In this report, I’m going to share with you ten key study strategies for ADHD that can help you succeed at studying, revision, and get you in good shape for your exams.
In an ideal world, everyone would know this information. But it’s not an ideal world, and as you have ADHD and are already at a “disadvantage,” surely it’s good to apply the following Accelerated Learning principles to help you “get the edge”? At least over yourself! 😉
How I Came Across Accelerated Learning
When I sat my exams at school and college I didn’t have a clue about how to study and revise properly. I remember one teacher saying, “Sleep on it. Put your textbook underneath your pillow and you’ll be more likely to wake up and remember.” So much for that magic…
By the time I got to studying psychology at Open University at age 23, it made sense to learn and apply educational psychology principles and accelerated learning.
It made a massive difference. No longer was I trying to cram, or wasting tons of energy studying the wrong way. I did everything with maximum efficiency, and my results increased by 20%.
That might not sound like much at first, but if I said that meant I got 85% average in my essays, up from 65% average, that can actually mean the difference between a pass and a fail, or a better grade.
So now it’s your turn to get the edge and study with maximum efficiency, to achieve more of your true potential…
#1: Study Like A Sprinter, Not a Marathon Runner
Have you ever been in a classroom or lecture and noticed someone spacing out or even falling asleep?
You may be thinking you do that a lot yourself because you have ADHD. But if you think about it, no-one has the ability to focus endlessly and take everything in without taking a break.
We all need to “space out” or “goof off” now and then. It’s actually how the brain goes from being active (taking in new information) to being passive (wanting to process the new information).
Just as over 24 hours we go from a daytime cycle of being awake and active to being asleep, our brain goes through mini sub cycles like this during an average day in terms of active and passive information processing.
Anyone that is proficient in teaching or lecturing is aware of this principle, and remembers the importance of breaks.
Most people, with or without ADHD, cannot concentrate at full efficiency for any longer than 20-30 mins.
In terms of breaks, then, you should aim to have a break every 20 minutes, 30 minutes maximum, for 5 minutes and no longer than 10 (as longer is not beneficial).
What many people do, instead, is keep working until they “feel” like they need a break. That is actually counter-productive, for many reasons.
For now, take onboard the concept that people with ADHD are more like sprinters than marathon runners, and there’s nothing wrong with being a sprinter!
If you have ADHD, you may need shorter breaks than most. 20 minutes would be the average, but for some individuals, younger students, or depending on the task and level of interest, that may be even shorter.
The key is to experiment and find what works for you.
Not only does having regular breaks help you to restore what ADHD expert Dr. Russel Barkley calls the “attentional tank,” but it will also help you take advantage of the Primacy and Recency effect.
Primacy is the fact that you remember more from the beginning of a block of study, and Recency from the end.
So having regular breaks invokes what is called “The Zeigarnik Effect”, discovered by a german researcher of the same name who found that, if there is regular interruption – even when the study is going well – there is an increase in the number of “beginnings and endings” and therefore better memory overall.
This is just one of the study strategies for ADHD that will prepare you for success, and sounds deceptively simple, but that’s the point – it’s simple and it really works if you apply it consistently!
#2: Don’t Just Take a Break, Think “Active Recovery”
So in our first study strategies for ADHD, #1 we learned how having regular breaks helps us remember more and process information more efficiently.
But now it’s time to think about how to best use your regular breaks.
Strategy #2 is about realising that your break should involve something completely unrelated to your study (this helps avoid unwanted associations with the content you’re studying) but also be considered to be an integral component of studying itself.
During the break do something completely unrelated like doodling, martial arts, juggling, meditation, self-hypnosis, relaxation and deep breathing exercises. Preferably take this break and do one of the above things (or whatever takes your fancy) outdoors.
Doing this will help you switch quickly into relaxation mode and forget about what you were studying. When you do this, your brain waves slow down, which helps your brain to consolidate what you’ve been learning, to process it more efficiently, and commit to memory.
Think of your study periods as when you consciously focus and absorb information. And when you switch off and forget about your study is when your unconscious mind works “behind the scenes” or “in the background” whilst you chill out and have fun!
#3: Move Your Body and Preferably Get Outdoors
When we study (especially for long periods of time) we tend to be indoors. This is actually bad for our mental and physical health, because we tend to move less and get less light.
There is a lot of research now which shows that getting Natural Daylight (even if it’s cloudy) is vital to our mental and physical health, and there is evidence to suggest that those with ADHD are even more prone to blunted circadian rhythm due to lack of natural light.
