DC with slow processing speed: realistic to think about Oxbridge?

(24 Posts)
slowprocessing Fri 25-Oct-19 00:26:57

My DD has dyslexia. Slow processing speed and other things. Her maths and science results are very good but her writing lets her down. Hence she had mixed results at GCSE (maths and sciences top grades, a mixture for the others). But she's doing really well in year 12 so far and her internal school exams have lead to her being predicted 4 A* grades. One of her friends is already talking about applying to Oxford and that has got her thinking too. Shes thinking maybe maths at one of them. I'm just wondering if that's realistic. She spends a long time over her homework, longer than her friends I think. She does get 25% extra time in exams but would that happen at any uni, including Oxbridge? Would she be left behind with the coursework? Even assuming she'd be in with a chance of getting in. I dont want to discourage her but i dont want her to be unrealistic either.

Does anyone else have a DC at uni with this issue?

Thanks for reading x

OP’s posts: |
MissingCoffeeandWine Fri 25-Oct-19 01:01:43

Hi Op,

I can’t answer about Oxbridge - as I studied my undergrad in Ireland. However, I am dyslexic, with particular difficulties with processing speed. I received very mixed grades in school - some outstanding, others “not meeting potential” despite working significantly harder than many of my peers.

Yet at uni, I found my pace. Studying a subject I loved, meant I received first class honors in my undergrad, postgraduate degrees and in my doctorate.

For all of these, I received extra time for written exams and (within reason) a spelling and grammar “waver” - including in ‘high ranking’ London Universities (this tended to mean detailed feedback on common/reoccurring mistakes and less severe penalties for word substitutions. Rather than grade point accommodations but was helpful!). I did have to resupply up-to-date educational psychology reports, but the systems did exist to support me.

The entrance policies should be clear in outlining how your daughters dyslexia would impact on her application. I know it’s early days but perhaps she could find it reassuring to contact them and ask :- www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/guidance-disabled-applicants#

LIZS Fri 25-Oct-19 08:36:11

What does she plan to study? Extended deadlines, extra time in exams, laptop use , software, mentoring are all adjustments which could be recommended as part of a DSA assessment and Student Support at any U.K uni including Oxbridge. Does she have a post 16 assessment of her Spld?

Witchend Fri 25-Oct-19 09:18:20

She would get support at Oxford, but Oxford does look at GCSE grades for entry, so if she's a mixed bag then she might be more realistic to look at Cambridge.

GrumpyHoonMain Fri 25-Oct-19 09:23:50

If her GCSEs are a mixed bag then she could consider St Andrews, Durham, LSE, MIT or Harvard too. The latter two offer financial support for women and a lot of support for dyslexia.

Another alternative is

parietal Fri 25-Oct-19 09:25:48

if she is going for maths / science subject, then go for it. that seems like her strengths, and don't let the dyslexia hold her back.

minipie Fri 25-Oct-19 10:00:15

Oxford is very final exam based (hardly any coursework) so might not be the best choice for someone who struggles with speed - even given extra time in exams, it’s hard to shine in a very time pressured scenario. I would point her towards somewhere more coursework based.


Moominmammacat Fri 25-Oct-19 11:00:05

Cambridge bent over backwards to help one of my DC who was, on the surface, up to it, but had so many physical issues, in particular with writing, that it just wasn't going to work. He went elsewhere with a much more practical bias and did well.

summerflower2 Fri 25-Oct-19 13:04:05

Maybe you can suggest your DD to find some past paper for Oxford MAT test, have a go, compare the score with the past boundary, so she knows if it is difficult.

slowprocessing Fri 25-Oct-19 14:46:32

Thank you very much. I will discuss this more with DD. x

OP’s posts: |
SarahAndQuack Fri 25-Oct-19 20:36:30

She would get reasonable adjustments from any UK university if she has a DSA. Extra time in exams would be quite an easy, therefore quite a routine, adjustment. IME, support for other things can be patchy and often depends on the individual department (at any university, not just Oxbridge).

I know my brother, who has some dyslexic-type issues, found his Cambridge maths degree was not ideal for someone like him (he found there was too high a time pressure and too much focus on memory, during an exam-heavy course). This was years ago, though, and he did come out with a good first, so it wasn't insurmountable.

I do think processing speed is a really tricky one. Oxbridge just is quite intense, because of the 8 week terms and tendency to focus on exams. But, it's not at all impossible to find ways round, and if she likes the courses there, she should definitely apply.

I'm not maths/science based at all, but I have both studied and taught at Oxbridge, and I have an exceptionally low processing speed (am dyslexic). I managed and I worked with students who also managed.

chitchattery Fri 25-Oct-19 23:08:39

My DD is dyslexic. She had a mixed bag of GCSE’s with top grades in sciences and maths and B’s in languages. She is in her third year at Cambridge doing phys NatSci. She is specialising in materials science so not maths but heavily physics/chemistry based. She has found it intense but is coping well. She gets 25% extra time in exams based on ed psych report but hasn’t taken up any other help that has been offered. So yes it is worth considering oxbridge with slow processing speeds!! She has no regrets at all although she thinks it might have been less pressurised elsewhere.

CostcoFan Sat 26-Oct-19 11:45:10

I know one of my ds has a friend just started at Oxford who has slow processing (although I’m not sure what for, I just know he got 25% extra for A level exams). His is a social science subject. He did have very good GCSEs across all subjects so different to your dd in that respect.

