7 Tips to Prepare for Exams With ADHD

The exam season can be a very stressful time in general, but for those who struggle with ADHD, it can be especially difficult. If you have ADHD, you might find it hard to identify what you need to focus on, or struggle to sit down and revise the material. You may also find that your results don’t reflect the hard work you put in.

ADHD and exams can sometimes be a combination that leads to anxiety, disappointment and frustration, but there are plenty of ADHD-friendly study tips that you can use to help you see your efforts pay off when the results come in. Below, we’ll explore 7 tips that can help students with ADHD prepare for their exams and see success in results season.


1. Speak to Your Teachers

Advocating for your needs or requirements as a person with ADHD is important. When your learning needs are accommodated for, this can give you a more equal platform to work from and better chances at succeeding. Try to introduce yourself to your teachers, either in person or via email, and make sure that they are aware that you have ADHD and how that might affect your work.

If you need any specific accommodations like more time on assignments or fidget devices during lessons, this is important for them to know early on in the academic year. To make sure you are provided with everything you need, remind them of your ADHD as you begin preparing for the exams. Not only does this ensure that you’ll get access to your requirements, but you might also find that your teacher is able to help and offer advice.


2. Create the Right Environment

Take some time to understand your body and mind’s ideal conditions for success. Do you work best in silence or do you prefer music or a podcast in the background? Do you need to be on your own, or do you like working in a group? If you prefer company while you study, do your companions need to be working with you, or would you rather the background noise of a coffee shop? Drilling down into the things that make it easier to work allows you to create an environment that sets you up for success.


3. Plan Your Sessions

Your ADHD might make it difficult to remember specific tasks for the day. When it comes to revising, this might mean that you forget which material is important for you to cover, and which won’t be included in your exam. Having a clear, written list of the content that you need a good understanding of, is crucial to making sure you’re revising the right topics. This list can also help you plan your daily study lists so that you know exactly what you want to cover in a day without forgetting or losing track.


4. Time Management Techniques

Time management can be one of the most difficult things to navigate for people with ADHD, which makes studying for exams more challenging. How can you keep yourself on task effectively? There are a number of different time management techniques out there that you can try, which may help you feel focused for longer. The most well-known technique is the Pomodoro technique, which sees you setting timers for 25-minute intervals, with a 5-minute break in between. This helps keep you on task, while also giving your brain the break that it needs so you can retain information.

If you find the Pomodoro technique too rigid, try Flowtime. This is an extension of the Pomodoro technique, but instead of working in regimented 25-minute slots, you can decide your own timeframes to complete individual tasks, rewarding yourself with breaks after each task is completed. This method takes a bit more planning, but helps if you find that your timers keep going off just when you’re getting stuck into a task. The goal here is to create an uninterrupted flow, which makes more sense for those with ADHD who might take a little longer to settle in. The time management technique you choose should depend on your needs and how you work best, but the important thing is to find one that works for you. Your teachers may be able to suggest other alternatives for you.


5. Active vs Passive Studying

Once you actually get into the flow of your revision, you want to be sure that your studying activities are effective. Unfortunately, while rereading your notes is often touted as one of the best ways of absorbing information, it’s not always as effective as a more active method of studying. Try taking notes as you’re reviewing material too, set yourself questions to answer, or even try teaching a friend about one of your topics. These kinds of activities help to keep you and your mind engaged as you study; rather than passively reading and rereading your lecture notes.


6. Eat the Frog

While “eating the frog” is typically used to help people get started with their workday, it can also be used as a great technique to kick off a revision or study session. Eating the frog is a simple technique that takes the hardest or most important task for the day, and crosses it off your to-do list early. Every time you sit down to start a revision session, identify the most difficult task (or the one you want to do the least). This will be the first thing you accomplish in that session. Whether that’s a particularly difficult topic, a mock test that you wanted to do, or an area that you can’t quite keep in your mind, that’s the first thing on your to-do list. You’re at your most energised when you first sit down to work, so you’re more likely to finish this task to the best of your ability if it’s the first one that you tackle.


7. Reward Your Good Work

One of the more challenging elements of studying is that the reward isn’t immediate. You only see the payoff when you get your exam results a few weeks or months later. To keep your mind focused and happy, you may find benefit in giving yourself small rewards for completing certain topics or chapters. It might be as simple as a short walk in the fresh air for finishing a set of questions, or it could be going to get a coffee from your favourite cafe after finishing a mock test. That little dopamine hit will help to keep you motivated and working for longer.

ADHD and exams don’t always feel like a match made in heaven, but with these tips, you’ll be able to navigate your revision sessions and stay on top of the topics you want to cover. At Psymplicity Healthcare, we can help you understand and manage your ADHD so that you can succeed in your exams and get the results you deserve.
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Mavish S

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity. Since beginning undergraduate studies 13 years ago, Mavish has worked in various mental health settings within the charity, NHS and private sector. Mavish’s passion for learning and professional growth has led to a vastness of experience and accelerated growth in her career while delivering one-to-one therapy, group workshops, training and supervision for professionals and senior team management. Mavish is a keen writer and writes many of the articles on our website, as well of our self-help resources.

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