No Ifs or Buts – Dyslexics Deserve Extra Exam Time

I remember a while back when I was working at a previous workplace, I entered the coffee lounge and heard two work colleagues talking about the injustice of giving students additional exam time. They raised the issue that many students are abusing this “benefit” unjustly. I remember how I impolitely interrupted their conversation stating that what they just said was complete nonsense and explained that denying students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia extra exam time was simply unjust and reflected the general’s public general ignorance on these topics. They of course lacked the ardor that I demonstrated in this discussion and soon enough retreated back to their offices.

IF only these students would work harder they would not need this extra time?

BUT so many students are abusing this extra time loop hole to get improved testing conditions?

My work colleagues were not malicious, dyslexia-phobic people… they simply were quite ignorant to what people with Reading and Writing disabilities experience and did not have the understanding that providing this extra exam time for people with dyslexia can make a real difference between Success or Failure.

“Just as a diabetic requires insulin, an individual who is hearing impaired requires a hearing aid, a man or woman who is a quadriplegic requires a wheelchair, a person who is dyslexic has a profound physiological need for additional time to complete examinations.” –

Dyslexia is a physiological condition that people are born with. Special learning techniques, together with hard word and special reading and writing assistive technology can ensure that a dyslexic student succeed in both education and his workplace. However, the fact remains that for most dyslexics Reading and Writing will always be more difficult and time-consuming then non-dyslexics. The objectives of examinations are to test the intelligence and knowledge of the examinee on a specific topic. The objective is not to test the speed at which he reads the questions and writes the answers.

Regarding the claim that there are non-dyslexics that abuse this extra time for exams policy, there are 2 replies that I wish to make:

  1. “Data now demonstrate that it is only students who are dyslexic who benefit from additional time. Thus, such college students increase their scores substantially (e.g., 13th percentile to 76th percentile), while typical readers when given extra time on exams increase their scores few to no points (82nd percentile to 83rd percentile).*” – this is taken from Yale’s University website. This research demonstrates that people who really do not have a real difficulty in Reading and Writing will not gain real benefits with the extra time allocated to exams.
  2. So if everybody cheated in a test, should someone who did not cheat be punished too? The obvious answer is NO. By getting additional exam time, the dyslexic student is simply getting equivalent testing conditions as other students. He is not cheating the system. If other students are supposedly “cheating the system”, then let the system take responsibility to stop this cheating without punishing the ones who deserve this benefit; and the system should do so without making the person with dyslexia feel subconscious about getting the benefit he justifiably deserves…

So was I rude when I interrupted my work colleagues’ conversation and loudly stated their ignorance on this topic, perhaps. But it is time to loudly state the rights of the dyslexic community and to educate the public regarding what is dyslexia and what must be done in order to enable dyslexics to fully and hopefully easily integrate into society… and this definitely includes GETTING EXTRA EXAM TIME.

* M. K. Runyan, The Effects of Extratime. In S. Shaywitz & B. Shaywitz, eds., Attention Deficit Disorder Comes of Age: Toward the 21st Century; Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed, 1992.

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