SimonJT Sat 26-Oct-19 11:49:19

I studied at Cambridge, no dyslexia etc here but English isn’t my first language. I received a great deal of support due to this, including additional time to complete assignments and exams. I also had access to a note taker as writing/typing what someone is saying in English is really difficult for me.

thereinmadnesslies Sat 26-Oct-19 11:58:02

I work at Cambridge. There is lots of support available coordinated by the Disability Resource Centre. Extra time is granted for SpLDs, but I think students are encouraged to have a recent assessment report not one from when they were 8. Colleges make the request for exam arrangements so if you are looking at Colleges it would be worth asking about their experience in this area, some are more focused on this than others.

chitchattery Sat 26-Oct-19 13:20:18

Yes thereinmadness. My DD was re-assessed after A levels and before going up to Cambridge as her previous report would not have been sufficiently current. As you say the colleges can be very supportive in providing information and guidance to prospective students. My daughter discussed it at her college open day before applying.

OhYouBadBadKitten Sun 27-Oct-19 15:14:08

Cambridge maths is almost entirely exam assessed other than an optional computing element. The first year is assessed on four three hour exams and that's it. I'm happy to answer any questions from the perspective of a parent.

GHGN Tue 29-Oct-19 05:13:42

It is very early in year 12 so I wouldn’t pay much attention to the 4 A* prediction yet.

Also I don’t think doing a MAT paper will be realistic at the moment. Students can certainly do some parts of Q1 but the rest will scare them off actually. Unless your DD is doing Further Maths by doing the whole A Level in year 12 and is a very good mathematician.

Don’t forget that the tutorial system that they have at Oxbridge means that she will have to deal with the pressure of working fast regularly. It is doable. I have seen students accepted occasionally. None for STEM subject unfortunately.

Needmoresleep Tue 29-Oct-19 12:23:37

DD has very slow processing speeds and it was not until she was about 15 when we realised that she was also a natural scientist/mathematician, so up to studying medicine rather than sports physio or games teaching.

A level predictions were similar but non NT kids need to think carefully about:
1. How will they fare with admissions tests set by various Universities
2. What courses suit their learning strengths and weaknesses.

DD was lucky. It doesn’t really matter where you study medicine in that the qualification is the same. The school were very happy to support an Oxbridge application however she decided against, and is on quite a practical course elsewhere, with very few essays and lots of scope to learn through observation.

Getting in was more tricky. She had the grades but UKCAT is a lengthy timed test where extra time does not help because everyone is shattered by the end of normal time. Oddly BMAT (Oxbridge and a few others) might have suited her better as she had the science knowledge and understanding, but instead applied for courses who put more emphasis on grades, work experience or extra curricular.

I suspect it is not unusual to find dyslexic mathematicians and ones with a mixed bag of GCSEs. (Just about every physics teacher DD ever had claimed to be dyslexic. I assume STEM is easier for bright dyslexics.) Most really good mathematicians, both state and private, we knew had already been identified via Olympiads and Kangaroos etc and had been to maths camps where they would have received mentoring and encouragement. In London a lot switch at sixth form to schools offering strong double maths such as the Kings Maths School. Elsewhere I understand that schools often pool resources, so one local maths teacher is available to mentor gifted mathematicians in neighbouring schools.

Assuming she does not have access to that support, I would look closely at all the top maths departments (COWI: Cambridge, Oxford, Warwick and Imperial, though others like Durham are also strong) keeping in mind her preferences and learning style. My guess, say, is that there will be fewer essays at Imperial, but more need for self discipline and self starting. Ask admissions departments about GCSE requirements.

If Oxbridge is still her goal, and the college system will offer wider social experiences, she needs to look at MAT vs STEP. STEP seems to suit creative, problem solving, mathematicians but is tough. And is taken late so your place is not confirmed till the summer. (And lots of offer holders don’t make it.) MAT is taken earlier so if you get an offer you just need to meet that offer. However Oxford seem more likely to look at GCSEs.

If she then decides to take STEP, post again. There is a lot of online resource and some camps, which can get booked up early.

TheLovelyWoo Tue 29-Oct-19 18:39:16

Fantastic post @needsmoresleep

FriedasCarLoad Tue 29-Oct-19 18:48:27

Maths at Cambridge is widely regarded as the hardest undergraduate course in the country.

Oxbridge give excellent support once you’re there. But even keeping up with the pace of ideas being exchanged in seminars might be too much pressure.

SarahAndQuack Tue 29-Oct-19 19:21:47

Maths at Cambridge is widely regarded as the hardest undergraduate course in the country


By whom? Cambridge mathematicians?

OutwiththeOutCrowd Thu 31-Oct-19 16:10:43

Recently, I came across an interview with Prof. John Ball, an Oxford mathematician. He mentioned that he was a slow thinker and that he was never dismissive of students who were slow, recognising that other skills come into play when engaged in mathematical research.


(38:40ish onwards.)

Roger Penrose, one time Cambridge research student and emeritus professor at Oxford, has also spoken about being slow at maths and not being good at rote learning.


(57:40ish onwards)

Penrose’s most famous co-worker, Stephen Hawking, considered himself to be dyslexic.

Of course, we live in more competitive times now but, given the illustrious alumni who are out and proud about being slow or dyslexic, it would seem very unfortunate if Oxford and Cambridge did not cater for slow, deep thinkers these days.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Thu 31-Oct-19 16:13:46

Second interview with Roger Penrose, sorry:

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