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Diagnostic assessments for specific learning difficulties

A diagnostic assessment is necessary if you wish to apply for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) or to request certain services from the OU.

It’s also valuable to help you

  • make sense of your past learning experience and plan for successful study
  • explain to others about your specific learning difficulty
  • highlight your particular strengths
  • provide a source of reference at your workplace.

Funding assessments

DSA funds can't be used to fund a diagnostic assessment but discretionary OU or government funding may be available to students who meet the financial and residency criteria. Find out more about support for diagnostic assessments or check with an adviser in your student support team.

If you already have a report from a previous assessment, please ask your student support team whether it’s acceptable or whether you need a new one.

Finding an assessor

It's your responsibility to find a qualified assessor and check that they're able to assess for a range of specific learning difficulties.

What a diagnostic assessment involves

A full diagnostic assessment is carried out by an educational psychologist or a specialist teacher with a practising certificate. It can take up to three hours and

  • examines your learning history
  • profiles your working memory
  • identifies your current strengths and weaknesses.

You may find it useful to provide your assessor with the OU’s Guidelines for assessors (DOC, 63 KB). You could send this document over before the assessment or print it off and take it with you.

Understanding your report

The author of your report usually offers to talk through your assessment with you. Your support team can refer you to an adviser who will discuss the implications of the report for your studies.

A tale of two assessments

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[Text on screen] Alex has had two full assessments for his dyslexia, one at school and one at the OU. He contrasts his experiences with both

Alex: The two tests, although very similar tests as far as testing my written speed, my problem solving, my memory, and the various tests that went on to determine whether I had a specific learning difficulty, or my dyslexia, were very similar, my impression from both of them were very different.

As a child, or as a school-age child, I found the assessment more destructive. It broke down more of my confidence than it actually helped because I had 14 pages of telling people what I can't do.

In 2008, when I had the Open University's assessment, it was much more about empowering me and giving me the power to be able to access the support I need to be able to reach my full potential. And so, I found it a much more empowering experience than I did the first time around.

And I was able to… although I had the same 14 pages telling me I couldn't do things, it was about the Open University were asking me the question, "Well, what support can we give you so you can get these skills up to scratch, or we can overcome these barriers for you that's going to stop you from studying with us?"

And that question, although very subtle, made the world of difference to me, so I really enjoyed the whole experience from the Open University side, although the two reports were very similar to one another.

Last updated 2 months ago