We also know that exercise is particularly important for the ADHD brain, and that children tend to learn better outdoors – and even more so when they have ADHD. There is even a whole book written on this topic called Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv: http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/
So, if possible, do your studying and revision outdoors as much as possible, or at the very least go outdoors to have your 5 minute break, move your body, get some oxygen, sun and contact with nature to help you study!
This strategy is indeed deceptively simple, but really works. And this strategy along with the previous study strategies for ADHD start to exponentially increase in power when “stacked” together…
#4: Get Better Sleep and Take Power Naps
Just as it is important to observe the need for active recovery or relaxation during your study, it is important to get good sleep.
Getting good sleep is as important as having your regular breaks during study. Scientific research suggests that sleep (REM) is how our brain commits learning to memory. Studies show that poor sleep impairs memory and learning.
Read that again, and next time you are tempted to stay up late and “cram,” realise that it is counter-productive.
It makes more sense to go to bed early and aim to wake up earlier instead and do the work on waking. After all, you will be refreshed, your brain will work better, and also you will be able to take advantage of the fact that our alertness will be much better.
At night time, on the other hand, we are designed not to be active and awake, but to be tired – for sleep!
Finally, research shows the benefits of daytime power-naps or “catnaps” (of between 10-20 mins) to help our brain to restore energy and efficiency. Cat-nap at least once per day for success!
You can do this by simply setting an alarm and dozing off for a while, using a hypnosis recording, practising self hypnosis, or meditation.
#5: Engage “Multiple Encoding” For Maximum Learning
If you use all of your senses (visual, sound, feeling) when learning you will create more associations and more possibility for recall.
If reading, read aloud. This creates double-encoding, i.e. reading silently is primarily visual (with eyes), reading aloud to yourself is visual-auditory.
Also try visualising the content/meaning of your learning, even if the visualisation-imagining doesn’t appear to make logical sense to your conscious mind. To the unconscious mind it does!
Another great way to practise Multiple Encoding is through Mind Mapping…
#6: Ditch Lists for Mind Maps
Have you ever written your revision notes in list form then got into an exam and tried to remember what was on the list? You got up to item 5, say, then got stuck. You couldn’t get past that point. That’s because our brain doesn’t work in such a linear fashion.
Instead, use Mind Mapping because it engages the right brain and is closer to how the brain operates than logical lists, because the brain learns and memorises by association. Mind maps even mimic the branch-like layout of neuronal synapses, similar to the branches on a tree.
Don’t worry if you find it hard to visually represent the information. Any representation will do, irrational seeming symbols and so on. The key is to just trust your unconscious!
For further information check out this page http://www.mind-mapping.co.uk/tony-buzan-biog.htm and/or read Tony Buzan’s “The Mind Map Book” to learn more. There is also a “Mind Maps for Kids” version by Tony Buzan available from “The dyslexia store”: https://www.thedyslexiashop.co.uk/mind-map-for-kids-the-shortcut-to-success-at-school.html
Putting these Mind Maps up on the walls in your place of learning will also enhance your memory as it had been demonstrated by researchers that subliminal exposure greatly enhances memory.
Let it “go in through the corners of your eyes.”
#7: Double Your Reading Speed with One Simple Trick
When you’re studying you tend to have to read a lot. Students naturally read much faster than non-students merely because they have to.
But if you struggle with reading fast enough, or if you just want to read even faster, here’s a simple trick which can double your reading speed instantly.
So when you were learning to read, you probably used to follow a pencil or a finger in the early days. Then you were meant to stop doing that. But it turns out that using a pencil or following the movement of your finger can double reading speed alone.
Why is that? Because when we try and read text it doesn’t move, so our eye movements tend to be jagged. Our eyes, after all, are designed to follow movement. Forcing them to follow stationary lines of text can create stress and essentially goes against our natural way of doing things.
So when we run a pencil or finger under the line we are reading our eyes smoothly follow the movement, there is less stress on the eyes and brain, and we also stop backtracking as much. Try it and see.
To take this further I highly recommend Tony Buzan’s practical how to book on Speed Reading. By followig the techniques in his book I was able to increase my reading speed within a short period of time from 700 words per minute up to 2400 words per minute with 70% comprehension. This was good for most purposes.
Go check out the book and be surprised at how easily you can learn to triple or even quadruple your reading speed. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Speed-Reading-Book-learn-achieve/dp/1406644293
Although there is a higher number of people with ADHD also experiencing dyslexia, I’ve noted that many of us with ADHD may benefit from speed-reading as we find it highly stimulating! This is not dissimilar to many people with ADHD reporting that, if they watch a video of someone speaking slowly, they find it easier to concentrate if they play the video at a higher speed.
