Managing Test Stress with ADHD

  • Blog
Managing Test Stress with ADHD

At this point in the school year, it may already be time for a dreaded pop-quiz or lengthy test. Tests are already stressful, but for someone with ADHD, they can bring a new element of dread. Help your student ace their next quiz or test with these tips. 

Start early.

  • Don’t wait until the night before the test to cram. Trying to cram too much information into too short of a time only leads to stress, frustration, and doesn’t help with retaining critical lessons before the test. 
  • Set your child up in their homework only zone and give them the time and space they need to review their notes and any handouts. 
  • Plan out what chapters or topics will be reviewed in the week leading up to the test. Commit to helping your student review one or two chapters or topics a night. 

Understand the test. 

Not knowing how the test will be structured can feel like walking into a dark room. It can be difficult to know what and how to study if your child doesn’t know what to expect. Before tests, have your child ask their teacher the following: 

  • What format will the test be? (multiple choice, short answer, essay, etc.)
  • How much time will be given to complete the test? 
  • What is the main focus? 
  • Is there anything they don’t need to review?

Your child may feel awkward the first time they ask these questions; by having a positive relationship with your student’s teacher, you can help them navigate the first few tests.  

Leverage your student’s individualized education plan (IEP) for any additional time or distraction-free seating that may be needed. 

Select the right study tools.

  • If you haven’t already, pick up a couple packets of flashcards for your child. These small, handy cards are great for writing down and memorizing definitions or algorithms, can be organized by subject, and make learning on the go easy. And just like with note taking, the physical act of writing down information boosts retention. 
  • Use both words and pictures to help your child remember key facts. This method of studying is useful for theories or science concepts that can be difficult to describe with words alone. Think of when you had to memorize the structure of a plant cell; the key terms may have faded but you likely remember a funny, rectangular shaped object. Get creative and encourage your student to doodle their thoughts when dealing with abstract concepts. 
  • Mnemonic devices are a fun way for your child to use their natural creativity. Mnemonics turn information into memorable phrases, quirky initialisms, or even cute songs. A common mnemonic is “Roy G. Biv.” which helps students remember the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). Using mnemonics can be an excellent outlet for your child’s imagination and will likely bring some smiles to study time. 
  • Create an “I don’t know sheet” with your child during study sessions. This is a repository of all the questions or topics your student needs additional review on. Rather than struggling through a concept, write it down on the sheet and have your child follow-up with their teacher the next day. 

Healthy body = healthy brain. 

Even with all the studying in the world, your child’s brain will be sluggish come test day if their physical health is ailing. In the days leading up to the big quiz, help your child to: 

  • Get exercise to burn off extra energy and nerves
  • Take breaks from studying to clear their mind
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before the test 
  • Eat a well-rounded breakfast

Just like with homework and focusing in class, it takes time and different techniques to master tests. It’s important to remind your child that a test is just one snapshot of their much larger academic picture. If they don’t get the grade they hoped for, don’t dwell on it; remind them of the areas they are thriving in, work with them on new test-prep ideas, and prepare for the next one.