The image shows a cartoon character with pink hair and glasses, holding an open book. Above the character, the word "ADHD" is written in bold blue letters, and below, it reads "Study Tips" in the same style. The Instagram handle "@the_mini_adhd_coach" is at the bottom. This image appears to be a guide or advice on study tips for individuals with ADHD.

The Best ADHD Study Tips To Help You Pass Your Exams

Effective attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) study tips include using active learning techniques, incorporating short breaks, and using specialized techniques to reduce distractions during study sessions. Tailoring these methods helps with things like completing tasks on time, enhancing focus, improving retention of both short-term and long-term memory, and boosting overall academic performance. For students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, these tips are crucial in managing tasks and maintaining motivation, enabling more efficient learning and better exam results. Regular practice of mindfulness meditation and physical activity can also support sustained mental health and focus.

Published on
10/5/2024
Updated on
10/5/2024
estimated reading time
minutes

Written by

Tayler Hackett

TMAC Editorial Manager & Trainee Psychotherapist

Reviewed by

In this Article

Reviewed by

A word form our expert

10 ADHD Study Hacks To Ace Your End-of-Semester Exams

Feeling the exam crunch a bit more because of your ADHD? 🤔 You're not alone! End-of-year exams - whether at school, college or university - can ramp up the stress when exams are on the horizon and your ADHD traits kick into high gear.


In this article, we'll discuss:

  • How planning and revision can be challenging for your brain's unique wiring.

  • Why issues with concentration can dramatically impact your academic performance.

  • The challenge of meeting external expectations and how you can better manage what you 'should' do versus what you 'can' do.

  • How to use your need for movement and sensory input as powerful study tools.

  • The challenges of time blindness and offering ways to better manage your study time.

  • How mental and physical health issues can make studying more complicated for people with ADHD.

  • How to leverage your self-awareness of how your ADHD affects you to tweak your study habits in a way that doesn't feel overwhelming. 


Ready to change the game? Let's dive into these ADHD-friendly strategies that promise to boost not just your grades but also your confidence! 🚀

Exam season is rarely something that anyone looks forward to. 😬However, managing exams when you have ADHD can feel like there are a few more mountains to climb compared to your neurotypical peers. It can all feel a bit too much at times, and it's easy to get overwhelmed, often leading to burnout. 🤯

Text reads, "But some things can be especially difficult for ADHD brains." A character with pink hair looks puzzled, while the text above says, "Going to college is already a challenge in itself."

The thing is, ADHD can also allow you to flourish in exams if you understand how you work best and choose the right strategies for you in the run-up to the big day. 

First, let's dive into the unique challenges that ADHD brings to studying, revising, and exam-taking for students. Understanding these nuances is key. 👍Once we've got a sense of how our symptoms can make things more complicated for us, we can roll out strategies that mesh with our ADHD traits, helping us to stay focused, manage our study time effectively, and reduce distractions. This isn't just about working harder; it's about working smarter and creating good study habits that keep us motivated and on track. 💪

Executive Functioning

It can be frustrating to see or hear of neurotypical friends' seemingly easy route to planning their revision when your brain wants to zone out and ignore it all. 😵‍💫Those skills needed for revision can be hard to come by with a brain that struggles to do any of these things!

An illustration shows a pink-haired character, who appears disoriented, next to a person talking and a radio playing music. Text above says, "Zoning out means losing concentration on what's happening around you for a few moments."

Concentration

So you've got everything set up, and you just need to finish the work. Sounds so easy, right? Not so much with ADHD! 😬What you need to help you stay focused  is not going to be the same as your friends, your parents, or your teachers – it may not even be the same as you needed yesterday or will need tomorrow. 


Demand Avoidance

Does your brain slam the brakes whenever someone says what you should do? Yep, that's demand avoidance in action - a typical ADHD trait where direct commands make you want to run the other way and procrastinate. 🏃And here I am adding to the chorus, telling you what could help - sorry about that! 🙈 

The trick to overcoming demand avoidance is taking the wheel yourself. ADHD brains thrive on autonomy, and by choosing your own tasks and setting your own pace, you turn those overwhelming 'shoulds' into manageable 'coulds,' making it easier to navigate through your to-do list on your own terms.

Text says, "What ADHD procrastination can feel like..." A pink-haired character lies down, with speech bubbles surrounding her. One reads, "Do it!" and another states, "It feels like I can't even move... the more I wait, the worse it will be."

Hyperactivity


When you have ADHD, hyperactivity can make it challenging to sit still and concentrate, whether it's physical movements like wiggly feet and tapping or a mind that just won't quit racing. 😳This excess energy often doesn't mesh well with quiet, stationary revision sessions, leading you to seek out ways to burn off that energy, even if it's just mentally.

Text reads, "Having a hyperactive mind means that you can experience what we call racing thoughts very often." A pink-haired character labeled "Looking calm" has a thought bubble filled with various symbols and objects representing an "extremely busy mind."

Sensory Stimulation

What do you tend to do when study sessions get boring, or you start feeling tired - do you bite your lip, pick your skin, or tap your foot? 🤔

A character with a tie is depicted "playing with a pen." The text identifies this behavior with an arrow pointing to the character.

