Doctors from overseas are missing out on dyslexia screening, researchers find

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  16 Jan 2018

Doctors from outside the UK are not being screened for dyslexia before they sit UK exams, researchers have found.[1]

Research published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal looked at pass rates for the applied knowledge test (AKT)—a computer based component of the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners examination.

It showed that, while dyslexia was not associated with pass rates, doctors who failed the exam and then declared that they had dyslexia the next time they sat it were more likely to have qualified outside the UK.

The researchers said that this may be because candidates from overseas were not diagnosed while they were at school or university “because of a lack of testing for dyslexia at an earlier stage in their education overseas.”

Of the 14 801 doctors who sat the AKT between 2010 and 2015, 379 (3%) had dyslexia. Of the doctors who had dyslexia, 239 (63%) declared that they had the condition before sitting the exam for the first time, while 140 (37%) declared the condition after failing the exam at least once.

Candidates can declare they have dyslexia at any point, either before entering their first AKT or before another attempt.

The study showed that of the 140 doctors who declared they had dyslexia after failing the exam, 86 (61%) qualified outside the UK.

Overall, the study found that, after adjusting for other factors linked to exam success, dyslexia was not related to lower pass rates in the AKT.

However, the researchers said that there were several limitations to their study. There was missing data on what stage of training candidates were in, the researchers said. They also did not include information on the severity of candidates’ dyslexia, any additional disabilities, or the details of any individual reasonable test adjustments that were made in their analysis because these data were not available.

“The study was limited to a single knowledge test format in general practice in one developed country so our results may not be generalised to knowledge tests in other specialties or other countries,” the researchers added.


  1. Asghar A, Siriwardena AN, Elfes C, et al. Performance of candidates disclosing dyslexia with other candidates in a UK medical licensing examination: cross-sectional study. 2018. [Link] .

Abi Rimmer The BMJ

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