“I’ll Study Later! Really!” How to (Actually) Study Effectively with ADHD
Students with ADHD learn differently, so they should study differently, too. Unfortunately, many of our students detest studying because they’ve never been taught how their ADHD minds actually learn. Here are 8 common studying problems and solutions that really work.
Study. Why does this small word produce so much procrastination and paralysis? It is because most children and teens with ADHD don’t know how to study effectively. The study methods they’ve been taught don’t work for their ADHD brains – they learn differently, so they should study differently.
Let’s look at common pitfalls and examine how we can tweak them to study more effectively.
How to Study Effectively with ADHD
Study Problem 1: Cramming Before Exams
Students should space out study periods to avoid pulling all-nighters. We’re better able to recall information and concepts if we learn them in multiple, spread-out sessions. A few 30-minute study sessions over several days instead of a three-hour crash course the night before is more effective in the long run. Picture an overstuffed suitcase – things are bound to fall out the moment you move it.
Study Problem 2: Seldom Reviewing Notes
Many children and teens with ADHD make the mistake of reading through their notes once and thinking they’re ready for the exam. Repetition, however, is key. For effective studying, rinse and repeat. A lot.
Study Problem 3: Rereading, Only
Rereading doesn’t make information stick. When rereading, students can adopt a faulty “I know this!” mentality because the material is familiar. They stop processing what they’re reading, and are no longer deepening their understanding of the material.
The antidote to this is rewriting notes. The physical act of writing helps students absorb information on a deeper level than reading the same material twice. To take it up a notch, rewrite in a different form than the original notes (draw a diagram, create an outline, develop a Q and A — anything that changes your notes into a different format). Organizing the material differently will also help students figure out whether they truly understand the material.
Study Problem 4: Using Only One Study Tool
Creating a single study guide unfortunately won’t be enough. Mixing different study tools will optimize learning by keeping the material fresh, fun, and more engaging.
Some fun ideas to try:
- Write a song as a way to learn a language
- Draw cartoon pictures to memorize the ancient gods
- Make up a dance routine to learn the periodic table
Study Problem 5: Ignoring Textbook Questions
The questions at the end of each textbook chapter are study gold! But only if you use them effectively.
Prior to reading a chapter, students should write out each question on a separate sheet of paper (leaving space in between), and answer the questions as they make their way through the chapter. This technique helps my students overcome procrastination every time! And a tip within a tip: Don’t forget about the questions or highlighted text in each chapter. General rule: If something is bolded, italicized, or highlighted, the reader needs to know it.
Study Problem 6: Skimming the Surface
Many students think that knowing some of the material means they really know it all – and they avoid further studying. But not knowing things makes us uncomfortable, and our lack of understanding comes out in our test scores.
Studying material in the order in which it was first presented can lead to a false sense of security. To encourage learning and go beyond the surface, mix it all up! Start in the middle. Jump around. Break up the order.
If the material requires chronological study, try reviewing it backward. I learned this from a professor during my college years. We tend to spend more time at the beginning of the textbook chapter, the professor’s PowerPoint, or our own notes. By starting at the end and working backward, we ensure that we’ve given everything equal time.
Stay Problem 7: Letting Frustration Win
In high school and in college, most students will take classes in subjects that don’t come easy to them. To succeed in these classes, students will have to put in more effort than other students, work hard without giving up, get help, and tap into all resources. No easy task.
To avoid a self-defeating mindset, students should try flipping upside down the narratives in their head. Instead of saying, “I don’t get this,” they should ask themselves, “How can I get this?” Or swap out “I don’t know” with “What do I know?” And my favorite one? Changing “This won’t work” to “What have I done previously that has worked?”
Study Problem 8: Studying Alone
There’s no better procrastination buster than studying with others. It’s one of the most effective study tools out there because it’s loaded with all the good stuff:
- Students are teaching each other, not just memorizing. They’re writing on smart boards, quizzing each other, and making up mock test questions – fun stuff that puts activity into learning. And to teach is to know.
- Students are talking out loud – it slows them down, helps them process, and forces them to say things in a way that make sense to them.
- Students are drawing from each other’s expertise. Someone might be a math god, while another is a computer science whiz. This is the time to take advantage of each other’s knowledge.
- It keeps students accountable and, therefore, keeps procrastination at bay. Getting up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to study alone, for example, may be tough. But if the study group is meeting at that time, your child will be on time.
How to Study Effectively: Next Steps
- Learn: 9 Smart Study Techniques For Any Type Of Test
- Q&A: How (and When) Do ADHD Brains Study Best?
- Read: Acing Exams Has Never Been Easier
From How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away (#CommissionsEarned), by Leslie Josel. Copyright © 2020. Reprinted with the permission of Zest Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the prior written permission of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.
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