Ask the Experts

Q: What’s the Best Way to Study for a Test with ADHD?

Passively re-reading class notes is not an effective studying technique for an ADHD brain. Learn how to actively engage in learning here.

A closeup image of a pencil and a scantron

Q: “Help! What’s the best way for my son to study for a test? We fight about it constantly. He thinks all he needs to do is read over his notes and he’s done. I try to tell him that he needs to do more, but he refuses. What are the best methods he should use?” – MeltdownMom


Hi MeltdownMom:

A wise professor once told me, “There’s no learning without pain.”

In other words, it has to hurt to work. What I believe he meant was that to truly understand what you are studying, your brain needs to do some heavy mental lifting. And that extra effort to go beyond just memorizing facts and figures requires you to push yourself, work a little harder, and dig a little deeper to truly understand what you are learning. And that can hurt a little. Or in some cases, a lot!

Which is why, for most students, the “go-to” studying strategy is to reread their notes. Think about it: Reading over notes you’ve already taken is a wholly passive activity. It avoids pain at all costs.

As an academic and life coach for students, I spend a lot of my time teaching study skills. And what I explain to my students is that the more active you can make your studying, the more likely you will be to learn the material and retain your motivation.

[Read: 10 Secrets to Studying Smarter with ADHD]

And if they can tap into their personal interests while doing so, then we have a homerun on our hands! Writing songs to learn foreign languages, drawing cartoon pictures to memorize ancient gods, creating mock websites to map out current events are some examples that show how to put energy, fun, and action into the learning process. And the more active the study process is, the more engaged your son will be.

If your son is struggling studying alone, perhaps he can study with a friend or form a study group — in person or via Zoom. Studying with others allows you to draw from one another’s expertise, share the mental load, truly teach each other the material, and tap into accountability. It’s true study gold!

I invite you to check out our Study Skills Videos on our products.orderoochaos.com website, where we cover everything from effective note-taking and developing killer study tools to planning for exams.

Good Luck!

How to Study: Next Steps


ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!


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Updated on October 13, 2020

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