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The GRE & Dyslexics

by Kristie Sweet, studioD

Graduate schools often require Graduate Record Examination scores from applicants to determine the likelihood of success in such programs. The test measures verbal reasoning, mathematical basics and writing ability. If you have a learning disability such as dyslexia, you may harbor concerns about how well your score on the GRE will reflect your skills. However, you can ask for accommodations to help create a more realistic score.

GRE Format

The GRE's three portions examine a student's ability to interpret written material, summarize, understand sentence structure and context cues, perform basic mathematical functions, analyze relationships among words and statistics, and communicate effectively. Test centers offer either computer-based or paper testing, and the test contains both multiple-choice and essay portions. Some schools also use a content-based portion of the exam. Although the GRE makes up just one portion of a student's admission materials, some graduate schools emphasize the importance of the standardized test score to compare applicants.

Dyslexia Basics

Dyslexia is a neurological problem that affects how the brain processes information. You may encounter difficulties in reading and writing, in particular, affecting your ability to understand the concepts presented on the GRE and fulfill the writing portions of the test. The environment also affects some dyslexics, as you may be overly distracted by sounds or movements in a room of test-takers, leading to a lower score on the GRE. Using a pencil to fill in the small circles on standardized test forms also presents a problem for those with small motor difficulties.

Testing Accommodations

Asking for appropriate accommodations for the GRE can eliminate some of the potential problems with the test. Although you cannot waive the time limits entirely, you can ask for up to twice the normal period to complete the test. You may request to have someone read the test questions aloud or work with a pre-recorded version. A scribe can write out your response in the writing portion. The ability to both hear and see the questions and to compose verbally helps many dyslexics perform better. The privacy afforded in an individual room also eliminates many potential distractions.


You must follow Educational Testing Service requirements to request accommodations for the GRE ahead of time. Along with your application, you will need to include the Testing Accommodations Request Form. The disability office at your school, the human resources representative at your employer or the Vocational Rehabilitation office in your area can help you with the documentation forms included in the packet. It often takes at least six weeks for ETS to approve alternative testing arrangements, so you must begin the process early.

About the Author

Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.

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