These are signs that your brain is seeking sensory stimulation (also known as stimming) to remain alert and attentive. It's not just about needing to move; it's about keeping your senses engaged to help maintain focus on the task at hand.

The image features the question, "What is stimming?" The response follows, "Stimming is a word used to refer to 'self-stimulating behaviors'." A smiling character with pink hair is drawn below.

Time Management

An illustration shows a character with pink hair looking concerned. A person with glasses and a pointer stands next to a board that reads "Due Date: September 1st." Text at the top says, "Deadlines can be quite challenging for ADHD brains..."

Between the executive function difficulties, time blindness, distractible brain and a deadline that may be weeks away (loads of time! 😂), managing time effectively for those with ADHD can be an annoying addition to the game of revision. People with ADHD tend to use a 'now' or 'not now' approach to getting stuff done, meaning thinking and planning ahead can be tricky due to our perception of time. ⏳

Text says, "As we tend to perceive time differently..." The illustration contrasts two timelines, one showing a tangled line from "Now" to "Deadline," and the other a straight line.

Physical and Mental Health

We hear it time and time again—sleep well, eat well and do things that make you happy. 🥱But we all know that with ADHD in the mix, that can be easier said than done. Medication may affect your sleep and appetite, leaving you drained and low in energy. Then there are the executive function skills needed to plan and cook a nutritious meal, the racing thoughts when trying to sleep, and the hyperfocus when doing something we're actually interested in. 

The illustration contains the phrase "It's quite common for people with ADHD to forget to eat." A pink-haired character says, "I feel a bit weak..." Another character asks, "Did you eat today?"

Okay, so, here’s the good news; understanding why study sessions can be tricky with ADHD means we can roll out strategies that actually make a difference. By being aware of how ADHD impacts our ability to stay focused, manage time, and process information, we can tweak our learning environment and techniques to help us learn and remember complex information more effectively. These strategies can be game-changers, helping students with ADHD flip the script on their studies and turn those tricky spots into chances for real success. 😎

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10 Effective Study Techniques for Students with ADHD

Here’s a few tips I’ve found super effective for studying with ADHD and supporting students struggling to complete tasks, stay focused, and feel motivated. 👇

1. Understand Your Unique Learning Style


Embrace your unique learning style – what works for others may not work for you, and that's perfectly fine. 💕Take pride in tailoring your revision methods to suit your needs, and reassure others that your approach is just as valid. Remember, there's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to study!

2. Call On Your Support Network


It can sometimes feel a little lonely trying to manage ADHD in a world of neurotypical advice. Find your people and work with them to fit your methods - a study buddy and body doubling techniques with an ADHD coach or friends who know how to help you stay focused can really help you to stay on track and boost study session productivity. You can also find many body double sessions online, too - some even have free sessions. Check in with other students and teachers to make sure you're on the right track, and tell parents about your plans so that they don't 'check in' and distract you but can support your time management. 😉

3. Be Kind to Yourself


We become what we tell ourselves. You are not lazy. You are not messy. You are not disinterested. You're working in a different way – and that's okay! 💕Keep yourself nourished, hydrated and rested whenever you can. 

The phrase "Self-diagnosed as 'lazy'" points to a sad character standing above a slumped figure lying on the ground.

4. Reap the Rewards


Okay, so I'm not suggesting you take yourself on a shopping trip or night out with the gang whenever you’ve spent time studying 😆, but small rewards will keep you motivated and your brain happy! 😁Turn rewards on their heads – who says you have to write notes for 2 hours before having a yummy treat? Eat that treat whilst you write. - just think of the sensory stimulation! 🤤Your brain will love you for it.

5. Set Yourself Up for Success


Put some time into planning now, and you'll make everything else much smoother later on without panicking at the last minute. Work backwards – start with your last exam to plan when to fit revision in. 🚶Resources and websites like getrevising.com can do this for you – input your exams and the time you want to spend reading or revising, and it creates a tailored plan, allowing you to focus on one task at a time and develop a structured process. If a timetable is too much for your demand avoidance, try a checklist of tasks instead. Same amount of work, but you have more control around when you get started/finished. Remember that, if you have an official diagnosis, you can also ask for reasonable adjustments such as extra time during a test, or extensions on certain deadlines - for example, many colleges offer an extra week for students with additional needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need and deserve in order to achieve your full potential - you’re not asking for special treatment, just accommodations. It’s best to ask for these in advance, rather than wait until the last minute, as this will be more stressful overall.

6. Keep It Chunky


Hyperfocus is excellent when you're taking an exam, and you have two hours to unleash your knowledge onto the paper and then relax once it's done. It's not so great when you've got plans to cover three different subjects in one afternoon. 😆So, it's important to 'chunk' time effectively – 20-30 minutes on each task with a little break is better for memory and processing than five hours of straight study. Even if you've got a longer task, e.g., a practice paper or an essay, take a break in the middle to check in with yourself. Do you need a toilet break? Something to eat? Haven't had water in 2 hours? Tend to your basic needs, have a breather, and come back to it - trust me, your body and brain will thank you for it.

