Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 12:32 UK

Dyslexic student's exams battle

Medical schools may have to look at changing their testing systems

A medical student with dyslexia is to take legal action in a bid to prevent the use of multiple choice exams as part of doctors' training.

Naomi Gadian, 21, claims the use of the tests discriminates against people with the condition and is challenging the General Medical Council to scrap them.

The second year student hopes medical schools may have to drop the exams if she wins at an employment tribunal.

The GMC says it has no powers to set medical examinations.

Ms Gadian claims that, as a body which sets the standards for undergraduate medical education, the GMC is discriminating against her on the grounds of disability.

She said: "In normal day life, you don't get given multiple choice questions to sit. Your patients aren't going to ask you 'here's an option and four answers. Which one is right?'"

Letter order

If she wins and medical schools have to look at changing their testing systems, other trade bodies may have to follow suit, her solicitor John MacKenzie said.

He added: "Every professional body or employer who relies for a professional qualification, or as a promotional gateway, on multiple choice questions is heading for a fall."

Ms Gadian, who got an A and two Bs in her A-level exams, has been at the Peninsula Medical School for two years. It was founded in 2000 by the universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

"I read much slower than other people ... I'll also jump words," she said.


She says essays and practicals have not been a problem - but she may have to leave because of poor results in multiple choice exams.

"They don't let me express my knowledge."

The school says it makes adjustments for those with dyslexia, which affects the reading and spelling abilities of some 10% of the population.

It will not discuss her situation but says it takes the issue seriously. Over the last two years nine of its students with dyslexia have qualified as doctors.

Oxford University neuroscientist Professor John Stein, who has been studying dyslexia for 25 years, says poor eye co-ordination is at the root of the condition.

He said: "Dyslexics confuse the order of letters because their eye control is not ideal."

Prof Stein added that dyslexics were disadvantaged at any exams, not just multiple choice, which is why they were often given extra time to complete their papers.

Teacher Caroline O'Connor from Glasgow, who was diagnosed with dyslexia during the third year of her degree, told the BBC that there were other ways to help students with the condition.

She said: "I am sure that people with dyslexia are at a disadvantage when doing multiple choice, but what is the alternative?

"As a teacher I think the most important thing when dealing with dyslexic pupils is to show understanding of their problems."

But Robert Ede, 16, said he had found the multiple choice sections of a recent chemistry exam more difficult because of elements of his dyslexia.

"It is important sufferers like Naomi Gadian and myself receive the support we require and do not find ourselves at an unfair disadvantage when taking exams," he added.

The GMC says it cannot comment on this case.

It says it does not have the power to decide what adjustments should be made for students with disabilities.

Pledge to do more for dyslexics
05 Dec 07 |  Education
Dyslexia defended as 'very real'
29 May 07 |  Education

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