High School

High School Is Different. Your Study Strategies Should Be Too.

In these last few years before college, school’s about to get serious — and you’ll need to step up your efforts if you want to stay ahead of the curve. Try out these high-school- and ADHD-specific study strategies to stay focused on that academic win.

A pen taking notes during a high school class using improved study strategies
A pen taking notes during a high school class

Until now, you have primarily “done assignments.” In high school, you will add more studying techniques to your repertoire. Now is the time to take all of those study strategies that teachers, parents, ADHD coaches, and others have given you to create your own recipe for academic success. Treat school as a career, and put in a 40-hour work week! When you are prepared, you own school. You can walk into the classroom as if it were a stage: Take a deep breath, think of the first three things you need to say or do, then make your grand entrance!

LISTEN CAREFULLY. Most teachers give start-of-the-year talks regarding responsibilities, class expectations, requirements, and study tips; ask for an explanation of anything you don’t understand.

TALK TO TEACHERS about how you can modify assignments to ensure success. Discuss classroom accommodations ahead of time (or as you get them), to make sure that you have everything you need to boost your learning curve.

USE THIS STRATEGY TO TAKE NOTES. During lectures, begin by writing the date and topic at the top of the page. When taking notes, use the BROIL system: B=anything the teacher writes on the Board; R=anything the teacher Repeats; O=anything the teacher mentions will be On the next test; I=anything the teacher says is Important; L= anything that is in a List.

CIRCLE WORDS AND IDEAS that need clarification, as you take notes and write down references or resources mentioned during the presentation — books and websites.

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REVIEW, SUMMARIZE, SUPPLEMENT, AND EDIT notes on the day you take them. Highlight key phrases and enter them into the computer as study notes. Inspiration — a graphic organizer computer program that will organize your notes, outline, and essay — may help you expand note-taking concepts. After class, compare your notes with others. You may be eligible for a 504 accommodation to get a note-taker to supplement the notes you take in class.

REVIEW the table of contents, index, captions, appendix page for charts, glossary, and reference pages before you begin taking notes from books. Use large sticky notes to summarize pages in books, then post them on a mirror as a study guide before a test. After taking notes, put them on an “information diet.” Eliminate non-essential words in your notes, and use your own “shorthand” (but be sure you are consistent, and know what your words/symbols mean).

LET TECHNOLOGY BE YOUR STUDY PARTNER. Use voice-to-text programs to expand on the concepts in your books or during lectures. Dragon Naturally Speaking, Evernote, and Mac voice-to-text features are highly recommended. Also, click on links suggested by your teacher. See if there are supplemental materials online that complement your textbook. Take a picture of the lecture notes or assignments on the board with your smartphone before you leave class.

BREAK DOWN PROJECTS AND COMPLEX ASSIGNMENTS INTO MANAGEABLE PARTS. Before you begin your studies or a project, take a moment to create a study game plan. Include goals, action plans, resources, time allotment, and time for brain breaks. On complex assignments, ask your teacher if you can see finished-project samples from former students for ideas about how to tackle the project.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR WITH COMPLETION DATES, and sync your electronic calendar with your parents’ or study partner’s. Set false deadlines to help you stay ahead. Hold yourself accountable by showing sections of your work to the teacher to make sure you are on track. Consider asking whether completed sections of large projects can be turned in early.

[The High School Study Guide for Teens with ADHD]

GET TO KNOW YOUR LIBRARIAN. School and local librarians are your best resource when tackling a project. They have talked with many students doing the same projects over the years. Be the first to talk to the librarian when a long-term project is assigned. The books you need may not be available to you as the due date approaches.

STAY MOTIVATED. Create incentives to sustain your motivation. Movement and exercise help your mind get into and stay focused on studying. Make yourself accountable to several people who will encourage you along the way. Work with a partner or a college student.

BE AWARE OF YOUR LEARNING STYLE. There are a number of surveys online that will help determine the best way you learn. Identify your natural affinities, capacities, and strengths. Then negotiate with your teacher to allow you to tailor assignments to your learning style.

KNOW THE BEST WAYS TO REMEMBER FACTS. Studies show that, from worst to best, the odds of retaining information break down in the following way: lecture, 5% effective; reading, 10%; audiovisual, 20%; demonstration, 30%; discussion, 50%; practice by doing, 75%; teaching to others, 90%. Find a classmate to teach the material to and return the favor.

TALK TO YOUR TEACHER ABOUT HER RECOMMENDATIONS for succeeding in class. Participate in after-school study programs.

FORM A STUDY GROUP. Take a leadership role and form a study group — meet at a coffee shop or sign up for a study room at the library. Or use an online group meeting program to do a meet-up. Appoint a facilitator to keep everyone on track.

ORGANIZE THE CONCEPTS. Talk through or teach the concepts you are studying to someone else. Write notes on a whiteboard or a roll of paper. Consider enlarging the notes or concepts and posting them on a wall in your house, so you can “walk in” the learning. (Blue painter’s tape will help preserve the paint on the wall.)

USE THESE TEST-TAKING TIPS. Assemble all notes, handouts, quizzes, and assignments to create a study guide of key concepts. Work with a study group and quiz one another. After the test is handed out, write down formulas and key information that you might forget on a blank piece of paper. Scan the whole test, and plan your time and strategy for completion. Write something for every essay question, even if you are unsure. You may get partial credit.

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