7. Be Clear and Specific


When you plan revision sessions, don't just block out the time – plan the task. The ADHD brain is not a fan of ambiguity – it will not want to 'revise Biology' but it may be more inclined to 'complete 10 questions on diet and digestion'. An achievable target is more likely to help you avoid procrastination and get sucked into task paralysis, whilst also giving you a dopamine boost.

8. Stimulate Those Senses


Who says you have to sit at a desk with just paper, pen, or laptop?😉 Consider reading your notes in a comfy chair with a warm drink. Watch educational videos while lying on the floor or walking on a treadmill. How about chewing gum while you write an essay? Or using a fidget toy as you go over quotes or formulas? Remember, there’s always more than one way to tackle a task, and for brains that thrive on novelty like those of people with ADHD, it’s great to mix things up.

9. Avoid Distractions


Advice from neurotypicals on avoiding distractions often includes putting your phone out of sight, avoiding TV or music, turning off all noise, and working in silence .🙄 But for those of us with ADHD, this is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are apps designed to help with distractions, such as Flora – where you can grow a tree by not using your phone. 🌱It also helps to lean on your support network – let others know how long you plan to work, surround yourself with people for accountability, and check in with them once you're done to get that motivational boost.

10. Mask


I get it, masking isn't usually the way to go - we should all feel free to be ourselves, right? I totally agree. But have you thought about the upside of masking? It can actually trick your brain into positive thought patterns, boosting your cognitive processing. So why not save that masking magic for exam day? Pretend you're an art history scholar who knows everything there is to know about all the great artists. 💅Or, answer your science questions like you're the chief scientist in a groundbreaking study - ooh, check out those fancy words you're using! 🤓Remember, what we tell ourselves, we often become - or at least pretend to become!

The ADHD brain functions so uniquely – although the education system might not fully optimize it, likely because it was designed by someone neurotypical. They gave it their best shot! 😂Success comes from finding what works specifically for you, experimenting with various approaches, and maintaining a positive mindset whenever possible. Don't hesitate to seek assistance or to make it known that you need things tailored differently.🥰 Don't be shy to give things a go – all it takes is one initial step. As they say, "you don't have to be great to get started, but you do need to start to be great."

The image shows a character with pink hair wearing a graduation cap and smiling, with a small heart above her head. The text reads, "Even though ADHD can make college challenging, remember that many things can get easier with the right support." The Instagram handle "@the_mini_adhd_coach" is at the bottom.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding how ADHD impacts studying, revising, and taking exams is super important. It's not just about putting in more hours - it's about finding smarter study habits that actually work for you.

  • Cracking the code on those tricky executive functioning issues and mastering time management involves customizing your revision techniques and breaking big, scary deadlines into manageable chunks. Both strategies cater to the ADHD brain's unique style, helping to keep tasks and every study session from feeling overwhelming.

  • Tailoring your focus techniques to fit your daily needs is essential for managing ADHD traits. Whether you're using noise-canceling headphones or study methods that keep you engaged, ensuring your environment suits your focus style can make a huge difference.

  • Channeling your hyperactivity by incorporating physical activity into revision sessions can enhance your concentration. Similarly, keeping those senses engaged with tactile toys or ambient noise ensures your focus stays sharp, turning excess energy into a productive force.

  • It's crucial to prioritize self-care elements such as sleep, nutrition, and relaxation. Maintaining your mental and physical health is not just beneficial; it's necessary for keeping your brain functioning optimally. Integrating good sleep habits, balanced nutrition, and sufficient downtime into your routine supports overall wellness and cognitive performance - even if it's boring. 😆

Final Thoughts

I get it - navigating your ADHD is tough, and when exams and assessments are looming, it can feel like a never-ending uphill battle. 😫 But remember, each little experiment with new study methods is another step towards finding what works just right for you, and every single step is paving your way to success. Trust me, the effort you're putting in now will pay off big time. So, let's dive in with everything we've got, adapt, and not just get through those exams but crush them! You'll thank yourself later - I promise!

What’s Next?

Whether you're in school, college, or university, we've got some helpful articles that you might find interesting. 👇


The Link Between ADHD and Learning Disabilities

The School Struggles that ADHD Students Experience

The ADHD College Playbook: Unique Strategies for Unique Minds

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How should a person with ADHD study?

A person with ADHD should focus on tailoring their study technique to their unique needs. Techniques like the Pomodoro technique can be highly effective. It involves studying in short, focused bursts with regular breaks to help maintain concentration. Utilizing study notes and voice memos can also aid in retaining information. Additionally, methods like body doubling, where studying alongside another person helps maintain focus, can be beneficial.

Does ADHD make it hard to study?

Yes, ADHD can make it challenging to focus, retain short-term memories, and complete tasks. The tendency to procrastinate or become easily distracted can interfere with completing school assignments on time. However, with the right study materials and a personalized approach to learning, these challenges can be managed effectively.

How do students with ADHD learn best?

Research shows that students with ADHD benefit from highly structured and engaging study environments. Techniques that involve active participation, such as mind maps or interactive study materials, can be particularly helpful. Also, setting realistic goals and breaking down tasks into manageable steps are crucial for keeping students motivated and on track.

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