The exam performance of medical students with dyslexia: a review of the literature

Shaw, Sebastian C K, Malik, Muzaffar and Anderson, John L (2017) The exam performance of medical students with dyslexia: a review of the literature. MedEdPublish, 6 (3). ISSN 2312-7996

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Dyslexia is a common condition. Estimates suggest it effects approximately 10% of the worldwide population, and 1.7% of UK medical students. This review aimed to explore the existing literature concerning the exam performance of medical students with dyslexia.


A Review of Medline, ERIC, PsychInfo, The Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA checklist. Papers were accepted if they concerned the exam performance of medical students with dyslexia.


Three papers were selected for review. These were all cross-sectional studies comparing exam results in students with dyslexia and without dyslexia – and the impacts of extra time in exams. A risk of bias assessment determined that all three were appropriate to include in this review. A meta-analysis was planned but could not be performed because the number of studies was low and heterogeneity between the studies too high.

There was consensus that Multiple Choice Question exams were fair for students with dyslexia, when extra time was allowed. Essay type exams were found to be particularly challenging for students with dyslexia. Students with dyslexia were also found to be at a disadvantage in their first year.


Overall, the evidence suggests that medical students with dyslexia are slower to adapt to medical school and under-perform early in the course. However, with appropriate supports, they appear to perform on a par with their non-dyslexic peers as they progress through their course.

Our review highlights the need for more research in the medical student population.

Keywords: Dyslexia, Specific Learning Difficulties, Neurodiversity, Literature Review, Medical Students

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Division of Medical Education
Subjects: L Education
R Medicine > R Medicine (General) > R735 Medical education
Depositing User: Dr Sebastian C K Shaw
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2018 09:01
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2018 12:58

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