How to Study with ADHD (ADD): Tips for University & School

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the problem of millions of children and their parents worldwide. Fewer children keep symptoms when they become adults. But smaller numbers do not mean the absence of the problem. These people are inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, or both. The subtypes of the disease are respectively called ADD, ADHD, and combined-type ADHD.

All children are inattentive and disorganized at some point. And some of the adults are. But this disorder seriously affects people’s lives, inducing anxiety and making it hard for them to focus. This article contains tips on how to study with ADD and live a better life with its symptoms.

ADHD is a neurodevelopement disorder that can cause hyperactive behavious and trouble with focusing.

❓ What Is ADHD?

ADHD is a disorder of neurological development. 8.4 % of all children have ADHD, while only 2.5 % of adults suffer from the disease. It is also more common with boys than girls. Its symptoms include inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. ADD is an outdated term for the condition. It is now used for the inattentive type of ADHD with the symptoms of disorganization and forgetfulness.

When Was ADHD Discovered?

The first mention of ADHD dates back to 1908. Sir George Still, a British pediatrician, found that some children were unable to control their behavior as good as their peers. But their intellectual abilities remained high. The diagnosis became more popular only in seventy years. In the 1980s, more parents went to work, so the children had to spend the entire day at a kindergarten or school.

Why Is ADHD Considered to Be a Controversial Diagnosis?

The controversies turn upon the causes, overdiagnosing, treatment, and general existence of the disease. Some critics consider that ADHD is an excuse for parents who are frustrated with their child’s complicated character. They try to medicate what should be treated by education and parents’ attention. However, multiple clinical studies have shown that the disease is not a convenient excuse but a real health problem.

What It Feels Like to Have ADHD?

When you have ADHD, it is hard for you to focus, regardless of the situation and physical condition. You are easily distracted and struggle with organizing your activities. Some people with ADHD are hyperactive and impulsive. These symptoms can be selective and change over time. The pitiful condition of these people is aggravated by the fact that their surroundings often think they are making an excuse.

Students with ADHD Generally Have Which Level of Cognitive Ability?

The cognitive ability of people with ADHD is not affected by the disorder. It is a learning disability, not a mental one. Simply stated, they have problems with information processing due to a lack of focus. So, students with ADHD have the same cognitive abilities as their peers without the disorder. Alternative learning methods can ease their problems. It might be helpful to take a “what’s your learning style” quiz for better understanding of what can have the best effect.

How Does ADHD Affect Communication?

ADHD makes the affected people talk too much. They are forgetful and struggle with keeping track of thought in a conversation. For this reason, they often go off-topic. As far as they are afraid to forget what they wanted to say, they often interrupt others.

