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Prepare your child with ADD to ace exams

The key to performing well on tests is preparation - weeks, not hours, in advance. Learn to take good class notes, read to comprehend, and plan a test review schedule.

By Michael Sandler, ADDitude Magazine

For many students, preparing for a test is a discrete task — often begun with only a few hours to spare. A better approach — one that's particularly beneficial for ADDers — is to see test preparation as a process lasting several weeks. Taking good class notes, reading to comprehend and retain, and planning a schedule of review when a test is first announced — these are the keys to earning great grades.

Find a Note-taking Style

For an ADDer, taking notes is a chance to translate the material being taught into a format that allows him to learn. Most teachers present information in A-B-C order, yet ADDers think in concepts, images, and networks of connected ideas. They may write down every word a teacher says, yet miss important points or themes.

Encourage your child to experiment with several different in-class note-taking techniques, such as outlines, charts, diagrams, lists, or drawings — and to use a combination that best suits his learning style.

To develop good note-taking skills, your child should sit near the front of the classroom, away from friends and other distractions. As the teacher speaks, the child should ask himself: "Is this important? Could it be on a test?" Later, if he's not sure he has captured all of the important information, he can ask the teacher to look over his notes.

Review Notes Daily

To help your child stay on top of what she's learned in class — and avoid needing to relearn large amounts of material for a test — have her set aside a specific time each day to review her notes. This should be an opportunity to complete sentence fragments, clarify points, or add memory-jogging associations. Or she may want to transfer hastily written notes into a format she likes better. As she reviews, she should ask herself:

  • Can I find key information quickly? Do the important points leap off the page?
  • Does my material follow a logical progression and remind me of the lecture?
  • Can I stay focused on my notes or do they make me zone out?

If your child is an auditory learner, she should read her notes into a tape-recorder and listen to them on headphones.

Read to Retain

By the time your child reaches middle school, he's probably reading several chapters a day for homework — and much of that information will show up on a test. To avoid rereading everything, he'll need effective reading habits. Begin by setting up a reading routine. Have him figure out where, when, and how he works best. Is he more comfortable sitting at a desk or lying on the bed? Does he prefer reading before school or before bedtime? Should the radio be on or off?

He should tackle the most difficult material while he's fresh. Offer a colorful sticky note reminding him to "stay focused!" He can move it from page to page, to keep it in sight — and later use it as a bookmark.

ADDers need frequent breaks to relax and recharge. Set a timer to signal both his reading time and his breaks.

To help him absorb material — and to create study tools he can use if needed — suggest that he take notes and make flashcards as he goes along. Auditory learners can record important information in a question-and-answer format, to create "auditory flashcards" that can be used for review.

Encourage your child to keep an "I don't know" sheet, listing anything he'd like to check with the teacher.

Michael Sandler is an ADD coach in Boulder, Colorado, and the author of Conquering College with ADD (Sourcebooks, 2006).

Reprinted with permission from ADDitude Magazine. All rights reserved. See for more articles like this one.

Comments from readers

"hello, i am a student attending Galena Interior Learning Academy, i am preparing for my junior year, and i know i procrastinate, so i am researching ways on how to improving my study habits and just by reading this page, it helped me in numerous ways. thank you!!"
"How can I teach my child when he has difficulty remenbering material. He dx with ADHD and learning disabilities."