Monday, 2 December 2013

Exams for students with dyslexia and dyspraxia

By Katherine McCormack and Sarah Delaney


Hello guys,
Here are some tips about how to do exams when you, like us, have a learning difficulty.

  • Dyslexia

Students with dyslexia often read quite slowly, so when they sit down and see the piles upon piles of " required readings" can see extremely daunting a week before the exam. The best way to tackle this is to create a schedule by assigning a manageable amount of reading to do each day. This ensures you can cover as much reading as needed without feeling like it is a never ending task. 
While reading through books or lecture notes a helpful tip is to write notes on the readings as you go along. As you read through a chapter try to write down the key points, this will ensure you will not have to re-read the whole chapter an hour before your exam but simply look at the concise notes you have created. Some students find that when they read they do not retain the information, within a few minuets they cannot remember what they have just read. Students often find that this can be extremely frustrating and demoralising. However by actively writing notes as you go along it will help you to focus on what you are reading and increase your chances of retaining that information. 
Many students with dyslexia are very visual. They can recall images better than lengthy lines of text. A tip that I have found very helpful is to write notes on coloured sheets of paper or coloured flash cards. The colours make the text more memorable and can help me remember facts in exams. For example it is much easier to remember “what was on the green flash card?” than “what was on page 245 of Landscapes of  Neolithic Ireland?!”
Some people remember better through the use of sound. If you find you remember what people say better than what you read, a tip is to record yourself reading some information. Often people find it awkward to hear our voices on tape. But if you record yourself saying facts like " the battle of Hastings was fought in the year 1066" you can listen to this on the way to the exam hall and increase the chances of you  remembering facts.

  • Dyspraxia

Students with dyspraxia, similar with dyslexia, can find it hard to get ideas from brain to paper. What can help is sticking down the random words that are in your head to do with what you are trying to explain.
People with dyspraxia often learn differently and need to study differently too. I have to listen to music or have movie playing in the background while I study, I find that I focus better. I also find I remember more if I watch or listen to a documentary podcast or a piece of visual or audio media on the subject.
Some people with dyspraxia have terrible short term memory, so for final exam preparation the last minute short term memory game doesn’t always work. However maybe an hour or more for the, I have the topics I studied broken down into sections (or sub topics) of 5 and then I will have at 3 or 5 sets of 3 initials or figures within those sections (the brain is more likely to remember in set of threes and fives). For example say the topic is Minoan peak sanctuaries a section within that could be the characteristics of Neopalatial peak sanctuaries and the initial or figures could be PRC, SST, MSL. These would mean Palaces and palatial Regional Centres, Shrine buildings, Stone offering Tables, Metal figurines and blades, Seals and Linear A. The initials would also help jog my memory of information associated with these topics. I normally write each section in different colours because the different colours can help re-enforce the information.
While sitting the exam, you might come up with point that are relevant to the another question. Write it down on the rough work sheet because you might forget it, again the short term memory. But do not stop the question you are on if you have a nice flow and aren’t stuck. If you are stuck go back to the question or go on to the next one and put in that information and that might help you with the one you are stuck on.
Processing skills and speeds are different too, so if you don not understand the phrasing of the question being asked ask your reader. The reader should actually contact the invigilator and who will contact the module co-ordinator but they cannot help you with the answer.

  • Exams

Once you have prepared for the exam the next step is getting their. If you are registered with the DSS you will probably be sitting your exams in UCD. When you arrive to UCD go to room D106 there you will find your name on one of the boards and will see what room you will be taking your exam in. You should try to arrive at UCD thirty minutes before your exam is due to start. Here is a list of things you must bring to each of your exams: 
  1. Your student number 
  2. A copy of your exam supports from SIS web
  3. Your blue stickers that are to be placed on the inside cover of your exam booklet. 
  4. Pens, pencils and a highlighter.

While sitting the exam the best tip is to try to relax. When answering an exam question it is very important to understand what the question is asking you. To ensure you do not misread the key words in the question use a highlighter to mark those words. This will allow you to look back at the question as you write to make sure you answering without misunderstanding the question. Many students with dyslexia find structuring their work very difficult. In the pressure of exams it becomes very common for students to just reproduce everything they have learned, sometimes without even adding paragraphs or punctuation. To help, use the rough work page provided to quickly write down the key points you want to talk about giving each point a paragraph. Another tip is to try to write legibly this can be hard when you’re frantically writing against the clock but if the lecturer can’t read it they can’t give you marks. Overall just try to do your best; exams are difficult for everyone regardless if you have or do not have dyslexia. However by understand how best to study and how to answer an exam question there is nothing stopping us from getting just as good grades as everyone else.

We hope helps!
Best of luck with your revision and don't hesitate to send us an email if you have any questions, 

All the best, 

Katherine & Sarah

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