Helping Dyslexic & ADHD
License Candidates

License candidates with Dyslexia/ADHD often repeatedly fail license exams even after weeks of study.  Because of the embarrassment of repeated exam failures, candidates sometimes travel to out-of-area exam sessions where they are not known to take their exams.  Without help, many of these candidates become so frustrated they give up and never obtain their licenses.  The sad thing is that in many cases, with proper help, they can pass their license exams.  Candidates who suffer from Dyslexia/ADHD or some other cognitive disorder may be too embarrassed to ask for help.  It’s up to us as Instructors, Mentors, and Elmers to recognize potential cognitive disorder situations and try to provide assistance.


What is Dyslexia?  In simple terms, Dyslexia is a  common condition that affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language.  Estimates indicate that around 17% of the U. S. population suffers from some degree of Dyslexia.  Dyslexia cannot be cured and is a life-long condition.  Dyslexic candidates may have trouble filling out exam paperwork and sometimes leave one or more answers unmarked on exam answer sheets. In some cases, they know the correct answers but mark the wrong columns on answer sheets.  The good news is that with the right kind of help, many Dyslexic candidates can pass their license exams.


What is ADHD?  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity.  Problems with attention include making careless mistakes, failing to complete tasks, difficulty staying organized and keeping track of things, becoming easily distracted, etc. Problems with hyperactivity can include excessive fidgetiness and squirminess.   Impulsivity can show up as impatience, difficulty awaiting one’s turn, blurting out answers, and frequent interrupting.  Constant drumming of fingers on a table while taking an exam or waiting for an exam to be graded is a possible sign of ADHD.  Studies indicate that around 4% of the adult U. S. population suffers from some degree of ADHD.  The percentage of younger Americans ages (4 – 17) suffering from ADHD is considerably higher (~11%).  Current medications cannot cure ADHD but can help mitigate symptoms as long as taken as prescribed.  Once again the good news is that with the right kind of help, many candidates suffering from ADHD can pass their license exams.


There are a number of other types of cognitive disorders (Aspergers, brain trauma, stroke, viral infections, tumors, etc.) that may negatively impact license candidates.  Depending upon the severity of the disorder, a license candidate may still be able to be helped.  In general, the same approaches that help Dyslexic/ADHD candidates can be used to help candidates with other types of cognitive disorders.


Over the past three years, I’ve successfully helped a number of license candidates suffering from Dyslexia/ADHD and other cognitive disorders pass their license exams.  In most cases I’ve been contacted by candidates directly. In a few cases,  I’ve been contacted by a VE Team Leader or someone close to the candidate.  The important point is that someone has to recognize the problem and take steps to provide help.  VE Team Leaders – if you notice that a candidate repeatedly fails exams, talk with the candidate in a relaxed environment and try to get a handle on what is causing the problem.  The problem could be just lack of study, poor study habits, or even uncorrected vision.  However, the problem could be Dyslexia/ADHD or some other cognitive disorder and that will require a special approach to providing the needed help.


1.  If a candidate repeatedly fails a license exam after studying for it, check the missed answers on the answer sheet for a pattern such as one column to the left or one column to the right of the correct answer column.  Many Dyslexic/ADHD candidates have trouble filling out exam paperwork (dysgraphia) and with spatial placement such as putting answers in the correct columns.  One possible solution for a spatial placement problem is to read the questions and answer choices to the candidate, as would be done for a blind candidate,  and have a VE record the candidate’s answer choices on the answer sheet.

2.  Keep a near vision chart in your materials box.  The chart is designed to be read at a distance of about 16″.  A surprising number of candidates don’t realize they need glasses or should have a different prescription for their glasses.


The approach I use is to first obtain the candidate’s permission to allow me to help.  Then I conduct an extensive interview (usually by telephone)to gather as much information as possible about the candidate.  One of the things I do during the interview is ask the candidate to read several questions and associated answer choices from the target license exam question pool. Dyslexic candidates often get the words in a sentence tangled up.


After analyzing the interview information, I assign candidates a structured license exam self-study program.  Having a structured approach and a timeline are two key elements in helping Dyslexic/ADHD candidates prepare for their license exams.  Over the past three years, I have developed software that enables me to identify and accumulate question numbers causing candidates the most trouble.  I can then focus candidates on those questions until they are able to correctly answer them. Once the problem question numbers have been identified, enhanced explanations can be devised that help candidates master the concepts involved. I have a special software facility that displays the problem questions using keyword highlighting and a special font designed to help candidates afflicted with Dsylexic/ADHD better comprehend what they read.  Repetition is another key to mastering the problem questions that have been identified.


In some situations, audio study helps Dyslexic/ADHD candidates. I created MP3 audio files organized by subelement for each question pool. Candidates can listen to the subelement questions and correct answers online.

online audio subelement files

NOTE: (MP3 browser support required)

HELP TIP:  If a Dyslexic/ADHD candidate that you are helping fails a test or sample exam, have the candidate immediately retake it. You read the questions, associated answer choices, and record the candidate’s answer choices.  This step can be performed by telephone. If the candidate passes the test or attains a noticeably higher score, the use of audio should be considered.


Providing positive reinforcement and timely progress updates are key elements in helping Dyslexic/ADHD candidates prepare for their license exams.   Table-1 illustrates a simple way to keep candidates apprised of their progress and what is still ahead of them.  The green indicates successful completion with scores of 85 or higher.  The dark pink indicates a problem topic or subelement requiring more work. Yellow means marginal success (passing score < 85). It may be necessary to accept marginal success if the candidate cannot score 85 or higher on the topic/subelement tests.  Topics and subelements that are not highlighted are yet to be covered.  Topics are completed in sequence and then a subelement test is taken. Topics and subelements are not marked completed in green until test scores of 85 or higher are achieved. The objective is for the candidate to pass (3) consecutive sample license exams with scores of 85 or higher before taking the actual license exam.



To see the special question display that uses keyword highlighting and a special font to help Dyslexic/ADHD candidates better comprehend what they read, click the link below.  Select a license (Technician, General, Extra), enter a subelement or topic for the selected license, and click all answer choices.  There is an option to display just the correct answers.

This is an example of a special question display facility.
It should NOT be used to study for a license exam.
Contact NC4FB for information on setting up a special question display facility.

special question display facility

To see a example of the special question test facility that concentrates on problem questions, click the link below.  Click the review button to review the questions.  Hover over the answer choices to see the correct answer highlighted.  To view a sample special test, click the test button.  The special question test facility provides a capability to focus candidates on the identified problem questions.  Arrangements can be made for the special question test facility to be made available for registered candidates.

This is an example of a special test facility.
It should NOT be used to study for a license exam.
Contact NC4FB for information on setting up a special test facility.

special test facility


To see an example of a structured license exam self-study program, click the link below. The sample is a General license self-study program. Copies of candidate test and sample exam results are automatically Emailed for analysis.

This is an example of a special question display facility.
It should NOT be used to study for a license exam.
Contact NC4FB for information on setting up a structured license exam self-study program.

structured general license exam self-study program


If you need assistance helping a candidate with a cognitive disorder prepare for a license exam, contact me.

3 Responses to “Helping Dyslexic & ADHD
License Candidates”

  • As an ADHD Ham, I want to say thank you for thinking of those of us who have differently wired brains, and working to welcome us in the Ham community.

    It means a lot.

  • I wondered about this myself. In the schools, there are testing accommodations for all sorts of things, none of which give any student an unfair advantage, or “take away” any of the challenge of the exam. Thank you for this article!

  • Sirs,

    I have forward this article to my wife, she work with children who has this probloems

    best regards / SM5LTG

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