Guidance Notes for Specific Learning Difficulties Assessors working with Imperial College Students

The following guidance for diagnostic assessments is based on discussion held within the Disability Advisory Service at Imperial College (2013). The aim is to enable Imperial College to provide a coordinated framework of support for students with specific learning difficulties.

Imperial College considers that the primary purpose of a diagnostic assessment report is to provide the student with a greater understanding of his/her profile of strengths and weaknesses and an opportunity to consider how this profile might impact upon academic study. The assessment report will be used to support the student to develop greater self-awareness and inform strategy development in managing key academic tasks whilst studying in a demanding and challenging academic environment. The diagnostic assessment can also be used to apply for extra time in examinations and for Disabled Students’ Allowances.

Please note that Imperial College

  • has two 11-week terms with one 9-week term,
  • will NOT automatically allow students extra time for coursework (including theses and dissertations) on the grounds that of a specific learning difficulty. This can be negotiated with the department on a case by case basis. 
  • Imperial College's examination, assessment, and mitigating circumstances process and procedures. 

In order to grant examination adjustments, the College's Registry require that:

  • a full diagnostic assessment has been carried out by a psychologist or a specialist teacher. The professional must be registered with the Health Professions Council, and/or hold a valid Assessment Practising Certificate.
  • the assessment has been conducted when the student was aged 16 years or over, using adult tests, and on an individual rather than a group basis. 
  • undergraduate and postgraduate students' reports should normally be no more than 10 years old at the date of entry to the College.
  • for specialist teachers, the assessment report closely follows the guidance of the SpLD Working Group 2005/ DfES report and its subsequent updates. This applies to the tests to be used, the format of the report and the detail of the content. 

With reference to test selection, we ask that teachers and psychologists administer assessments approved by UK national professional standards bodies, in line with the DfES Guidelines where appropriate.

Alongside appropriate questionnaires, measures should be obtained through testing in the following areas (as a minimum) for dyslexia:

  • Visual problem solving / reasoning
  • Verbal problem solving / reasoning
  • Phonological awareness
  • Auditory processing speed
  • Auditory short term memory
  • Auditory working memory
  • Coding / visual processing speed
  • Reading word accuracy
  • Spelling word accuracy
  • Reading comprehension
  • Reading speed
  • Writing speed / fluency

And in addition for dyspraxia / DCD:

  • Visual Motor Integration
  • Handwriting

And in addition for ASD:

  • Visual Memory for FACES (Applicable to nominated psychologists only)

Additional Guidelines

  • Please include some discussion of strategies that can be used for reading, note taking, planning, writing, proofreading and editing etc.
  • In general, the student should be strongly encouraged, in the text of the report, to book an appointment to discuss the findings with the Disability Advisory Service. 
  • In particular, students who have been identified as having AD(H)D type difficulties centred upon learning will have to be referred back to the health centre and a meeting with the DAS is a critical step in this process.
  • Regarding recommendations, the student should always be strongly encouraged to access all sources of support available to them and in particular the Disabled Students’ Allowances. If applicable, in the body of your report, please encourage your students to complete their DSA application as soon as possible. The Disability Advisory Service at College is happy to provide support and guidance with this process. 
  • Recommendations for examination adjustments should be clearly and explicitly stated, e.g. 25% extra time, use of a computer/word processor, rest breaks etc but please make your students aware that the final decision rests with College Registry. 
  • If a comparison between typing speed and writing speed is being used as the only criteria for the allocation of a computer/ word processor, please refer to Imperial College’s internal access arrangement notes. These outline acceptable rates of words per minute. Computers/ word processors can be allocated for other reasons such as legibility without reference to the criteria in these notes.
  • Occasionally, it may be necessary to consider the allocation of a reader. Please also refer to internal access arrangement notes in this case. 
  • A one-paragraph rationale to support your examination recommendations should be included, pointing to the precise evidence from your assessment which indicates the need for adjustments and sets out the impact the difficulties identified have on examination performance.
  • Assessors should state clearly the precise nature of the specific learning difficulty identified.

Thank you for following our guidelines and thereby enabling us to provide the most appropriate support, advice and guidance to students with SpLD at Imperial College.

Useful information can be found on the SpLD Assessment Standards Committee website on their SpLD Assessment page. This includes the diagnostic assessment report pro¬forma, the SpLD Working Party 2005 / DfES report (and its updates).