As the nation’s economy continues to struggle to create job growth, more and more American adults are returning to school. In these economic times, earning a college degree no longer ensures that a good job is soon waiting on the horizon. Obtaining graduate level degrees is more important than ever to help secure one’s future in the workforce. This cultural shift is definitely being evidenced within my practice. I devote approximately 50 percent of my time to conducting therapy and 50 percent of my time conducting psychological and psychoeducational testing. More people than ever are now contacting me to attempt to qualify for testing accommodations on exams such as the LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, GRE and DAT. The ages of these clients seems to be trending older as more and more people who have lost their jobs, or have failed to find good jobs straight out of college, are needing to succeed on these ever more competitive tests that essentially serve as entrance exams to law school, business school, medical school and dental school.
Some believe that testing accommodations unfairly skew results in favor of those who obtain them, thus leaving those who do not have accommodations at a major disadvantage. The reality however is much different. Those with disabilties (i.e. learning disabilities, ADHD) are negatively impacted in academic situations, standardized testing situations and other major domains of life such as work and interpersonal relationships. By definition a disability places the suffering individual at such a disadvantage over non-disabled individuals that accommodations such as extended time, private room testing, extended breaks between sections and paper and pencil exam forms are essential in order to ‘level the playing field’. The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 protects ALL people with disabilities not just from discrimination in society and at work but ALSO on standardized tests such as the SAT, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, and the Bar Exam.
Most laypeople think of the disabilities as a set of symptoms that can easily be seen and identified. The insignia representing the notion of a disability even depicts a person in a wheelchair, but psychiatric diagnoses and psychoeducational diagnoses DO qualify as serious disabilities that are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Though ADHD and learning disabilities are not readily apparent to the average observer, their symptoms can be extremely difficult for the sufferer to manage. Standardized testing exacerbates the impact of these diagnoses rendering those with these diagnoses at significant disadvantages.
In order to apply for testing accommodations, a diagnosis from a doctor past or present is not by itself enough to qualify. Even receiving accommodations in the past does not ensure a successful petition for testing accommodations. In order to qualify one must be tested by a qualified professional with experience in testing accommodations. On average, a comprehensive report is 15-20 pages long not including educational and clinical records. Such reports must fully explain the testing results as well as provide clear rationale for the necessity of current accommodations on a specific exam. For someone with ADHD or learning disability, testing accommodations can make an enormous difference in scoring which of course aids admission to higher quality schools.
With more people than ever returning to school, entrance to graduate programs has become even more competitive than in the recent past. With this trend continuing, those who suspect they may have diagnoses such as ADHD or a learning disability should not hesitate to be assessed by a qualified professional as admission to graduate school is now more than ever an important stepping stone on the path to success.
Dr. Jared Maloff