How to Study with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia

By Thomas Broderick

Published on July 9, 2021

How to Study with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia

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Many primary, secondary, and postsecondary students have dyslexia and dysgraphia. Individuals with dyslexia experience difficulty reading, while those with dysgraphia find writing challenging. Either of these conditions can make succeeding in school difficult. Fortunately, learners can receive help and accommodations from professors, peers, and technology.

The following sections explore how these two learning disabilities can affect college students. This guide also provides study tips and highlights services that learners can use to improve their grades. Degree-seekers with dysgraphia or dyslexia in college can access the resources featured on this page to learn more about their condition and how it need not prevent them from earning a degree.

Understanding Dyslexia and Dysgraphia


Language-based learning disabilities affect approximately 15-20% of the population, according to the Dyslexia Center of Utah. Dyslexia is the most common of these disabilities. Most individuals with dyslexia receive a diagnosis in elementary or middle school. These learners may also display ADHD symptoms, further complicating classroom learning. College students with dyslexia or dysgraphia may already possess some coping strategies.

Students with dysgraphia or dyslexia in college may have significant difficulty earning good grades. Taking notes, reading assigned texts, and finishing exams may present as challenges. Unprepared learners and those without accommodations may fail courses and drop out of school.

What About Dyscalculia?

Unlike individuals with dyslexia or dysgraphia, learners with dyscalculia do not typically struggle with reading or writing. However, they take longer to learn arithmetic and other mathematical concepts. Typical symptoms include an inability to estimate, understand fractions, and read a clock face.

College students with dyscalculia may find it challenging to follow lectures and perform well on exams. Fortunately, technology exists that can make learning easier for these individuals.

Study Tips for Students with Dyslexia

1. Remove All Distractions

One of the most important dyslexia study tips is to create an appropriate study space. This space should limit distractions, such as electronic devices, outside noise, and other people. Learners may use earplugs to reduce distractions in loud environments. Students can also listen to light music, or study early in the morning or late at night.

2. Set Small Goals and Reward Yourself When You Complete Them

Like all learners, students with dyslexia in college can build their study skills by beginning with small goals. Achieving these goals builds confidence and allows degree-seekers to set and achieve progressively more challenging goals. After completing a task, learners can take a short break or give themselves a reward to create a positive feedback loop.

3. Keep an Agenda or Planner

Keeping an agenda or planner can help learners with dysgraphia in college manage their assignments. Learners should keep their planner accessible during class and check it at predetermined times throughout the day. This strategy ensures that students do not forget about homework, short-term assignments, and long-term projects.

4. Use a Phonetic Dictionary

Learners with dyslexia in college may need to use a phonetic dictionary to complete assignments. Students can use an online phonetic dictionary to look up words by how they sound. A good dictionary finds the correct word even if the user inputs multiple wrong letters. Some dictionaries offer free phone apps that do not require an internet connection.

5. Find a Good Study Space

Typical study spaces for college students include dorm rooms, campus libraries, and local cafes. The ideal study space depends on the degree-seeker's learning style. Some learners need absolute silence, while others prefer some background noise. Students should explore different study spaces to find the best environment for their needs.

6. Use a Peer's Notes or the Instructor's Notes

Learners with dysgraphia in college often experience difficulty taking notes in class. This issue can lead to problems comprehending the material. Learners in this position can ask their professor for copies of notes. Students can also ask a classmate for copies. Obtaining notes from the professor or a peer can reduce frustration and lead to higher grades.

7. Consider Rewriting Notes

Students with dysgraphia should consider rewriting their notes after class. This task can help learners memorize the material and become more comfortable writing down information. Other advantages include improved penmanship and organization. Learners should use appropriate tools, such as an online phonetic dictionary, when rewriting notes.

8. Try Reading Notes Aloud

Like rewriting notes, reading notes aloud can help learners remember information. Students with dyslexia often benefit significantly from this strategy, as reading aloud can help learners recognize common words faster. These learners may want to read aloud to a peer without dyslexia, who can catch common mistakes.