🤓 ADD: Study Tips

  1. List your tasks. Digesting well-organized information more quickly is in our nature. So, put all your tasks and assignments on a list. It will help you manage them efficiently.
  2. Take breaks. Studying for a couple of hours straight is hard, even for students without ADD. That’s why it’s vital to take breaks. Try having a 10-15 minutes break every hour.
  3. Concentrate on your studies only. Some say that listening to music while studying makes the process more pleasant. However, it can distract you quite a lot. If you can’t go without music, try something instrumental or orchestral.
  4. Make mind maps. Do that to visualize the ideas and the relationships between them. You can create mind maps on paper or use special applications.
  5. Break down your assignments. As with dividing up your total studying time, you can also divide up huge tasks into smaller pieces. They won’t seem that hard and will be easier to manage. As a result, you’ll get a more stable workflow.
  6. Get rid of distracting thoughts. Having random thoughts popping into our heads is a sort of defensive mechanism when dealing with boring tasks. If you’re struggling to focus on studying, write down everything that distracts you on a piece of paper, then put it away until you finish studying.
  7. Reward yourself. You can set up a system with rewards and achievements for finishing specific tasks. It will serve as a motivation boost that will help you to keep going.
  8. Don’t overestimate. This doesn’t mean that you need to have lower expectations. But they at least need to be closer to reality. Too much pressure is likely to end up in lots of stress.
  9. Involve active reading. This technique might help you to comprehend the material better. Skim the text before reading it in full to see what’s coming up. Make questions based on chapter titles and answer them while reading. Notice the main points in the text, review them, and take notes.
  10. Think about studying with a partner. Some people get more distracted by others during the studying process, while others feel that working together with someone makes it more exciting and helps to stay focused.
  11. Look for suitable locations. If you feel less productive at home, try other places that have fewer distractions. It can be an empty classroom, library, or any other place that will help you stay on track.
  12. Ask for help. It sure is good to be able to study productively on your own. But if something is unclear or confusing, it’s OK to ask your teacher or tutor for help.
  13. Don’t be too hard on yourself. This piece of advice is essential for every college student with ADHD. While it’s great to aim for the stars, you also need to be aware that accidents happen. So, give your inner perfectionist a break. Even if something doesn’t work, you can always try again later.
  14. Involve multitasking. If it keeps you going, you can easily do two things at once. It can prevent you from getting bored and losing productivity.
  15. Stay away from work… for some time, at least. It sure is great to have a part-time job and have some extra money. But studying still needs to be your number one priority. The lack of focus won’t get you anywhere.
  16. Make the most of available resources. Learning centers, libraries, and tutoring services are there to help you out if you’re experiencing difficulties. So, don’t ever hesitate to use this help.
  17. Stay in touch with your parents. There’s no support as good as the support you get from your parents. A short chat with them can quickly lower the level of stress and prevent you from breaking down.
  18. Prepare your computer. Apart from installing the software necessary for your studies, get rid of all the junk. And, most importantly, remove all the distracting bookmarks from your browser. You know you’re going to use the Internet a lot, so make sure that nothing is in the way.
  19. Make your smartphone unreachable. If your smartphone keeps distracting you and you spend hours on random apps, make it hard to reach.
  20. Exercise. Exercise boosts your brain activity. Next time you decide to take a break between studying subjects, take a walk instead of just sitting around.

3. ⏰ ADD: Tips on Scheduling & Time Management

  1. Prioritize. In the morning, make a list of to-do things. Set your priorities.
  2. Watch the time. When starting a task, say the time out loud, or make a note of it (write it down, for instance). It will help you stay on track.
  3. Allow extra time. Give yourself additional 10 minutes for every half an hour you think you’ll spend on completing a task. You’ll have a more flexible schedule in case you’ve estimated the time poorly.
  4. Finish your to-do list every day. If you do not, the tasks will mount up and press on you. On the contrary, a completed list will give you a sense of satisfaction with your efforts and motivate you to stay organized.
  5. Avoid procrastination. Set simple and achievable goals for yourself. Put away all the distractors. Delete arcade games from your cell-phone. Avoid checking the messengers every 15 minutes.
  6. Plan your breaks, exercises, and social activities. If you plan your work and avoid planning your rest, you will work in the spin cycle. Set the time for breaks, social interaction, and physical activity.
  7. Use the O.H.I.O principle (Only Handle It Once). When you have to answer an email or do an assignment, do it as soon as you start dealing with it. We waste tons of time moving around from one task to another.
  8. Use a planner. You can write down all your plans and appointments using any device you want, or even go old-school and use a separate notebook or organizer. This is one of the most vital ADHD strategies.
  9. Choose the right time. All people are different, and it’s impossible to say what time is best for everyone to study. Choose the part of the day when you’re the most active to study.
  10. Don’t cram your schedule. While some feel more motivated to have a busy schedule, assigning too many tasks for the day often adds unnecessary pressure. If you feel stressed out, free up your schedule a bit.
  11. Sleep enough. Studying can alter your sleep schedule significantly. So, you have to make sure you go to bed at the same time each night and get enough sleep.
  12. Mind your mood. If you’re forcing yourself to make a schedule, the chances are that you’ll have a hard time following it, too.
  13. Have a long-term schedule. This one includes only regular and fixed tasks. It won’t change much with time and acts as a base for building shorter-term schedules.
  14. Be consistent. Try studying at the same time each day. After some time, this will become a habit, which will make your studying more systematic and active.
  15. Include weekends in your schedule. No, nobody tells you to study on weekends. What you can do, though, is to schedule an hour to review all the material you’ve learned during the week.
  16. Set the milestones. Decide what steps you’ll need to complete a particular task. Milestones will help you estimate your time better and focus on smaller, more manageable chunks of work instead of one giant task.
  17. See the deadlines. Write down the deadline for a specific task. Put it somewhere so you can always see it. It will help you not to waste your time and stay focused.
  18. Stay committed to your plans. When you set the time for your studying, stay committed to it. Remind yourself that you’ll be free to do whatever else you want if you finish your tasks on time. Don’t try to find compromises.
  19. Don’t delay essential tasks. Start each task as soon as possible – preferably as soon as you get it. There are enough things you can do “to prepare yourself.” And by doing them, you end up spending more time on a task.
  20. Know exactly what you’ll do. When starting a task, go through all the steps you’ll complete in your head. Stick to that plan. Even if there’s a distraction, you’ll be able to deal with it and resume your work quickly.

