Top 9 Revision Tips for Students With Dyslexia
Exam season is a nerve-wracking time for all students, especially those of you navigating the challenges of dyslexia. Revision is key to exam success, but it can be difficult to know how to best go about it. But don’t despair, find the revision strategies that work best for you and focus on those.
Below are our top revision tips for students with dyslexia, they include taking meaningful notes, remembering key facts and keeping organised. We hope you find them helpful!
Revision tips for dyslexic students
1) Note Taking
Taking meaningful notes in lectures and from textbooks is a vital step on the road to exam success.
We recommend recording your lectures and revisiting the material at your own pace later. That way, you won’t miss anything and will be reminded of anything you forget. Before your lecture, you may want to think about any questions you have about the topic. Make a note of these and then look out for the answers during the lecture. Not only will this broaden your knowledge of the topic, it should also result in more active listening, because you are looking out for certain details.
When you finish a class, summarise the main points covered. Review these at the end of the day and again at the end of the week. Reviewing the same information at regular intervals will give your brain enough time to process the information, and will refresh your knowledge of it so that it becomes ingrained in your memory.
Every student feels anxious in the lead-up to important exams, but this can be particularly acute if your dyslexia means you struggle with working memory. To alleviate stress try to start your revision early, leaving yourself plenty of time to become familiar with your subject material.
The best way of staying super-organised is to create a timetable that allows you to prioritise different areas of study, breaking each subject down into small chunks. Aim to study in 20-minute blocks, separated with 10-minute breaks. It shouldn't be too difficult to focus in short bursts, so you won’t get too tired or distracted. Think about the topics that will need more attention and allocate more sessions to these.
Leave a few blank slots in your timetable, where you can add an extra session on particular topics that are proving tricky. Be sure not to neglect any topics: even if you feel confident in your knowledge, it’s always good to refresh your memory.
This methodical approach will hopefully ease some of those pre-exam worries. Being able to see when you will cover each topic will reassure you that there is enough time before the exam to revise everything. And leaving those blank slots gives you the option to fit in any extra work on subject that are causing particular anxiety. Alternatively, if you feel you are on track across the board, you can use these slots for fun and relaxing social activities!
Does your dyslexia make it hard to remember the things you read? You’re far more likely to recall information if you find it interesting and exciting - that’s why you can recall every lyric to Swifty’s ‘Shake it Off’ - so get creative and attach new meanings to things.
Perhaps setting something to a song you are familiar with would help you retain that information. Or, if you learn visually, find an image that relates to your study and will prompt you to remember key facts.
Mems are proven memory tool. You can use them to quickly remember anything from the notes of each open guitar string to the major figures of the French Revolution.
For example, the mem ‘My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos’ can help you remember the order of the planets orbiting the sun.
4) Mind Mapping
Mind maps are a proven way to commit information to memory, especially if you are a visual learner. You can create them using pen and paper. But there’s some great software out there to help. Check out Mindview and Inspiration Software.
How to create a basic mind map:
i) Pick a topic and write it in a ‘bubble’ in the centre of your page.
ii) Ask yourself what questions you could be asked about this subject and add them in separate bubbles -- use lines to connect them to your central bubble.
iii) Add contextual notes under each of these headings.
This end result is a map of your key thoughts about this topic. Pin it to a wall in your room or keep it with you to learn on the go. Ask a friend to quiz you on the points you have listed.
Why not introduce a colour key? This is a visual way of highlighting sections within each topic, creating associations between different points. You can use images and colour to make your map more exciting. The more engaging you find something, the more likely you are to remember it.
5) Practice Questions
Do you sometimes start to panic in exams?
Some dyslexics are prone to greater feelings of anxiety than their peers. If you are one of them, it’s a good idea to practice answering exam questions under a time limit to get yourself into the exam mindset.
Before you put pen to paper, consider how you will structure your answer, and how much time you will devote to each section. Will you need to leave time to include a conclusion? Don’t try to cut things too fine!
If you will be using a scribe during your exam, try and find someone to practice this activity with you. Maybe you can bribe a flatmate with the promise of a yummy meal! Think about the tasks a scribe is allowed to perform...
- Read the question as many times as asked to
- Write down an exact dictation of what you say
- Re-read your answer when asked
- Explain the question
- Define words
- Collaborate on the answer in any way
How will you work with this person to get your answer on paper? You may want to write a plan yourself, and then begin working with the scribe. When dictating, think carefully about each sentence before speaking it, to avoid having to edit heavily. Using short single clause sentences (subject, verb, object) will help with this process. Ask your scribe to read sections back to you at regular intervals, so that you can hear how well different ideas and bits of information fit together.
Why not take an hour to turn your room into a handy revision tool?
Stick posters and post-its on the walls with keywords, dates, facts and pictures, relating to your big exam. You can group these randomly, by subject or in clusters of facts that you understand / don’t understand.
This is another brilliant strategy for dyslexics who are generally more comfortable learning from visual cues.
7) Study Buddy
Remember the glorious moment in ‘Friends’ when Joey found his identical hand twin? That’s the euphoria one feels upon finding the right study buddy. Here is a person to share the workload with!
Why not each pick a subject area and give each other presentations on it. Allow some time for a Q & A too, so that you can both delve a little deeper into the subject. Make a note of any areas where you lacked confidence and revisit these.
Mark each other’s practice questions. Not only will you get helpful feedback on your own work, you’ll also learn by reviewing someone else's.
As a dyslexic, you should think about picking a study buddy who is strong in some of the areas where you are a bit shaky. For instance, to continue the ‘Friends’ theme, if you are a bit of a Phoebe when it comes to organisation, pick a Monica.
8) Sonocent Audio Notetaker
If your dyslexia makes it almost impossible to take comprehensive notes in lectures and seminars, we recommend our software, Audio Notetaker.
With the software, you can capture everything you hear easily, and the audio will be visualised on screen as chunks. Gaps will appear as the speaker pauses, so you will find you can easily navigate your way through the file. You can add meaning to this audio by creating colour keys and highlighting significant bits, just like highlighting text with a pen...
Plus you can pull in different bits of information, pairing images and text with your audio to create the most complete set of notes possible.
This relieves the pressure we often feel when trying to capture information. By recording the lecture you are ensuring that you have all the information you need and can revisit it in your own time, at your own speed. By creating the colour keys you are engaging with the information, because you are having to think about categorising the things you hear. Was it important? Does it relate to a deadline? Does it need further research?
Unlike taking written notes, this is an active learning process that will help you remember the things your lecturer is saying.
9) Access Arrangements
In the lead-up to your exams, it’s vitally important to find out what access arrangements are available to you as a dyslexic.
Arrange an appointment with your tutor to discuss what your options are and what will be most useful for you. Every dyslexic is different. Maybe you need extra time in exams, or perhaps you would benefit from the assistance of a scribe.
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