11 Tips For Dyslexics To Blitz Exams

Yes it’s that time of the year again…….EXAM TIME!

Are you ready?


How do you prepare for a ‘text based’ exam……..Like English, English Literature, Humanities, History, Social Science and so on?……

You will have to write long essays and complete short answer questions in a timed written exam.

Sound like fun?…..Hardly…..especially if you’ve got a learning difficulty or dyslexia. Panicking is definitely not going to help so……..



Here are 11 tips to help you to do the best you can.

Remember it’s not about how smart you are…….We all know you’re intelligent.

It’s about doing the best you can in your exam.

1. Make sure you get any exam accommodations you are entitled to; whether that be extra time, use of a computerised device, a scribe, a larger font format, coloured paper, or no extra marks deducted for poor spelling. Note: There may be a time requirement in your state or country for getting exam accommodations in place, so get this organised well in advance.

2. Know what you are trying to achieve before you go into the exam room. Motivation, clear goals, looking at practise exams and asking lots of questions beforehand will ensure you know exactly what the examiner is expecting from you.

3. Right up until the night before your exam, listen to audios of the text you are studying. You can do this on an eBook reader or any computing device with text to speech. Even better go for a long walk or exercise while you are listening to make the learning multi-sensory.

4. Text based subject exams are all about demonstrating that you have an intimate knowledge of the text you have been studying…… So get a clear idea of what the author is trying to say in terms of the main plot, characters, relationship issues and life lessons that relate to today’s world. Let’s face it some of the books that are set by examiners are long, difficult and complex. You may love them or hate them with a passion, but generally with a little effort you can dissect them and relate to them in some way.

5. Have a library of 5-10 useful quotes that you can use to make your point in the essay. You will have to memorise these. This basically tells the examiner that you have read the book and can relate to what the author or character meant when they said, what they said, in the book…..Does that make sense????

6. If you are very literal…… in other words not great at creative writing. Have a plan in your mind as to how you are going to answer the essay question. For example, in my introductory paragraph, I will have an opening sentence and make three general comments that relate to the exam topic. In paragraph two, I will expand on one of my general comments, give an example of how this is demonstrated in the text and then use a quote…..and so on.

7. If you are really creative and divergent and love to talk and talk and talk…I mean write and write and write, then you will also need a ‘plan’ to ensure you get your message across to the examiner in a succinct, punchy and effective manner. For both tips 6 and 7 a quick ‘mind map’ drawn on a piece of note paper before you begin writing, will help to keep you on track and ensure you get the maximum marks you can achieve on you exam.


8. During the exam if time allows, read over your essay, saying the words in a whisper under your breath as you go. Add in extra punctuation and grammar and check the spelling to the best of your ability. Doing this in a spoken whisper will allow you to instantly hear where you need to edit your written work. It’s multi-sensory editing and it will help you enormously.

9. Practise your expressive writing skills to prepare for your exam. Look at past essay questions, discussion papers and study notes. Your teacher should supply all this. Use speech to text software and start speaking to your computing device the way you would to answer a question about this topic on your exam. Tease out your ideas, find quotes to support your arguments and ideas and use examples from the story to pad it out even further. Save and email these docs. to your teacher to see if you are on the right track. Get their feedback and have another go. You will get better as you go. All this practise will help you the day you sit down to do your exam for real and see the essay question for the first time.

10. They say that the herb rosemary will help you to remember quotes and story content. So go and find a rosemary bush, chop off a sprig and sniff it while you study or even take it into your exam. (I think that would be allowed? Might be worth asking though?) Alternatively you can buy some rosemary oil, dilute it with water and spray it in your study while you work.

11. For last minute crammers use Wikipedia (make sure content is accurate though) and Sparknotes. This is an interesting website I’ve just come across. I’m sure there are others too….ask your teachers and friends.

Remember………Don’t panic an exam is just an exam. Pass or fail, it is not the end of the world. Life is a journey and you are on it. There are speed bumps in life that slow us down no matter who we are and what our strengths and weaknesses are.

What’s the worse thing that could happen?…….

· You speak to your college or university about your dyslexia and your results and find out what your options are. (Andrew did this).

· You ask the college or uni if they will accept an intelligence test or if you could sit an interview or an entrance exam as a way of demonstrating that you are a good candidate for a particular course. (Kris and Max did this).

· You go to another tertiary institute and do the subject again – perhaps with credits and better accommodations and support in place. (Matt did this).

· You choose a different course at university and swap across to the course of your choice at a later date. (Kathy did this).

· You go out and get a job, earn some money and get some great experience while completing that subject at night school. This will make you more employable long term. (Kathy did this).

· You apply as a mature age student at a later date. (Michael, Carole and Robert did this).

Who are these people? How do I know all these methods for moving forward after secondary school are possible? I conduct many inspirational interviews with people for The Ten Minute Tutor.

Not everyone goes straight from secondary school to university or college these days. Failing a subject exam is a speed bump, but it won’t stop you going to university or college if that is what you really want to do. There are many ways to achieve your academic goals. You can learn more from inspirational interviews with real people who have already done it at The Ten Minute Tutor.

So…….. Bring on exam time. Do your best by using the tips above and let’s get it over as quickly as possible so you can stop obsessing over your exams and get back on with living your life as positively as you can.

Best wishes and good luck,

Liz Dunoon

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