Research: How to Support 2e College Students

Many students with learning disabilities never graduate college, but little research has examined whether gifted students with learning disabilities show similar struggles. Are twice-exceptional (2e) students likely to excel in college like their gifted peers? Or are they at risk of academic failure and dropout, given the organizational and academic demands of higher education?

Most research on gifted college students has not considered twice-exceptionality, but over the last four years, researchers from the University of Tennessee and their colleagues have used a unique research method to learn about college students who may be 2e. Using official college records, these researchers identified students who performed very highly on one section of a college entrance exam and scored significantly lower on another section, which suggests they may have a learning difference in the area with the lower score.

For a study published earlier this year in Innovative Higher Education, for example, Virginia McClurg and colleagues selected students who earned an ACT or SAT math or reading score in the top 6% but had an unusually large discrepancy between their math and reading scores. These criteria identified 6% of 32,000 students in the sample as potentially 2e. In a 2017 study published in The School Psychologist, Dr. Elizabeth Hays and colleagues used a similar method and found that potentially 2e students had a difference of 12 or more points between their ACT math and reading scores, much greater than the average difference of four points. Clearly, these potentially 2e students entered college with both a clear talent and a notable weakness.

How does this large discrepancy between math and reading ability affect 2e stude...


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About Danika Maddocks

Danika Maddocks earned her Ph.D. in school psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to her doctoral studies, Danika taught elementary and middle school and trained other educators. She researches giftedness, twice-exceptionality, intelligence, assessment, and the role of motivation and emotion in teaching and learning. Danika provides therapy and consultation services in private practice; learn more about her research and private practice at You can also sign up for her mailing list.