Online assessment and dyslexia. What should you take into account?

More and more often, during a selection procedure, candidates indicate that they are dyslexic. Can this be taken into account during an online assessment? And if so, how? Below are a few options and tips.

Definition of dyslexia

People with dyslexia have great difficulty in automating skills, especially skills related to language, such as reading and writing. This makes it difficult for them to do two things simultaneously, such as reading a text and comprehending it. This requires more attention, and therefore more time.

On the other hand, people with dyslexia have often developed creative strategies to cope with these limitations. They are generally strong in visual skills, three-dimensional thinking, and organisational tasks.
Dyslexia is separate from intelligence and it certainly does not mean that a person with dyslexia has a below average intelligence. Dyslexia comes in different types and gradations. It is not only important that a candidate doing an online assessment mentions beforehand that he or she is dyslexic, but also the particular way in which this dyslexia manifests itself. This gives you the opportunity to take this into account when choosing the tests. It is also important to know that a candidate is dyslexic for interpreting the results of the tests.

Online assessment

Most online assessments comprise of several different tests. In most cases, they consist of a personality measurement, a motivations test and/or one or more capacity tests.

Personality measurement and motivations test
A personality measurement or a motivations test is not timed. This means that a participant can take his or her time to read through the questions carefully and decide upon an answer. The effect of dyslexia on the test results are therefore insignificant. In addition, it is often possible to adjust the size of the image(s) or the font, making it easier for people with dyslexia to do the test.

Capacity tests
Most capacity tests are subject to a time limit. This is a limiting factor for people with dyslexia. They often need more time to read the questions, so that they are able to understand the assignment. This can mean that a candidate with dyslexia scores lower on some aspects of the test.

The Complete Intelligence Test (VIT) of HFMtalentindex consists of four parts and has a time limit of 30 minutes.

Logical reasoning ability (syllogisms)
Although these questions are not about the content of the sentences (they are often deliberately nonsensical), people with dyslexia can be more easily distracted by them. It will also cost them more time to read and understand the sentences. It is therefore probable that they will score lower on this component of the test than participants without dyslexia.

Verbal aptitude (analogies)
Although these questions are shorter and therefore require less reading than the logical reasoning ability component, participants with dyslexia may still require more time to read and understand the questions.

Numerical reasoning ability (number series) 
Dyslexia does not mean that someone is also less capable of reading numbers. Therefore no lower score is expected on this component for participants with dyslexia. The combination of dyslexia and dyscalculia are rare.

Mathematical aptitude (math problems)
The same applies here; no textual information needs to be decoded,
so no lower scores are to be expected.

Ellen Lammers, organisational psychologist at HFMtalentindex: ‘We recommend using the Special Intelligence Tests (SIT) for participants with dyslexia (possibly supported with a dyslexia statement), in which the different components can be made one at a time. You could, for example, choose to only use a few components. Moreover, the candidate can decide the order of the tests and, for example, do the test that he or she is least unsure about first.’

The Specific Intelligence Tests (SIT) makes it possible to include an abstract reasoning test. This test consists of figure series, in which the participant should recognise the consistency between figures and select the next figure in the series. Because there is no textual information in this test, the test is perfectly suitable for people with dyslexia. The abstract reasoning test is also very suitable for people with a language disadvantage.

Interpreting the results

With a low score on logical reasoning ability and/or verbal aptitude, verify if the participant has the required qualifications or relevant work experience for the position in question. If this is the case, and any other test results have named the participant a suitable candidate, it might be worthwhile to ask the participants what strategies he/she commonly uses to compensate for his/her limited language skills. Check whether these strategies can be applied in the position the participant is applying for.

The most important thing to keep in mind about participants with dyslexia, is that you can only make allowances for matters in the selection procedure, that you can also make allowances for in the daily practice of the position. When the position asks for a person who can quickly and accurately handle textual information, and there is no room for extra time or compensational strategies, then a participant with dyslexia is simply less suitable than a person without dyslexia.


Dyscalculia literally means ‘unable to calculate’. Just as dyslexia, it is in fact another term for serious and persistent problems in learning certain skills. Dyscalculia involves serious and persistent problems in understanding the basics of arithmetic, such as fractures, value of the numbers, and relationships between numbers. Dyscalculia also involves problems with numerical understanding: mental arithmetic and estimating. In addition, people with dyscalculia often have difficulty with spatial orientation and spatial awareness.

Dyscalculia and Online Assessments

Generally speaking, the same applies for candidates with dyscalculia as for dyslexic candidates. Candidates with dyscalculia will sometimes need more time in the tests. The personality measurement and motivations test are purely textual. Candidates with dyscalculia will have no trouble with these.
In the capacity tests you can expect candidates with dyscalculia to score lower on the components numerical reasoning and mathematical aptitude. If these skills are barely or if at all needed for the position, you can choose only to use the Special Intelligence Tests, specifically using the logical reasoning ability, abstract reasoning, and verbal aptitude components of the test.

Share experiences

Little is known about people with dyslexia or dyscalculia and online assessments. If you have experience of this, either as a selector or as a candidate, please let us know. Send an email to

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