Preparing for Finals 101 When You Have ADHD: What You Need to Know

ADHD and finals: how to prepare and studyHave you noticed your teen staring at a textbook for hours, and watched their eyes glaze over? Or maybe you know that they meticulously crafted a study schedule, only to find themselves completely sidetracked by dog videos on YouTube. If this sounds familiar, your teen might be one of the estimated 6 million children ages 3 to 17 years who have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As millions of students, including those with ADHD, head into finals prep, traditional study techniques might not always work for them. But fear not! Here are a few powerful strategies specifically designed for ADHD and finals prep. Best of all, every student can benefit from these tools, not just those with ADHD.

Understanding the ADHD Finals Equation

Before we dive into strategies, it’s good to understand the unique hurdles that ADHD students face during finals. ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, can throw a curveball into the best-laid study plans, with its impacts on attention, focus, and organization.

The ADHD Academic Challenge

Studies show that students with ADHD often face an uphill battle academically, particularly during high-stakes assessments like finals. According to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, ADHD students are more likely to struggle with grades and academic performance compared to their neurotypical peers.

Hand holding a pink pen and taking notes.

Proven Study Strategies for ADHD Students

Now that we grasp the challenges, let’s explore actionable strategies to help your child with ADHD thrive during finals. Some of these might be obvious, but it’s always good to get a refresher.

Make a Plan and Schedule It

Making a plan is the first step to success. Students with ADHD should use a calendar to map out their study plans. Work backward from the date of the final to ensure there is time to cover all areas. While making their schedule including the study techniques they will use for different subjects and sessions can help with accountability and organization.

Collect and Organize Past Quizzes and Tests

Those with ADHD, and their parents, are familiar with the messy backpack but now is the time to sort through it! Collect all past quizzes and tests. Analyzing which questions stumped them in the past can be a useful diagnostic tool for creating a study plan. The weaknesses revealed will be a great place to focus energy during finals.

Self Advocate

Teachers are allies on the path to all students’ success, including those with ADHD! If your child doesn’t understand some of the materials that have been presented in class they should make an appointment with their teacher. In this meeting, the teacher can clarify concepts and recommend resources for further study.

Get Outside Help if Needed

We all know finals are important, especially for high school students. Every point matters as these grades will be part of their transcripts during the college admissions process. Given how important these grades are, following tips and tricks on their own might not be enough for your ADHD student. Consider bringing in a tutor or executive function coach to help them better understand the material or help organize their study process.

Create an ADHD-Friendly Study Space

A clutter-free, organized study environment can be super helpful for ADHD students. Eliminate distractions, ensure good lighting, and consider adding fidget tools or noise-canceling headphones to aid focus.

ADHD and Finals Prep: The Power of Breaks

Teach your teen the importance of taking regular breaks during study sessions. Short, frequent breaks can prevent burnout and help maintain focus. Encourage your child to adopt techniques like the Pomodoro Method, where they alternate focused study periods (e.g., 25 minutes) with brief breaks. The satisfaction of completing a study task can also motivate your student to want to complete more.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Explore ADHD-friendly apps and tools designed to aid concentration and organization. From time management apps to noise-canceling apps, technology can be a valuable ally in helping your teen stay on track during finals. My son used the “do not disturb” feature on his cell phone to block out all notifications except those that were important (such as notices from me!).

Collaborative Study Sessions

Encourage your teen to form study groups with classmates. Collaborative learning not only provides social support but also allows for the exchange of study techniques and strategies.

Harness the Visual Advantage

Encourage your child to embrace color-coded calendars, checklists, and mind maps to visually map out their study plan. Digital tools like task management apps and digital note-taking platforms can also help streamline their workflow and keep them on track.

Scantron with pencil, eraser, and pencil sharpener.

using mind maps to study

Empowering ADHD Students for Success

Navigating finals week with ADHD can be challenging, but with the right strategies and support, your teen can thrive. Remember, every student is unique, so don’t be afraid to encourage them to use different techniques until they find what works best for them. If needed, get a temporary tutor or coach to help your student organize, prioritize, and schedule their studying leading up to finals day. By incorporating personalized study methods, creating a conducive study environment, and leveraging available resources, your teen can conquer finals week with confidence.


Will your ADHD Student be Taking Finals?

At Successful Study Skills 4 Students we have had great success in helping students with ADHD achieve their goals for finals season. Contact us to learn more about our Executive Function Workshops and coaching.

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Preparing for Finals 101 When You Have ADHD: What You Need to Know