How I prepare for an Exam (with moderate-to-severe ADHD)

It’s that time of year again: exam season!

The academic jump from College to University is a big and difficult one. My first semester in University is already coming to a close and all I have on my mind is studying. As someone going through diagnosis, I want to share some of the techniques and tools I use for studying with ADHD!

Best Overall Study Habits:

  1. Start as soon as possible; you will need all the time you can get to review your materials!
  2. Time tracking apps > I use these for the Pomodoro Timer feature and time-tracking shows me which areas I haven’t worked on enough. I especially love this app for studying on-the-go!
  3. A white board and markers – practice, practice, practice! If your vocabulary-recall skills are on the weaker side, repetition is key! Use colours if that helps you, but I find bright colours too distracting.

The Night Before:

As tempting as it is to “cram” all night, that won’t help your performance on your exam at all!

Follow these tips the night before to wake up feeling energized and refreshed:

  • NO caffeine after 6pm
  • NO eating after 8pm
  • NO screens in bed!
  • DO go to bed early, give yourself at least 10 hours of rest (folks with ADHD need more sleep!)
  • DO optimize your sleep; cater your space for the best sleep with blackout curtains and a cool air!
  • DO drink lots of water before bed (I’ve found it makes me less groggy in the morning)
  • If applicable: take your medications properly, such that they won’t hinder your sleep!

The Morning/Day of:

  1. Do not study! Review key concepts from your notes, but reserve your “focus energy” for actual exam. You don’t want to burn out before you even start!
  2. Wear comfy clothing (and no distracting jewellery!) The last thing you want is to be concentrating on your itchy sweater or uncomfortable shoes
  3. Eat breakfast, especially if you normally don’t; your brain needs the calories today!
  4. Be present and ready 1 hour before your exam! As someone with ADHD I’m constantly late because I underestimate how much time I need to get ready. Don’t be me!

I hope these tips help you out with your exams as well! If anything in particular was of use to you, please let me know. I read every comment. If you liked this article, check out my older study playlists to get in the work-zone!

Thank you for reading!

If this was helpful for you, please share this with your family and friends who are curious about this topic and comment any follow-up questions you have!


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By Joey Dean

Canadian Transgender artist Joey Dean paints bold emotional abstracts that warp reality. His pop-surrealism expresses a sadness’s and bittersweet nostalgia for growing up LGBTQ+ in a place where he didn’t exist. He strives to advocate issues within his community such as acceptance over tolerance, supporting victims of violence, and the intersections of mental health and being *Queer.

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