Ask the Experts

Q: “What’s the Best Way for My Child to Study for Final Exams?”

How should a student with ADHD study for final exams and plan large projects that require organization and prioritization skills? Use these tips.

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Q: “I want to help my son finish this awful year strong and finals are around the corner. Do you have tips to help him study and plan final projects?” —FinalsMom

Hi FinalsMom:

Getting organized to study for final exams is sometimes more difficult than the actual studying part. I work with students all day long helping them build their study skill set and it can be quite overwhelming. While there are too many options to include in this short column, especially since I don’t know how your son studies best, here are a few of my general study tips.

1. Before he sits down to “just study,” your child needs to figure out exactly what topics to study. Sounds simple, right? Not so. You’d be surprised how many students don’t know their upcoming test dates or subject matter topics. And here’s where they need to get specific. It’s not enough to say, “My test is on the U.S. government.” They need to know what aspects of government the test will cover.

And a tip within a tip. I have my students write down their topics on paper. This is the first step to creating an effective study plan. I use this as a jumping off point to break down the studying into manageable parts, assign study dates, and even gather previous tests and homework on these topics.

2. Once your son has figured out exactly what he needs to know, it’s time to assign specific study times to get the work done. Work backward from the test date and allot specific time slots for the work. Always build in extra padding in case the unexpected rears its ugly head.

[Read: 10 Secrets to Studying Smarter with ADHD]

3. Let’s keep it real: Even the best-laid plans go off the rails. That’s why I always suggest you plan days to get them back on track. As you are sketching out the study schedule, add a few “Are you on track days?” On these days, you don’t schedule any studying, but instead check in to make sure you’re on target. If you’re not, then this is the time to catch up. And if you are? Then your son can consider it his “get out of jail free” card! All kidding aside, my students really appreciate this day as it allows them to keep the study overwhelm at bay.

4. Encourage your son to study two or three subjects a day. Alternating among a few will help his brain stay fresh and active. Also, only schedule study blocks in two-hour increments so the brain stays focused and engaged.

5. Your son has choice and control over how he studies. So encourage him to tap into his interests to create study tools that work for him. He can write a song to learn his foreign language vocabulary, draw cartoon pictures to memorize the branches of government, create a mock textbook page to learn Earth science. And the list goes on. Also, organizing the material differently than was originally presented to him will help him figure out what he truly understands. Or not.

I’m attaching an article I wrote for ADDitude where I take a deep dive on strategies for effective studying. “I’ll Study Later! Really!” How to (Actually) Study Effectively with ADHD.

And, if you would like more study and planning tips, I hope you will check out my newest book, How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away: An Expert Guide to Getting Stuff Done (#CommissionsEarned), where I devote chapters to study and planning strategies.

Good Luck!

How to Study for Final Exams: 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.

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