Studying can be challenging for most students. However, for students who have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), studying for exams can be even more challenging. Daley and Birchwood (2010) discuss that academic impairments arise because of the ADHD symptoms and underlying cognitive deficits. Having ADHD does not mean that a student has below average intelligence and that they will fail exams. When a student underperforms in exams, usually this is a result of the difficulties that they encounter e.g. being distracted by stimuli in the environment and not focusing on the task at hand. The following are a few strategies which can help a person who has ADHD to study and to increase academic success.
Organisation – Being organised will help you to avoid forgetting important information. The use of checklists and a calendar can assist you in remembering deadlines. Making a to do-list and prioritising tasks on the list is important not to feel overwhelmed. It is important to plan, do not leave studying till the last minute but start weeks ahead.
Learning – When trying to learn information, find the best way which helps you to learn e.g. taking notes, outlining the most crucial information by highlighting, making lists or diagrams, recording yourself etc. Study the same set of notes more than once so that through rehearsal you can retain the information better.
Physical health – Take care of your physical health, this is very important. Eat healthy food, exercise at least three times a week and sleep well, between seven to nine hours. Having a consistent sleep schedule and routine can be helpful.
Motivation – Feeling motivated to study can be quite a challenge thus, finding ways to reward yourself is key. Ask yourself “what motivates me?” Plan your studying time around these rewards e.g. saying that you will study for an hour and then watch an episode from your favourite programme or meet up with a friend towards the end of the day.
Movement breaks – Break down the time you spend studying into smaller chunks and in between, have short movement breaks. Move around the house or listen to some music. Do not take too long during movements breaks as you can easily become unmotivated to continue your study session.
Environment – Choose to work in an environment which is the least distractive. Appropriate lighting will ensure that you are not sleepy so avoid studying in rooms which are too dim. Keep the desk clear to avoid fidgeting with the objects in front of you. If you find that having an object in your hand helps you to focus, choose one item and remove the rest. Removing devices such as phones, tablets, and switching off the wi-fi can also help you to remain focused.
Whilst the above are a few suggestions which can help you to study for exams, you need to find what works the best for you, as every individual is different. Speak to people at your school who can help you develop your studying skills e.g. guidance teachers. If you take medication for ADHD, do not forget to take it and to be consistent in taking it. You can also have exam accommodations such as being placed in a quiet room and having a prompter to support you in remaining focused.
Daley, D. & Birchwood, J. (2010). ADHD and academic performance: why does ADHD impact on academic performance and what can be done to support ADHD children in the classroom? Child: care, health and development, 36,(4), 455-64.
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.