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Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
[Modules] : Assessment : Appendices

Guidance when marking the written work of Dyslexic students

These guidelines are taken from the Access Summit booklet (Dyslexia - Guidance for Staff) and are an adaptation of those produced by Joyce Lilley at Bournemouth University (1997/8).

The first time I handed in an assignment I was really worried about that. I thought it would shatter me because that's all I had in my school life and college life - your spelling's this, your grammar's wrong and all this kind of stuff. But they just pointed out the weaknesses in my assignment and the areas I had covered - which was good.

Saptal, 3rd year, BSc, Quality Management


Below are some generalisations about dyslexic students performance when writing. Remember, dyslexia affects individuals in very different ways. It is rarely the same for any two people. All our students have different experiences of learning, their needs have been identified at different times in their academic careers, they have received differing amounts of support and they have developed different coping strategies.

• Dyslexic students tend to think in a holistic, non-linear way i.e. a non-verbal way, which is difficult to convert into the linear nature of many academic assignments.

Result: Dyslexic students may use more time and mental energy than other students to put ideas into words but may grasp the global picture very easily.

• Dyslexic people usually have a strong perception of what they intend to write. They retain the mental image of the ideas they want to convey in spite of the actual way this is ultimately expressed in writing.

Result: Dyslexic students are unable to see that their writing does not reflect their ideas. They are unable to proof read their work. Mistakes in exams will not be identified or corrected.

• Dyslexic students do not learn language skills automatically. They cannot improve these skills through the process of error identification alone.

Result: Detailed explanations of underlying spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax rules are needed to develop language skills.

N.B. : The standard feedback normally provided is insufficient for the needs of most dyslexic students.

• Dyslexic people may find it hard to 'read between the lines'.

Result: Dyslexic students need direct but positive comments e.g. "this was good because...". Telling a dyslexic student not to do something without providing a reason can be completely useless.

• A dyslexic person can find it difficult to present ideas in organised and structured formats e.g. essays, reports, examination scripts etc.

Result: The principles of good presentation need to be taught. Samples and model answers for each format should be presented and explained.

• Technical mistakes in written English and poor presentation may mask the ideas and knowledge the student wishes to convey, which can be frustrating for the student and difficult for the marker.

Result: In marking look beyond the poor language skills for knowledge and ideas.


Typical Mistakes made by Dyslexic students

Please note: The assessment criteria for individual courses should apply to the marking of a dyslexic student's scripts. If written English skills are an important element of the course then these guidelines should be used alongside the criteria as a means of developing an individual's skills.


Marking Aims

In course and exam work:

In coursework only:


General Guidelines for Marking


Further points to consider:


Error Analysis Marking

Despite marking without penalising for mistakes in English, students do need help to develop their written English skills. The following marking system will help a student to aim towards independent learning. When you use this scheme please make sure students are aware of the meaning of the abbreviations.

Self-checking is a powerful tool to learning. Error analysis marking encourages the student to find and correct errors identified by a tutor through a coded mark in the margin.


Sp - spelling.
G - grammar.
SS - sentence structure.
P - punctuation.
V - vocabulary.
O - word omission.
R - repetition.
T - tense.

Using this guidance the student will examine the line of writing, identify the highlighted error and attempt to correct it. Once a student learns to identify particular types of error, s/he can begin to check her/his own work and re-draft accordingly.


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