Dyslexia and study skills

British university students (both with and without dyslexia) were given a questionnaire about their study skills and support needs.

Mortimore, T. and Crozier, W.R. (2006) ‘Dyslexia and difficulties with study skills in higher education’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 235-251 [Online]. DOI: 10.1080/03075070600572173


  1. Introduction
  2. Method
  3. Results
    1. Reported difficulties
    2. Difficulties at successive stages of education
    3. Support needs
  4. Discussion


There are two curious things to note about the structure of this study:


This study investigated three things:

What’s difficult?

They asked students to identify difficulties. By percentage, the top three tasks identified by students with dyslexia were:

  1. Organizing essays
  2. Expressing ideas in writing
  3. Reading speed

Students without difficulties identified:

  1. General organization
  2. Time-keeping
  3. Concentration

How have difficulties changed?

They asked the students with dyslexia to identify the difficulties they had in elementary school, during middle school and high school, and then in college. By percentage, some things mentioned as a difficulty in primary school remained constant throughout, but as the students got older other difficulties increased in urgency. Tasks like spelling don’t get easier; other things just get harder or become more of a hindrance.

In elementary school, by percentage the top three difficulties were:

  1. Spelling
  2. Reading speed and handwriting (tied)
  3. Reading

In middle school and high school, the top three by percentage were:

  1. Spelling
  2. Handwriting
  3. Organizing essays and remembering facts (tied)

In college, the top three were:

  1. Note taking
  2. Organizing essays
  3. Expressing ideas in writing and remembering facts (tied)

What learning supports are most used, and most desired?

They then asked the students (those with dyslexia, and those without) what learning supports they used in college, and what they would like to use. This was to identify unmet needs, but one interesting thing is that their colleges did offer all the learning supports.

I was interested to see areas of overlap between the two groups of students. Almost everyone was in agreement that they did not have use for:

A significant portion of both groups would like:

Students with dyslexia mostly used:

  1. Extra time during exams or other assessments
  2. Scanners
  3. Dyslexia tutors (literacy based)

Students without dyslexia mostly used:

  1. Lecture notes given to students
  2. Copies of the slides shown in class
  3. Fellow student ‘study buddies’

If desired supports were already available, why aren’t they used?

Among students with dyslexia, there were some supports that were widely desired but not used. The top three that had a wide gap between desire and use were:

  1. Subject-specific support (77% wanted it, but only 17% had used it)
  2. Copies of slides (88% wanted it, 32% had used it)
  3. Lecture notes (93% / 41%) and help organizing coursework (82% / 30%) tied for third

There are several possible reasons.


The authors make these recommendations:

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