#8: The Most Efficient Way to Review What You’re Studying
Ever wondered how often you should review material to make sure that you remember it and save time? Well, if you follow this review-pattern based in reviews of experimental and educational psychology, you can revise your material with maximum efficiency.
1). Learn material with immediate tests built in to ensure transfer from Short Term to Long Term Memory.
2). Review after 10 minutes (for 5 minutes).
3). Review after 1 day (for 5 minutes).
4). Review after 1 week (for 3 minutes)
5). Review after 1 month (for 3 min)
6). Review after 6 months (3 mins).
This pattern of review will involve about 20 minutes of time per 45 minutes of initial learning, but will save many hours of learning compared to trying to learn “all in one go.”
It would not be unreasonable to expect a 400-500% boost in recall using this method.
#9: Use Music or Silence to Help You Focus
Whilst today researchers doubt that the original claim that listening to Mozart could increase IQ (termed the “Mozart Effect”), nonetheless the power of music in helping people study, especially those with ADHD, cannot be under-estimated.
The concensus on the “Mozart Effect” seems to be that what’s actually happening is “enjoyment arousal”, and that any music a child enjoys has the ability to help with focus.
Many with ADHD report that they can immerse themselves in their work, focus for longer, and get motivated, by using music.
In the case of ADHD, the music normally preferred doesn’t contain any words, as words can be distracting to the ADHD brain. Also, some with ADHD find it easier to concentrate and study in silence.
So either find a quiet place to study or get yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones!
#10: Use Hypnosis & Visualisation to Program Yourself for Success
One of our biggest fears is taking tests. If we worry about failing, the fear of failure can cause anxiety which leads to us being more likely to experience what we fear!
Think about it: How many students really know the material they are studying, but when they get into the exam hall their mind goes blank?! Or they can play a piece of music on their own beautifully, but when someone else asks them to play it, they can hardly play a note!
The key here is to release the anxiety. Practises like hypnosis and mindfulness can help us with that.
Practise mindfulness to be aware of any anxieties or fears you may have around study, exams, and success. With mindfulness, it’s about doing the opposite of trying to think positive thoughts. It’s about really feeling into the emotions and leting them be as they are. This, paradoxically, helps to lessen their effect upon you.
Meanwhile, you can also use self-hypnosis or visualisation, to give yourself positive affirmations such as “I am calm and relaxed about my exam…”
You can imagine something calming that you enjoy (such as walking on the beach) and then imagine walking from the beach into the exam room.
Then imagine that you are in the exam, feeling relaxed and confident, and answering the questions with ease. Then imagine how you will feel when you get good feedback or a grade on your performance.
By doing this you will begin to associate with your subconscious mind a relaxing experience like going to the beach with sitting an exam. You will also be preparing your subconscious mind with positive affirmations and expectation of success, versus failure, which will lower your anxiety and improve your efficiency. And guess what?
When we’re anxious, our brain actually stops working properly. Brain scans show that blood flow to the front of the brain (which we need for studying) dwindles under stress or worry. But when we relax and think positive thoughts, the brain will function better.
If you found this helpful why not attend our upcoming event on this very topic:
The ADHD Solution: How To Study and Pass Exams When You have ADHD! This Free Live Event in Bristol, Saturday April 27 2019, will prepare you or your child with ADHD for more efficient study and revision skills, and help you achieve the most in your upcoming exams! The event will also include a Group Guided Hypnotic Meditation experience, and my downloadable “Study Success for ADHD” mp3 for attending this unique event. Book your ticket at Eventbrite now: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-to-pass-your-exams-when-you-have-adhd-tickets-59703470688
Download your Free Copy of “Quickly Relax” hypnosis MP3 today, and get access to further reports, strategies, and tools to help you or your child learn to manage or even master your ADHD for more happiness and success.https://addvantagehypnotherapy.activehosted.com/f/3
Biography Jamie was diagnosed in 2004 (age 24) with ADHD, but it was in the 20% who respond poorly to medication or have side-effects. This led him to ask the question: “In addition to medication, what else can we do to manage and master ADHD?” By 2011, by discovering and applying an holistic-integrated approach to ADHD and training as a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist, he finally came out of his depression, began to manage his symptoms of ADHD, and was able to rebuild his life again after a decade of being out of work. He went from “ADHD Hell” to “ADHD Heaven” (well, almost, as he likes to joke) and began to help others do the same. Now it’s your turn. Jamie offers coaching and hypnotherapy for ADHD in Bristol as well as worldwide via Skype.
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER You must not rely on the information given at this event or in any of our publications as constituting an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. It should be considered as “in addition to” and not “instead of,” and any changes you may make should be done so with the assistance of your health provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition then you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information shared at this event or in our publications.