9. Look for an On-Campus Study Skills Group

Learners can join a study skills group to hone techniques applicable to any academic subject. Students with dyslexia often benefit from working with degree-seekers who have similar learning disabilities. These groups can help students develop effective strategies and improve their grades. Studying with peers can also build comradery and self-confidence.

To promote successful study sessions, learners can complete warm-up exercises. To warm up, students can read or write something unrelated to the study subject. They can also rewrite notes or browse material from the last lesson. Students can also review mistakes from the most recent test or quiz. These and other dyslexia study tips help prime the brain to learn.

Strategies for Test Taking


Students with dyslexia in college can research test-taking strategies to improve their ability to score well on exams. The following strategies may reduce stress and allow learners to focus on the material. Degree-seekers with severe dyslexia or dysgraphia can inquire about test-taking accommodations from their institution.

Be Mindful of the Exam Format
Learners with dysgraphia should speak to their professor about the formats of upcoming exams. Short-answer and essay sections may make exams more difficult. Knowing the format in advance allows learners to prepare by simulating the testing experience, and to request appropriate accommodations.
Stay Calm
Most college students experience some form of test anxiety. Ways to remain calm include sleeping enough the night before, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants on test day, and planning a reward for after the exam. These strategies can help reduce stress and ensure learners perform to the best of their ability.
Plan Your Time
Learners with dyslexia in college may have difficulty managing their time during exams, since reading instructions and prompts takes longer for them. Degree-seekers can hone their time-management skills by assessing how long to spend on each exam section. Learners should keep to a schedule by checking the time periodically during testing.
Proofread
If time allows, learners should proofread their work. Doing so often reveals incomplete answers, awkward writing, and other mistakes. Even 1-2 minutes of proofreading may result in better exam scores. However, students should not rush through an exam in order to proofread.

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Technology Resources

Natural Reader

This resource allows learners to turn nearly any text into an audio file. The free version of Natural Reader provides various voices and compatibility for multiple text files. Advanced features include the option to download files to a mobile device.

SoundNote

Students with dysgraphia in college can use SoundNote if they struggle to keep up with note-taking during lectures. The app records lectures, and learners can listen to the lecture later to fill in missed sections of notes.

Grammerly

Grammarly reviews users' writing to check for common grammatical mistakes. Students with dyslexia can integrate the service into various programs and web browsers, allowing Grammarly to catch errors as they make them.

Text Expander

Text Expander keeps track of users' common phrases and sentences and recommends them during note-taking. This service can help students with dysgraphia take notes at a much faster rate.

MindNode

MindNode promotes learning by turning users' ideas into a visual representation, such as a word web or graph. Users can outline their ideas and keep track of tasks and themes.

My Study Life

My Study Life helps learners keep track of due dates. Users can schedule short- and long-term assignments, receive essential reminders, and sync information across multiple devices.

Math Talk

This speech-recognition software helps learners solve equations, take notes, and send completed work just by speaking. The service features commands for various types of mathematics, including algebra and calculus.

ModMath

This free app helps learners with dyscalculia perform equations, organize information, and save work. Users can share their assignments with professors through text, email, or Dropbox.

Resources for for Students with Dyslexic and Dysgraphia

This resource informs college students with disabilities of their legal rights, such as adjustments to instruction and testing. The resource also provides information about how to qualify for modifications. This service provides advice and tips to help learners succeed in college with a disability. Resources include advice from students and college planning guides. IDA provides numerous resources for college students and their families, including fact sheets, an advocacy toolkit, and success stories. The organization promotes classroom equity by running workshops for postsecondary teachers. Understood offers this resource that details dysgraphia's typical symptoms, impact on daily life, and challenges for college students. Visitors can access classroom and workplace accommodation guides. Students with dyscalculia experience difficulty understanding mathematical concepts, performing calculations, and solving problems. The resource explains the condition's typical symptoms and mitigation strategies.

Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

See articles by Thomas

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