Revising with ADHD

Student focused on work

One student describes what it's like studying with ADHD - and how they succeeded

For people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), revision brings additional - and different - challenges.

In this article, The Student Room member amorsophy describes their experience of studying and revising with ADHD, and shares their tips on handling academic work throughout school and university.

My studying experience, as someone with ADHD

When I was a toddler, like many of us in our generation, I was diagnosed with ADHD. What this means day-to-day generally is that I struggle to concentrate and focus deeply on anything.

My attention is easily diverted to other things, so tasks can sometimes take me a while. There’s other things beside this, but generally, these are the main ones that have tripped me up academically. 

Luckily for me, I was a fairly 'clever' kid. Despite all my daydreaming and lack of focus, I was still able to pass all my GCSEs to a good standard, and was in fairly high sets at school for most things.

As most of you with ADHD will know though, the struggle to concentrate sucks, because you cant remember things that you weren’t concentrating on to begin with! My mum always said I had a mind like a sieve. To be honest, she wasn’t too far from right.

In this article, my aim is to give you some useful tips that will help all that useful information stay in your head, to block up those holes in your sieve, so that you succeed in school, uni or in the workplace.

1. Write everything down

I’m serious. Everything. Even if that means you have to scribble in lectures and then write it up neatly again later.  

Write down everything your teacher or lecturer is saying. Not only will writing it down help you to commit the information to memory, it will also give you all the information to revise from later and writing everything down as quickly as possible will keep you busy.

I’ve found that if my hands are busy, I’m not so easily distracted. Personally, my handwriting is atrocious, so I always took my laptop into lectures and seminars at university, so that I could type everything that was being said, and refer to my notes more easily in seminars.

Typing is also much faster than writing everything by hand, so its also loads easier to keep up if you’re making extensive notes!

Just as a side, if you do decide to go the laptop/tablet route with your note taking, make sure you take paper and a pen as well just in case your device dies. The last thing you want is to be sitting through a lecture unable to take notes. 

2. Sticky notes

Okay, this relates really well to my previous point. Sticky notes are literally one of the best things ever invented if you have ADHD. Write quick, concise and to the point notes, reminders and tidbits.

Stick them everywhere, especially during exam season. If your parents/flat mates don’t mind, that is! If they do, just stick to your room or desk.

It can help to colour code things, but I don’t really have the patience to do that. For me, seeing loads of bright colours all around my room with interesting info on them was enough to distract me into accidentally revising. 

3. Plan to zone out

This might sound a little weird, but at some point while you’re revising, you’re going to space out for a while. I have it on good authority that even people without ADHD do this.

So, just make sure you allow for that. It’s all well and good saying that you’ve got all day to revise, but if you get distracted easy, you actually don’t. So to make the most of your day, plan specific times that you can get distracted, or zone out.

Say you start revising at 9, you might allow yourself a few minutes for your mind to roam completely free at say half past. This way, its easier to bring your mind back to focus for the next bit of revision.

If you keep forcing yourself to focus, its likely you’re going to start worrying more about concentrating than the topic at hand. Then you’ll be concentrating on concentrating, and not your revision, which is really not helpful.

If you need time to let your mind wander, do it! I’d set a timer or something though, so you don’t accidentally waste hours doing this!

4. Regular breaks

I know, I know. This is on every revision guide ever, but its even more important when you have ADHD.

If your mind is everywhere, your legs are twitching and bouncing, and you just cant help but wonder whether or not hedgehogs can spike themselves, it's time for a break. Go for a walk, stretch those bouncy legs, observe a hedgehog.

Some fresh air can do wonders for your mind and concentration skills. Ten minutes should be enough to refresh both brain and body.

Again, timers can be helpful here to prevent yourself getting too lost, either in your thoughts or around your city.

If you’re struggling to get moving, make sure you don’t have snacks at your workstation. If you fancy a snack, make sure you have to take a few steps or go up a flight of stairs to get it. Have regular, small glasses of water or cups of tea rather than huge pints or mugs. The possibilities are endless.

Also, definitely have a break between switching topics. That’ll mean you have a better chance of taking in the second topic properly. The hope is it wont all blur together in your mind.

It’s like when you binge watch a series on netflix and then your mate asks: “Did you see what happened in episode 4?” You will not remember episode 4, because you watched 1-11 in the same afternoon.

It’s the same with revision topics. If you break between topics, they’re more likely to be remembered as separate things. 

5. Study buddy

I know this one is also mentioned in literally every revision guide ever made, but its super helpful to those of us who struggle to concentrate.

If you do happen to end up daydreaming in a lecture, wake up and have no idea what’s been going on for the past 10 minutes, do not worry if you have a buddy. Or two, or three.

Basically, if you’re on good terms with your classmates, you can always turn to them in times of need.

If you’ve been writing everything down, you should have a point in your notes where you stopped, or there’s a gap. After class, ask your friend: “Hey, what was that bit she mentioned after ___?”

Hopefully, your friend managed to get that bit down. And who knows, maybe there was a bit that you got really well that they didn’t. It doesn’t hurt to share notes.

I had a system with some of my classmates. They’d fill me in on bits I’d missed, and I’d always tick them in if they were running late. Classic.