For those like me who have dyslexia or another learning disability, it can take twice as long to complete a reading assignment or write a research paper. According to Yale’s Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, college students with learning disabilities are encouraged to “use your time wisely” and to “not do more than you have to.” The most important part of learning with a disability is to evaluate what works for you and to use your time efficiently.

Here are a few helpful study tips I use to work smarter, not harder.

Pay Attention in Class

While this seems intuitive, paying attention on Zoom can sometimes feel impossible. Many students with dyslexia are auditory learners, so understanding a concept in a lecture can be easier than learning from a textbook. Paying attention in class can save time so that studying serves to remind yourself of concepts rather than learning them for the first time. In my experience, the best strategy is to use handwritten notes and turn my phone off during class to minimize distractions.

Ask for Help Early

If you feel behind or don’t understand a concept in class, ask for help! Between faculty office hours, the Math Lab, the Rhetoric & Writing Center and tutoring, Biola students have several resources to choose from. My main strategy is creating study guides for exams and highlighting what I do not understand or have missing in my notes. My professors are more than happy to help me understand difficult concepts and prepare for exams.

Know the Syllabus

While many students jump to the course calendar in their syllabi at the beginning of a course, I look at the grading scale. It is important to know what assignments are worth the most dedication. If a large research paper is worth 40% of your grade, that is a good indication of where to focus your time. It is important to read and reread the instructions for assignments. Unfortunately, I have misread directions and lost points for something that was avoidable!

Repetition is everything

Whether you are in an anatomy or Bible class, memorization is inevitable. Repeating out loud what you need to memorize before bed is a great trick. Also, it is possible to retain more information in less time if you study in small intervals — two or three days in a row — versus cramming in one stretch and getting no sleep the night before an exam. I do this during midterms and finals by carrying around flashcards in my bag to take advantage of moments throughout the day where I can study, such as waiting in line at the grocery store or when there's an awkward 20-minute break between Zoom calls.

Use Audiobooks and YouTube to Your Advantage

For each of my classes, I check to see if an audiobook version of the textbook is available. Listening to the book helps me comprehend the material faster than reading it. I often change the speed of the audiobook to one and a half times the speed in order to digest the material more efficiently. If a class requires a daunting amount of reading, talk to the professor about your situation. Professors are often willing to come up with a strategy to fulfill reading requirements that work for you. In my physiology class, I would watch YouTube videos before exams explaining meiosis or other concepts I was not understanding in the textbook.

While it may require patience and a bit of creativity, everyone can find productive ways to study that fit their needs and learning style. Try to evaluate what time of day your brain works the best, what kind of environment you need to focus, and when you need to give yourself a break. College-level work may be challenging with a learning disability, but there are plenty of ways to set yourself up for success!

Looking for additional academic support? Consider connecting with the Office of Student Accessibility to get started!