By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
One-size-fits-all study tips don’t work for students with ADHD. This article offers ADHD study strategies, tips, and tricks that are designed with the unique ADHD brain in mind.
ADHD Study Tips – What Works
Although the following study strategies work for more students with ADHD, you will have to experiment for yourself. Try one or two tips at a time, then evaluate how well they work. Remember that studying is supposed to be tough. If things get tough, that doesn’t mean study counseling isn’t working. It just means you’re doing it right.
1. Start studying early
Urgency is a primary motivator. This is why many people with ADHD procrastinate. But people with ADHD can also quickly become overwhelmed and suffer from ADHD paralysis, which is the inability to act, even in the face of urgency. To avoid ADHD paralysis, start studying for tests at least five days before an exam. It also gives you time to use spaced repetitionwhich is one of the most important study tips EVER – not just for people with ADHD.
2. Create a study plan and study schedule
Structure is essential for students with ADHD. Create structure study plan like this which includes what you will study and when. Your study plan should also include time to gather materials, consolidate notes, and create a study guide.
3. Get Clarity
Lack of clarity causes anxiety. Before you study anything, you should know What you study. This includes knowing what is on the test. If you don’t know, ask your teacher or use your resources.
4. Study in groups
Studying in a group is a great study tip for ADHD. Studying in a group allows you to listen to others explain the material and allows you to test your own understanding by explaining your knowledge to others. Moreover, studying in a group is more active than studying alone, and asset studying is useful for people with ADHD. Important Note: Always schedule group study sessions after you have studied on your own for the first time. here are my top tips for group study.
5. Identify what you don’t know
If you have ADHD, you need to study smarter, not longer. This means that you should spend most of your time studying what you don’t to know. It sounds obvious, but many people waste time reviewing what they already know in order to get a false sense of confidence. Do not do that. Start by quickly going through your material to separate what you already know from the rest. Then, devote all your study efforts to focusing on the hard stuff.
6. Study in short bursts
Keep study sessions between 25 and 50 minutes. The Pomodoro Technique offers a good study ratio for students with ADHD: 25 minutes of concentration, followed by 5 minutes of rest. Repeat.
7. Change your input sources
If you drift away during your studies, change your intake instead of stopping altogether. For example, if you lose concentration during a video, add the video’s subtitles to get the information in writing. If you stray from using Quizlet, switch to paper flashcards.
8. Study in the right environment
Our environment has a dramatic impact on our emotions and our ability to concentrate. If you have ADHD, you need to be very careful about your study space. Use noise canceling headphones to block out auditory distractions and use a chair that allows you to rock or swivel. Make sure your desk or table is big enough to move around papers, your device, and memory cards. Also consider these explore space ideas for kinesthetic learners.
9. Surf your waves of energy
Many people with ADHD have atypical sleep and energy patterns. While it is critical that you’re getting enough, good quality sleep (or none of these ADHD study tips will do you any good!), try scheduling study sessions during higher energy cycles. If you get a burst of good energy at 10:30 p.m., study for 30-45 minutes.
10. Time your medications
First, I am not a doctor. Now that that’s over, if you’re currently taking medication to manage your ADHD, consider timing your medication to match your study sessions. The more you can concentrate while you study, the more information you will absorb.
11. Use kinesthetic study methods
Many students with ADHD are kinesthetic learners. This means that you learn in Do. You can find all my study tips for kinesthetic learners here. But in general, this means using the following study strategies and ideas:
- Homemade flashcards, especially the 3 piles method
- Whiteboards: draw diagrams, write and rewrite concepts, etc.
- Timelines: Create timelines of book plots or historical periods
- Make additional problem sets and practice questions
Study tips for ADHD – what NOT to do
There are many “study” methods that don’t work at all, whether you have ADHD or not. Avoid the following at all costs:
- Shoot sleepless nights
- Study for more than 60 minutes without a break
- Start your first study session the day before your exam
- Revise your notes and proofread the material as your primary study method. You must use active callback.
- Trying to memorize rather than learn (here is the difference)
- Over-reliance on caffeine and energy drinks
- Assuming you know the material when you haven’t actually tested yourself during your study sessions using active recall. Still: You MUST use the active callback.