It is challenging being a student with ADHD!  Many of the skills and characteristics that are required to be a good student are the very things that ADHDers find difficult.

Here are 10 tips to help you get good grades and enjoy your student days.

Even if your university days were over long ago, some of these tips will still be useful for you in your workplace for example, preparing for a presentation or staying alert in meetings.

1) Accommodations

If you have been officially diagnosed with ADHD, then you are eligible for ADHD student accommodations. Accommodations are there to support you and help you with your learning challenges so you can achieve your academic potential.  Common types of accommodations include, additional time for exams, sitting an exam in a quiet room, having a scribe who takes notes for you in class; however, there are many more.

Having them isn’t cheating! And try not to feel embarrassed to ask for them. Visit the office for student disabilities, and they will be able to help you set up your accommodations.

2) How to Pay Attention in Lectures

  • Take notes. They help keep you alert. Don’t try to write down everything your professor says. Just write enough key words to help you stay focused.
  • Take a stress ball  or a fidget spinner to class. Having something to do with your hands helps your brain focus on what is being said.
  • Accept that your brain is going to drift off. When it does, simply bring your concentration back to the speaker. Don’t be down on yourself. The more you beat yourself up for not paying attention, the worse you will feel and the less you will concentrate.
  • Ask a friend if you can borrow their notes and photocopy them. Two heads are better than one.
  • Ask the lecturer if you can record the lecture. Most will say yes. Then you can listen to the lecture again.

3) Develop a Routine

Develop a routine with your private studies. For example, you might decide to study from 6-9pm every weekday evening. Even though you might resist it at first, in a very short time it will feel strange if you are doing anything else besides studying at that time. A study routine helps with procrastination, keeps you from falling behind and prevents you from feeling  overwhelmed, which  will eliminate that constant chatter in your brain about when to study.

4) ‘Getting into Gear’

Develop a “getting into gear” or transitional period that signals to your brain that you are about to start studying. Just like when you go to the gym and prepare yourself mentally and physically by driving to the gym, lacing up your sneakers and stretching before beginning to exercise, you can do something similar for preparing to study.

For example:

  • Make a cup of tea and take it to your study area (bedroom, office, etc.)
  • Write down your study objectives (what exactly are you going to be studying?)
  • Plan how you will reward yourself after you have finished (call a friend, watch a TV show, etc.)
  • Set your timer for 30 minutes
  • Begin!

Remember the first 10 to 15 minutes of private study are always the hardest. Break through that, and you will find that you are in the study groove.

5) Break Big Tasks into Smaller Ones

When you have a lot of assignments and reading to do, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. Break every task down into very small bite size pieces. If you have a chapter to read, break it down page by page.

When you have an assignment to write, break it down into smaller pieces. For example:

  • Introduction
  • Point 1
  • Point 2
  • Point 3
  • Conclusion

There is an incredible piece of software that helps with this. It’s called Scrivener. It makes writing easier and faster as  it allows you to break your project down into small pieces and work on a little piece at a time.  I use it to write my articles (in fact I am using it now) and really wish I had known about it when I was studying psychology.


6) Noise or No Noise?

Some ADHD students like to have background noise while they are studying. Others prefer complete silence. Which one are you? There is no right or wrong, just what works for you.

If you like loud music, you might be used to hearing, ‘I don’t know how you can study with all this noise’. The well-meaning people who say that just have a different study preference than you do. It doesn’t mean their way is better.

If you do your best studying in complete silence, you could invest in  headphones or find a white noise app to block out sound.

7) Be an Active Learner

Active learning makes studying more interesting, and it helps you remember the information. Here are a few ways to experiment with active learning:

  • As you are reading, ask yourself questions and try to find the answer in the text.
  • Summarize what you just learned to a friend or even your dog. Just by trying to articulate what you learned will help you to determine if you understand what you just read or if you need to go over it again.
  • Draw a mind map. Mind maps can be a great tool to process and organize your information. Tony Buzan has many great tips on how to create and use mind maps.


8) Take Breaks

Break your study time down into small chunks (e.g.  30 minutes).

Knowing that the timer is ticking away helps you to concentrate on the task at hand. When the timer rings, stretch, take a bathroom break and go back for your next timed study period.

9) Don’t Compare Yourself to Anyone!

Almost every ADHD student I speak to feels that other students are studying faster than they are.

However, we will never know for sure how long it takes other people. Sure, they might be able to do something faster than you, but remember your ADHD brain works at light speed in some areas. Also, they probably don’t have as much creativity and imagination as you do 🙂

Rather than comparing yourself to others, which usually results in you feeling bad about yourself, focus on your studies and your results.  As the saying goes, ‘Tend your own garden’.

10) Reward Yourself!

Reward yourself. A lot.

Your  ADHD brain really loves to know that at the end of  the hard work there is a reward waiting. They act as great motivators. Your rewards will vary depending on the size of the task and what you consider a reward.

Happy Studying!

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