADHD requirements. Students should not pursue this testing unless they have been accepted to and decide to attend a school with such requirements. Students who find they need to pursue private testing should see Elizabeth’s advice on how to examine documentation requirements for their testing agency or college to make sure that their new report has all of the necessary elements, how to be an educated consumer of private evaluations, and what they should expect to see in a good report.
- Medication specifications – Students who take medications for learning or attentional problems may find that the documentation guidelines require them to be tested on or off the medication. Students who don’t see this information in the guidelines and who plan to get tested before they apply for accommodations should call the testing agency or college to ask whether this issue is important. It is likely that it is not, but it is worth checking. Even if the agency or college says students should be on the medication at the time of testing, students who were not on it when they were tested should apply for accommodations anyway, as their documentation may be accepted.
- DSM-IV diagnosis code – This is a code from the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – IV, which some colleges require be included in a report. Students whose documentation does not include it should apply for accommodations anyway, as testing agencies and colleges may show some flexibility. If they apply for accommodations and are turned down based on the absence of this code, they should ask the person who wrote their testing report to either revise it to include the appropriate code, or write an addendum to the report to supply the code.
Sometimes the requirements may state that the documentation has to contain some other element that students’ testing report does not (this mostly applies to learning disability or Attention Deficit Disorder documentation). Before students do anything, they should call and ask some questions. They may find that the testing agency or college will actually show more flexibility on these points than they may anticipate.
If students have any questions about what is contained in an agency’s or college’s requirements, they should call to ask questions before they apply for accommodations.