4. 📝 ADD: Tips on Note-Taking & Memorizing Material

  1. Do bedtime reviews. If you need to remember important material, do a quick review of it for 10–15 minutes before going to sleep. Reviewing what you’ve just learned will help memorize it easier.
  2. Review things regularly. Apart from having bedtime review sessions, you can also check back on your notes right after the class.
  3. Be ready to take notes. Always have a notebook by your side or any device where you can keep notes. You never know when a great thought or idea will hit you.
  4. Edit your notes right away. Highlight and mark the key thoughts and ideas before you’ve forgotten them. The notes will be easier to use later.
  5. Make association chains. If you’re struggling to remember some information, keep drawings in your notes that you can associate with a concept you’re trying to memorize.
  6. Use acronyms. To remember a list, use the first letters of all the items and put them together. You can play around with the order of the items for the resulting word to make more sense.
  7. Talk to yourself. When studying alone, you can repeat some of the key thoughts aloud after reading them. It will help you to memorize the material easier.
  8. Practice interpreting. You don’t have to note everything said by the teacher word for word. If possible, write the main ideas down in your own words, so it’s easier for you to understand.
  9. Try exchanging notes. It will not only give you extra snippets of information. You’ll also be able to get hints on what you can improve in your own note-taking. It’s even better if you exchange them with other college students with ADD.
  10. Diversify your studies. To memorize the material better and concentrate more, avoid studying similar subjects one after another.
  11. Use sticky notes. Do that when reading and trying to remember the vital information. Write the key points down on a note, so it’s easier to revise everything later.
  12. Separate your thoughts. When making notes, leave blank spaces between the key points. This way, you’ll be able to add extra information if necessary.
  13. Highlight the main points. Most of the lectures consist of a few main points and a couple of additional ones. Everything else is mostly explanatory material.
  14. Keep your notes understandable. Watch the neatness of your notes, and make sure to use the same abbreviations and signs to avoid confusion.
  15. Understand what you’re trying to learn. Understanding is the key to proper learning. Don’t try to memorize the information mindlessly. Instead, spend a few minutes to comprehend it. You’ll see that it’s easier to remember it that way.
  16. Decide what to learn first. When you know you have to remember a lot of material, start with what you need to keep in your mind the longest.

If you’re interested in finding out more about ADHD and ways to cope with it, check out this Attention Deficit Disorder Handbook.

Results won’t come in a single day, and great study skills still require a certain amount of work. To improve your performance and make the most of these ADHD strategies, you need time and dedication. Blindly following these study tips isn’t enough. You need to be ready for changes.

Good luck with your studies! Feel free to share your impressions of the article in the comments below.

5. 🔗 References

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