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Challenges for Students with Dyslexia: Test Taking

12 Tips for Teachers


Students with dyslexia can have a hard time taking tests. Even though they know the answer, they may have a hard time explaining it on paper. They may not finish tests within the allotted time because it takes longer for them to read and process written words. They may lack confidence, causing anxiety before the test. They may have a hard time organizing their thoughts to write an essay. No matter what the problem, there are some ways teachers can make test taking a little easier for students with dyslexia.

Provide a written review sheet a few days before the test. Often, teachers will review information and students are expected to take notes, highlighting what will be covered on the test. Because taking notes is so difficult for students with dyslexia, the review is frequently useless. Instead, provide written review sheets for students with dyslexia. This allows them to listen to the review without the added pressure of trying to write notes at the same time.

Let students know the format of the test ahead of time. Will this be an essay, a multiple choice, fill in the blank, true-false or combination test. Students with dyslexia can be more prepared if they understand what type of test they will be taking.

Review by discussing main points first, then filling in with information to back up the main point. Students with dyslexia learn best if they understand the main concept and then can fill in the details.

Provide sample tests students can complete at home. Short sample tests with a few questions can help increase confidence. Some text books have tests at the end of each chapter. If your test will be similar, students can use those as samples. If you plan to have your test be a different format, let the students know.

When giving essay questions, let students with dyslexia know the main idea of the question the day before the test. This gives them the opportunity to start organizing information for the essay, on paper, at home. You don't need to provide the exact question, even a generalization will give them an opportunity to plan out some main points to be discussed. It can be very hard for students with dyslexia to complete essay questions "on the spot" because they may need time to organize the information.

Allow students with dyslexia a quiet, distraction free place to take the test. This can be in the library or the resource room.

Read the instructions for the test out loud. Students with dyslexia, especially if they are nervous, can mix up instructions or take longer to process the information. Before beginning, make sure all students understand what to do.

Allow students with dyslexia extra time to complete the test. Students can come in before class, return after school or use study periods to finish a test.

Read the questions to the student and write down their answers. This can be completed by you or a classroom aide. The student's answers are written down exactly. You can also have the student read the question and then respond, using a tape recorder. The student reads the question aloud first so you know he understood the question.

Provide word banks or vocabulary lists for fill in the blank tests. Students with dyslexia have a difficult time remembering new words and may be nervous about spelling words correctly. A word bank can help them focus on understanding the material rather than spelling the words correctly.

Modify test formats. Students with dyslexia frequently have an easier time with fill in the blank or matching tests rather than essay or multiple choice tests. Make use of these formats to help a student build confidence in test-taking.

Let students know you will not take off for spelling as long as you can understand the meaning. This can take some of the pressure off and let students worry about showing their knowledge of the subject rather than focusing on trying to spell words correctly.

If you have students with dyslexia who seem to know the subject matter but continually do poorly on written tests, consider different options for letting the student show their knowledge. Oral presentations, power-point projects, open-book, take home or taking the test orally can relieve a lot of the pressure on students with dyslexia and still allow them to show they have mastered the subject.

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