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Studying with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties

Expert guidance from Study Advice at the University of Reading

Getting organised at university with an SpLD

If you are studying at university with an SpLD it is essential that you develop effective strategies for organising yourself and your time. While some pointers are outlined below, more detailed information can be found by following the links below to relevant,Study Advice guides and videos.  You could also make an appointment to meet with a Study Adviser for advice and guidance tailored to you.


Tips for getting organised

Organise your paperwork

Lecture notes and handouts

  • Use a different folder for each module – you could use a different colour for each;
  • Use dividers to separate individual units;
  • Use a separate folder for taking lecture notes to-and-from university (the others can be left in your accommodation);
  • On each set of notes, record module title, topic, name of lecturer and number each page;
  • Review and file lecture notes weekly or at regular intervals;
  • Make sure you have a complete set of lecture notes for each module.


  • Use a separate box file for each assignment to keep all related notes and resources together.
  • Other printed material 
  • Have a system for dealing with printed materials. For example, try using an Urgent/Important graph or decide if it needs to be dealt with 'now', 'soon' or  'later' – and action or file accordingly;
  • Commit to a fixed day and time each week for dealing with paperwork.

Organise your computer folders

  • Create an electronic filing system, for example, setting-up folders and sub folders for different topics/assignments/modules.
  • Back up files, in addition to your computer hard drive, use memory sticks, save to the ‘cloud’ or email files to yourself.

Organise your study space

  • If you study in your room, try to make your study space as inviting as possible;
  • Adjust, heating, lighting and ventilation to suit your needs;
  • Try visually/physically separating the study area from the other areas of your room;
  • Keep the equipment you need in one place and try not to remove these items.
  • Display a wall planner or calendar over your desk with key deadlines and important dates clearly marked on it.

Organise your time

Organise the term:

  • Make a plan for the term to enable you to see at a glance how many weeks there are before examinations and assignment deadlines. Plan backwards from final dates, creating mini deadlines for completing different stages of  coursework and revision. 
  • use wall-planners or term-planners to record these deadlines/mini-deadlines; note other important dates such as family occasions, which you may need to plan around. Place planners above your desk or somewhere prominent as a constant reminder.


Organise the week:

  • Get into a study routine that works for you by ring-fencing times in the week that you can commit to studying.
  • Try to match these study periods with times of day when your mind is more active and you have more energy. You may need to re-schedule some of your usual activities - although, of course, university time-tabled lectures and other sessions cannot be moved.
  • If, like many students with SpLD's, you have slow speed of information processing, the golden rule is to work in short bursts, i.e. working on small amounts of information, for short periods of time.  Consider  maintaining concentration levels by changing topics  at regular intervals.
  • Module guides often give an indication of how many hours to spend in private study each week. Another way to work out how many hours to spend studying each week is to add together university time tabled sessions with private study periods.  The total should come to about 35 hours -  the length of a typical working per week. 
  • Create more hours in the day by doing concurrent activity.  For example, testing yourself with revision cards while taking the bus, or  listening back to recordings of lectures while cooking a meal. 

Organise the day:

  • Set yourself daily targets; Use ‘to-do’ lists, post-it notes, diaries and timers to keep you on track. Check of items once you complete them.

Deal with procrastination

Remove distractions
It is easy to put-off doing academic work when the things that usually distract us are close to hand. Identify the things that distract you, and turn them into motivators by saving them for a reward at the end of the day/when work is completed. Social media can be temporarily put ‘beyond reach’ with the use of ‘black-out’ apps. 

Dealing with distractions is especially important if you have ADHD with an impulsive element. The distraction need only be marginally more interesting for it to be chosen over academic work.

According to the experts, believing that we will be unable to produce work to the required standard is a key predictor of procrastination.  If perfectionism is an issue, try to focus on the process rather than the final product.  Try perfecting several, successive drafts, rather than trying to write one perfectly polished final draft. Also, you could try changing your definition of perfection to ‘the best piece of writing you could do given constraints of time and resource’.

External locus of control
Students who believe that they are not in control of their grades/learning-outcomes, or  tend to see themselves as ‘victims’, are less likely to take control of their studies and to seek help. Begin to take control by setting yourself small goals and targets and making the most of available sources of support.

Overconfidence is less common than under-confidence, however, it can back-fire, resulting in missed deadlines or under achievement because we think the task is too easy, or that we don’t need to get started as we have ages.  If a task is easy, why not get it out of the way so that we can focus on more challenging work.

Trying to do too many things at once
Simultaneously writing, planning and researching an assignment, can make a challenging task feel impossible. Separate these aspects, tackling the writing process as a series of discrete steps.

Disorganisation makes it harder to see what needs to be done.  Making plans will enable you to see a way forward. 

Needing to feel ‘in the mood’
You do not need to ‘feel in the mood’ in order to get on with your work. Treat your study times as you would a job of work. Simply turn up at an agreed time and make a start. You can still produce good work, even if you do not feel especially inspired by the task.

Our guides and videos on getting organised