Homework & Studying

Test-Taking Strategies for Every Exam Type

Students with ADHD tend to crumble under the pressure and information overload of bigs exams. Use these specific tips to prepare wisely for and ace all of your multiple-choice, math, and essay tests at school.

Young boy with ADHD taking test in classroom filled with students
Young boy with ADHD taking test in classroom filled with students

I remember a quiz I took in high school. I had studied hard, but as I read the first question, my brain shut down. I couldn’t remember any answers or solve any problems. Fear paralyzed me.

Does your ADHD student ever have brain-lock? If so, there are ways to keep the brain working in the exam room despite the sometimes-paralyzing symptoms of attention deficit disorder.

Before taking a test, follow these test taking strategies to maximize your success:

  • Ask the teacher for extra time
  • To relax your mind, visualize yourself sitting down, answering the questions, and getting a good grade
  • Figure out the average time you’ll have to answer each question (if there are 10 questions and the test is 30 minutes long, you have at least three minutes for each question)
  • Bring a timer and be sure to use it to stay on task.

[Smart Homework Strategies for Teachers & Parents: A Free Handout]

Now here are pointers to help you excel on every type of test:

Multiple-Choice Tips

Take your time. Read each question and each answer to yourself-twice. Underline as you read to ensure that you’ve read every word of the question and all the answers.

Going with your gut, circle the correct answer. Nine out of 10 times, our first guess is right, but we often talk ourselves out of it. Don’t change an answer unless you’re absolutely sure.

Answer every question that you’re sure of. Put a dash next to those you’re unsure about and a star next to those that you don’t know at all.

After you’ve run through the test, revisit the difficult questions. If there’s time, slowly reread and answer each question. Unless you read a question differently the second time, stick with your first answer.

[Free Webinar Replay: How Parents and Teachers Can Use Brain Science to Increase Motivation in Children with ADHD]

Math and Calculation Tips

Write down all formulas. You might want to jot down a practice problem you’ve done at home to give yourself a key to solving tough math problems.

Copy down each problem on scrap paper. Write out the problem slowly, number the steps, and double-check what you’ve written. Remember this adage: Go slow to go fast. Though our brains are hyper-fast, slow is the way to accuracy and great grades.

Write big and bold. This will allow you to see a mistake, keep from confusing numbers, letters, or signs, and give your brain room to think. Careless errors often creep in because you don’t give yourself enough space to see and solve the problem.
Star and/or dash difficult questions. This way, you’ll know to review them after running through the test. We often transpose numbers; reviewing the test allows you to correct mistakes.

Essay Tips

Answer the simple questions first. This builds momentum. If you start with the difficult questions, you may linger and run out of time for the easier ones.

Answer in sandwich form – topic sentence, three supporting sentences, a conclusion. If your handwriting’s terrible, or if you’re dyslexic or an auditory learner, ask to take an oral exam, use a computer to type your answers, or use speech-to-text software that ‘types’ your words.

Create a rough draft. Consider drawing out an answer or jotting down a list of sentences on scratch paper (intro point, key points, conclusion) before writing your answer on the exam.

Taking tests is like strengthening your muscles. It’s difficult at first, but, over time, you’ll ace it!

Classroom Aides

Some teachers allow students to bring a study sheet into the exam room. Here’s how to assemble one:

  • Prepare the sheet days in advance, as you’re studying the material, not the night before.
  • Write down general ideas as well as names, dates, and formulas- the specifics we often overlook.
  • Type up the study sheet in Microsoft Word or Excel, using an extra-small font to get as much information on the page as you can.
  • Consider adding color, icons, or graphics to make the most important information stand out.

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