ADHD and Test Taking

ADHD and Test TakingPeople with ADHD often have a difficult time with exams.  Whether it’s because of distractions, pressure or carelessness, ADHD and test taking just don’t go well together.

Trust me, I know.  I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD, but I will say that I’m easily distracted.  And that my leg is bouncing up and down as I write this.

But even with ADHD, there are things you can do to ensure that you do as well on tests as you possibly can.

Study well

Obviously, the first step in doing well on a test is to study well.  Kind of a given.  I actually wrote a whole article on ADHD study tips that you can read here.


One of the best things you can do to make test taking with ADHD easier is to make your environment as quiet and distraction-free as possible.  There are a few ways to do this.

One is to ask the teacher if you can take the test separately from the other students.  If you inform the teacher of your ADHD, they will usually make accommodations for you.  You can either come in and take the test at some other time, or possibly just in a different room at the same time.  Your teacher should be willing to work with you on this.

Another thing you can try is earplugs.  I know it’s probably not the thing you want to do: sit down, put in your earplugs, smile at that cute guy or girl a couple seats over without looking like a dork and try to act natural as the teacher hands out the test.

But hey, if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes!  Besides, most people will be focused on their own test.  And you can even put in your earplugs after the test starts!  Now there’s a thought…

Distractions and visualization

Sometimes it’s good to distract yourself.  Yes, you heard me right.  Well, don’t distract yourself for real.  But maybe stretch a bit, change positions and look around the room as you try to figure out an answer.

Here’s a downside: if you are caught looking around the room people might think you’re cheating.

And besides, it’s kind of hard to visualize a formula superimposed against the back of the goofy t-shirt the guy in front of you is wearing.  (Like I said, ADHD and test taking don’t mix.)

The solution?

Look at the ceiling!

Ceiling-gazing has actually been proven to help you think and remember things, especially if you’re a visual learner.  Things just seem to pop out at you when you look at the ceiling.  In fact, if you ever go to a top-level chess tournament, you will see some players look at the board and then stare at the ceiling while they figure out their move.  Hey, if chess players do it, it’s probably a smart thing to do, right?  Besides, nobody’s ever accused of trying to cheat off the ceiling.


The pressure of perfection often gets to ADHD students.  It’s pretty common for ADHD students to freeze up on tests, especially at the beginning.  There are a few things you can do to help with this.  One of the most important is to remember: it’s just a test!  Most of them aren’t as big as they seem.

If you tend to feel pressured when you’re taking a test, check out my post on overcoming test anxiety – it relates well to ADHD and test taking.


It’s easy for anyone to get careless, but it’s even easier for someone with ADHD.  Always be sure to double-check your answers.  I can’t tell you how many points I’ve saved on tests just by going back at the end and reviewing.  And realizing I must have been somewhere else entirely for a certain question.  And correcting it.  And getting it right.  Which is awesome.

Another thing to do is make sure you write neatly.  Not only will it help keep your grader happy, it will help keep your own brain organized.  It’s better to get freakishly obsessive and have epic handwriting on a test than to be scatterbrained and sloppy.

Well, maybe not freakishly obessive.  Just a little obessive is fine.

Take care of yourself!

Finally, the perennial test advice/study tip: always take care of your body!

Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test, eat a healthy breakfast and get your blood moving.  Even if it’s just 20 jumping jacks.  Do it!

What do you think?

What are some ways you’ve overcome your ADHD and beaten a test?  Tell me about it in the comments below!

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