Taking The GMAT With A Learning Disability

Today I want to talk about what can be a rather sensitive topic and that is if you have a learning disability, diagnosed or undiagnosed, how that interacts with the GMAT and test preparation. At the outset let me say that this video doesn’t apply to most of you who are watching but if you are previously diagnosed or you think you may have something that’s gone undiagnosed this could be a useful video. I should also begin by saying that we are not mental health professionals here. We are not PhDs in psychiatry or psychology. Everything here is talking about our experiences working with people with learning disabilities and also how we refer people out.

1 in 50 Clients Have a Disability

Very infrequently, maybe 1 in 40, 1 in 50 clients that we see ends up having an undiagnosed learning disability. Typically, we see this somewhere early in the engagement. Where something just seems a little off and we’ll refer them out. We have psychiatrists that we work with in New York and London because we see a lot of clients there. In these cases we’ll often refer people out for an assessment and quite frequently it comes back where they’re 25, 30, 35, and are just discovering that they have some sort of different ability when it comes to learning. This can be surprising but also explain a lot of things for people. Overall, though, we have a lot of experience working with people with many of the major learning disabilities.

Especially those who come to us at the outset and say I was diagnosed at 14 with ADD, ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyslexia, some executive function issues, memory span is one that we see sometimes that comes up. We’re very familiar with helping people who are differently abled in the way they learn achieve great success. I think this brings us to an important point about what it means to be somewhat neuro-atypical. Which is that it’s not just like a light switch or even spectrum where it’s either on or off but intelligence and ability are tied in with many, many, tens, if not hundreds of different facets inside the brain and a lot of times when people encounter resistance, difficulty in learning, or difficulty with a particular subject or type of information, it’s one particular setting where all their other settings are normal or great.

What Having A Disability Actually Means

And yet that one setting not only can serve to really throw them off and throw off their ability to learn in traditional environments but also, unfortunately, can set the tone for underperformance and underachievement if it’s not caught early enough. There’s a big feedback effect if you didn’t get something in first grade. Or as clearly as your peers. Then second grade you’re a little further behind or a little further discouraged and so on and so forth.

We see this certainly with people on the mathematical side, where they have a disability but also with people who just for whatever reason didn’t excel. They weren’t getting a lot of sleep. Their parents were going through a divorce when they were in third grade and they missed a couple of critical weeks on multiplication. And all of a sudden that snowballed to: “I’m really bad at math.” “I’m really just not that good at this.”

And this can apply to any section of the exam. It can also apply to things well outside psychometric exams. But you should be sensitive to this in yourself and understand that a lot of times when you say “I’m just not good at that” what it might mean is that you got set on a bad course or there’s something impeding your progress. These things are almost always solvable.

Mentorship Is Vital To Progression & Success

And to bring us back to the GMAT in particular and psychometric testing with respect to learning disabilities. To be sure extra time is something that comes up a lot. And if you qualify, extra time can be very useful for certain particular diagnoses. Also there are a lot of skills one can build to compensate for other relative shortcomings or places where you’re not processing as well as those around you. This is where having the assistance from someone outside, of course, a good psychiatrist who specializes in differently-abled people at a neurological level, but also for mentorship through any learning process.

So this really isn’t just about GMAT or test preparation but any learning process can benefit from having someone who’s familiar with your diagnosis, familiar more generally with working with people under a whole range of learning styles and having that cognitive empathy to not talk down but explore with you and having someone most of all who can see the things that you’re not seeing because you’re so tied up either in the task at hand or just as often in the emotions and anxiety surrounding the task at hand because diagnosed or undiagnosed or just insecure.

Put Yourself In The Right Head Space

You’re often working against the emotions of feeling that it’s just not coming, rather than the shortcomings themselves. And this is a key point for anyone who’s learning anything. A lot of it is an emotional and a head space issue. If you put yourself in the right head space a lot of these obstacles don’t exactly fall away but they become surmountable. So if you guys have any questions and particularly if you have a diagnosed disability or think you do and need a referral to a great learning psychologist or psychiatrist or want to discuss your prep give us a ring at the website or the number below. We’re very happy to speak with you and send you in the right direction. I hope this is helpful for you guys out there post your questions below and I’ll look forward to seeing you next time.


If you enjoyed this learning disability video, get familiar with the GMAT exam next.

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