Studying with ADHD

In our previous blog, we looked at some of the ways being disorganised can jeopardise your studies; it can lead to you loosing important material, forgetting beneficial seminars or meetings and wasting valuable time. But for many students, staying organised is unusually challenging and can be a symptom of a wider problem; medical/neurobiological condition Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.


If you have ADHD, you might recognise some of these symptoms:


  • poor organisational skills
  • extreme impatience
  • irritability and a quick temper
  • carelessness and lack of attention to detail
  • continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
  • inability to focus or prioritise
  • continually losing or misplacing things
  • forgetfulness
  • restlessness and edginess


The first thing to do, if you believe you might have the condition, is to talk to your tutor, who will put you in touch with professionals who can give you the best advice on how to deal with the condition. There are, however, some basic techniques which people with ADHD can employ…


Keep a study schedule: although we advise all students to do this, it is even more important for students with attention disorders. Put everything in your diary; from study sessions, to meeting up with friends. Doing this will stop you getting distracted wondering what you’ve got to do next, and help keep you organised. Use alarms to help you stick to your schedule – people with ADHD don’t always have a good sense of passing time.


Begin each day by writing a ‘to-do’ list, and tick off each item when you’ve finished it. This will help keep you focused on your priorities.


Take regular breaks: for people who struggle to concentrate, working intensively for short periods of time is more productive than expending all their energy on trying to concentrate. Instead schedule in breaks every 15-20 minutes or so.


Plan for a longer study time than your peers and begin revising early: Because those with ADHD spend a lot of time distracted, it follows that tasks take longer. Make sure you factor this into your study schedule, and begin revising at the earliest possible time. “Our brains aren’t meant to absorb and retain information [that we] reviewed at the last minute,” Laurie Dietzel, Ph.D, a psychologist specializing in ADHD and developmental disabilities said, “last-minute stress can lead to anxiety that blocks our ability to readily understand and recall information.”


Exercise regularly: People with ADHD often have less dopamine – the hormone released through exercise which helps us concentrate – than those without. Exercising is therefore doubly beneficial for students with the condition. Health experts suggest about 30 minutes of exercise per day.


Read out-loud and act out while studying; highlight, underline, create diagrams and walk around. Doing so will help you remember the material and also help you focus by keeping the study session varied.


Make sure you keep an organised filing system for your material; although doing so will not come naturally to you, it is incredibly important to help save you time and energy.


And don’t forget to talk to your tutor about your concerns and symptoms, as they will be able to offer you additional help and support.


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