From the age of seven or eight, I always knew I was slightly different to other children when working in class. In year nine, I found it difficult to keep pace with my classmates in written subjects such as history and English. However, I was told by one of my teachers that it was “not possible for me to be dyslexic” because I was in the top classes for many of my subjects. In fact, on my dyslexia screening exam I had taken two years earlier I had been flagged for further assessment, but it was presumed the result was incorrect because of my high exam results. After further discussions my secondary school recognised that I had spelling and reading difficulties and granted me 25% extra time in examinations and the use of a computer if I needed it. I first applied for medicine in the 2019 admission process and received an offer to study medicine. I did not meet the conditions for my offer so I applied for a medicine foundation year through clearing. Last year, whilst at university completing my foundation year, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. After completing the foundation year, I received another offer to study medicine at Sheffield University.
I went through the medicine admission process with spelling and reading difficulties and I had different obstacles in comparison with my peers. Yes, some activities I did find considerably harder, but also, I found other activities easier because I was able to relate to an individual. I came to realise that you cannot change being dyslexic so I might as well make it a strength of mine rather than a weakness.
In the next few paragraphs, I will share my own experiences of the medicine admissions process. Everyone’s experiences will not be the same but I hope this article allows you to see that the problems you are having are not uncommon and the tips I have provided will prevent you from struggling during this process.
The Medicine Admissions Process with Dyslexia:
a) Work Experience/ Volunteering
When completing work experience or volunteering you will find there is little difference between you and other candidates. However, if you do feel your dyslexia will impact the work experience or volunteering role you should let the organiser know so they can attempt to adapt the placement to suit your needs.
b) Completing the UCATSEN
There is little difference between the UCAT and UCATSEN, except that if you are eligible for extra time in exams (like I was) you will have the option to sit the UCATSEN instead of the UCAT. When practicing for the UCATSEN use websites which will allocate you extra time, so you can practice working to your allocated time limit.
c) Personal Statement
Depending on how your dyslexia affects you, you may struggle to write your personal statement. I found it difficult putting my thoughts onto paper whilst writing my personal statement. The best advice I would give to anyone struggling with their personal statement is to create a detailed plan of what each paragraph will contain. Start by bullet pointing sentences which you would like to include in your personal statement and then construct a paragraph from there. Also, allow plenty of time to plan, write and edit your statement until you are happy with it.
In an interview from my experience there is very little difference between a candidate with dyslexia and without dyslexia. Some medical schools may offer dyslexic candidates extra time in their multiple mini- interviews, but this arrangement depends on the medical school.
e) Preparation for Examinations
The main difference I found between myself and my peers is I had a different way of working to them. They could read a textbook, understand and process the information instantly. I would often need to draw an image in order to understand the same piece of information. I would often get stressed because this way of learning was more time consuming. I think I would tell my younger self not to worry that I work differently to others, as long as my method worked for me that’s what’s important.
I hope this post helps you overcome any problems you are facing whilst applying for medicine! Remember this process is very intense so don’t worry if you are finding it challenging. Good luck with your future application.