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Dyslexia and Psychometric Testing for Employers

Employers must be careful not to unlawfully discriminate using psychometric tests

The Disability Discrimination Act, which came into force in 1995, requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to ensure a fair selection process for potential candidates.  Given the growing popularity of aptitude tests within selection procedures, employers are expected to accommodate the needs of candidates whose test performance may be impacted by sensory impairments or other conditions.

People with dyslexia may be particularly disadvantaged by psychometric tests. Dyslexia is most commonly associated with impaired literacy skills; however, people may also present with difficulties in memory and speed of processing. As such, it is acknowledged that these candidates are at risk of performing poorly on psychometric tests if necessary amendments are not made, particularly on literacy-based tests (e.g. verbal reasoning tests).  The inherent danger is that candidates with dyslexia will not be given the opportunity to demonstrate their true abilities, and therefore, their suitability for the vacant position.

What do the psychometric testing guidelines say?

With this in mind, the British Psychology Society (BPS) has developed guidelines to advise those administering psychometric tests to people with dyslexia: Dyslexia and Occupational Testing (BPS, 2006). This document recommends that employers:

  • Provide all candidates with the opportunity to discuss difficulties that might impact on their test performance.
  • Ask candidates with dyslexia about the specific nature and severity of their difficulties.
  • Consider making necessary amendments which are specific to the individual needs of the candidate, e.g. additional time.
  • Consult with a chartered psychologist or with the test publishers to discuss potential amendments which will not invalidate the test.
  • Consider alternative methods of assessing the same skill, e.g. real-life work situations.

Click on the link to read the BPS guidelines in full: Dyslexia and Occupational Testing.

Dyslexia and Taking Psychometric Tests

Why might dyslexia cause you difficulties?

Dyslexia can cause difficulties in reading, writing and spelling. It has also been associated with impairments in working memory, processing speed, perception and motor skills.  These skills and functions are called upon when potential employees are asked to complete aptitude tests as part of the recruitment process.  It is possible then that candidates with dyslexia are somewhat disadvantaged in this process, particularly when undertaking literacy-based psychometric tests (e.g. verbal reasoning and verbal comprehension tests).

How can you help the employer help you?

In line with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, employers are aware of their legal responsibility to select candidates through a fair and non-discriminatory system.  However, as a candidate, there are a number of steps you can take to help your potential employers make the necessary amendments.

Firstly, it is important to inform the organisation as soon as possible that you have dyslexia. They may want to ask you further details on your diagnosis and the severity of your difficulties. It is commonly understood that dyslexia affects each individual differently and so it is likely that your potential employers will want to know the specific impact on you and your test performance. It may also be useful to inform them about adjustments made for you during previous test or exam situations (e.g. increased time allowance or the use of a scribe).

What next?

Finally, it can be beneficial to familiarise yourself with the types of aptitude tests you will be expected to complete. At AssessmentDay, we have a range of practice papers that will enable you to experience different kinds of psychometric tests; including verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and inductive reasoning. This will allow both you to anticipate what, if any, difficulties you may encounter on the assessment day and will give you a great opportunity to practice your skills.