8 Unique Studying Tips for College Students with ADHD

Studying Tips for college students with ADHD

*Many of the tips in this article can also be taught to middle and high school students.

School was never really a problem for me – until I went to college and hit a brick wall. I didn’t know how to study, and I didn’t know that I didn’t know how to study. I thought you studied by reading the chapter, underlining the important points, and going back and looking at them again. When I tried these methods in college, they just didn’t work for me.

I finally stumbled upon two important tools: how to learn and the forgetting curve. They’re included in the eight tips below.

Let’s assume you’re about to start a course.

1. Get a “kindergarten” book on the subject and read it first.

At the least, read about the subject on the internet. You can even watch a video or read an article made for kids on the topic.

2. To study a book chapter, start by reading all the headings, any vocabulary definitions given, and any summaries or questions at the end of the chapter.

Then study the chapter.

Studying Tips for college students with ADHD

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3. Use the “How to Learn” Strategy.

Read a page in the book (or your notes) and underline the three most important points on the page. Close the book.

From memory, scribble on scratch paper the three points. When you can do that correctly, go on to the next page.

When you finish the chapter (or whatever section you’ve chosen to learn), close the book and scribble all the important points. When you can do that correctly, you’re done.

4. Use “the forgetting curve” to your advantage.

If you learn something 100%, then you start forgetting it. After three days (for most people) you’ll still remember 50% of it. At that point, learn it 100% again; you’ll do it much quicker than the first time. At 10 days, you’ll remember 50% of it. Learn it all the third time; it won’t take long at all. Months and months later, you’ll still remember about 80% of it, and years later, about 50%. Even more, if you’ve used it occasionally.

So each day, learn the day’s material, the material from three days ago, and the material from 10 days ago. Then you will own it.

5. If you will be tested on a particular chapter or section, put yourself in the mind of the teacher.

Take a guess about what three test questions from each page might be. These will be your three points to learn.

Studying Tips for college students with ADHD

6. It’s much easier to learn if you’re interested in the subject.

If not, there are strategies to help you be interested:

  • do extra work on one very small area of the subject until you are the expert of the class on that topic
  • give yourself a nice reward each time you’ve learned a section, and promise yourself a big reward if you make a good grade
  • set a goal for when you will have learned each section, and try to reach that goal (e.g., I will have section 2 down by Friday)

7. Take breaks.

Most people can study for an hour, and then their efforts become much less effective. Take a short break and do something pleasant; be sure you have a strategy for keeping it short.

Studying Tips for college students with ADHD

8. Use a multi-sensory approach.

We learn by seeing, by hearing, and by doing.  If you scribble the important point (or draw a picture of it), you are seeing and doing, and if you also say it out loud, you’re hearing. Cover all the bases.

Follow these methods and you will be learning the material, not just cramming for a test. If there’s a final, you’ll only need to brush up on it and you’ll have it.

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2 thoughts on “8 Unique Studying Tips for College Students with ADHD

  1. Totally agree! These tips are wonderful and can be adapted to most reading levels! Some ideas to add: How do you identify the most important points? How do you keep yourself from forgetting? Prior to reading the material, look at the headings, the questions or summary at the end of a text, and the subtitles in an article. Use these to generate questions of your own. Write these prior reading questions down. These questions give you a framework for reading the material. After you read certain sections of the material, summarize what you’ve read aloud. Review the material by answering the prior reading questions you asked yourself Testing yourself is the best way to retain material.

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