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Exam Revision Tips

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Top 12 GCSE Exam Revision Tips for Teenagers with ADHD

The key to helping your teenagers with ADHD revise for their GCSE exams is to understand how their very special brains work. Once you know what makes their brains tick, you can help them come up with strategies that will work for them to keep on ticking… even through GCSE exam revision!






Here’s how:

1. Understand your teenager’s ADHD brain

Your teenager’s brain is like a Ferrari.Like all cars, it needs fuel to move.This fuel is authentic interest.
Unless your teenager finds GCSE revision authentically interesting, he will most likely be running on empty. Chastising him won’t help. What he needs is fuel and you need to help him find it!

2. Jump start the car

The car won’t start if it has no fuel and GCSE revision won’t fill the tank. Give your teenager the momentum she needs to get started by encouraging her to do something that she is interested in first. This could be anything from playing Sudoku to going to the gym. Physical activity is a great jump start!

3. Identify your teenager’s processing modalities

Your teenager will revise more effectively if he is using his preferred and dominant processing modalities. These will most likely be verbal, visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. He will revise best through discussing conceptsand repeating information out loud to himself. He will benefit from creating colourful mind maps, highlighting notes or typing them outand putting them on display where he can see them regularly. Practice papers will do more for him than reading over his texts. Help your teenager work out how he learns and processes information best and encourage him to use as many of these modalities as he can to keep him engaged.  

4. Encourage multi-sensory learning

Low-level distractions can help provide the stimulation that your teenager needs that she isn’t getting from her GCSE revision. Suggest that she listen to music, chew gum, use fidget toys, revise while standing up or a combination of these things. Help her experiment. Be wary of sensory overload however as it can be a fine line between a help and a hinderance…

5. Inject some interest

Teenagers with ADHD generally find novelty, challenge, urgency, connection, contribution and meaning authentically interesting. Try to find ways of injecting these elements into your teenager’s GCSE exam revision. Set close deadlines, get her a tutor she genuinely likes, arrange a study partner and try to bring her lessons to life so that they have meaning and feel relevant to her. Your teenager with ADHD is always trying to make sense of the world. If there isn’t any point, well, there isn’t any point…This is a girl with the smarts!

6. Eliminate the wrong kind of distractions

Whilst the right kind of low-level distractions will help your teenager to revise, the wrong kind won’t. Items and activities close by that don’t ordinarily appeal to your teenager will suddenly become very interesting during GCSE exam revision. Remove temptation by creating the right study environment where there is basically nothing else for your teenager to do but revise. Waiting rooms and long train trips work a treat!

7. Keep Rumination at bay

Teenagers with ADHD are prone to ruminate, particularly when bored. Negative thoughts are highly stimulating and much easier to conjure up than positive ones! To keep rumination at bay and reduce “mind chatter”, break up study time with exercise, mindfulness andbeing in nature. Get her out of her head and back into her body!

8. Ask, don’t tell - get your teenager to “own it”

Telling your teenager to revise won’t be very effective. Instead, help him createhis own GCSE revision schedule on a whiteboard or flipchart. To help him get started, ask:

  • When do you study best?

  • How long can you study before you start losing focus?

  • What can you do during your study breaks that will help you refuel?

  • What can you do to help you transition from a study break back to your study?

  • How are you going to remember this schedule and stick with it? (the all important question!)

Your teenager with ADHD will be much more receptive and collaborative if you ask him questions. Remember - Ask, don’t tell.

9. Develop your teenager’s sense of time

Your teenager with ADHD will likely have a poor sense of time. Encourage him to create and consistently follow routines, including those that he created in his GCSE revision schedule. He will develop a better sense of time, feel busy, more in control and importantly, get more revision done. Success begets success!

10. Manage your own ADHD

ADHD is highly genetic. If you also have ADHD, helping your teenagerto revise for her GCSE examinations is not going to be easy unless you are authentically interested in the task. If you aren’t, you need to make sure that your own tank is full, otherwise you won’t be able to engage. Think back to how you used to revise, particularly for subjects that you didn’t find interesting. Chances are what worked for you then may work for you now… and possibly alsoyour teenager!

11. Help your teenager tell a new story about themselves

Your teenager has probably been told many times that they are lazy or “just not very clever”. However, nothing could be further from the truth!
Your teenager with ADHD is gifted. She is likely to be a creative and innovative thinker with more ideas than you could poke a stick it! When she is engaged in something that she is authentically interested in she is likely to have an abundance of energy andperseverance that would rival an Olympic athlete. Praise your teenager’s efforts and celebrate her successes. Acknowledge her strengths. Harness them. Don’t let her forget that she was born to do great things!

12. Prioritise fun!

GCSE revision can be an extremely stressful time. Try to stay upbeat and create plenty of opportunities for you and your teenager to have fun together. Plan activities and days out that your teenager can look forward to and enjoy. As Einsten said (who himself was blessed with ADHD): “having fun is best way to learning”. And let’s face it - “if you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong”!


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