Test prep advice for students with ADHD

The exam proctor paces up and down the slim aisles between the desks, the girl to your left rapidly taps the toe of her converse, and the repetitive chorus of “Bad Romance” blasts ad nauseam in your brain while you try not to let your eyes drift from the seemingly endless passage about the tenets of microeconomics.  This may seem like a scary situation for anyone, but for someone with ADHD it can seem close to impossible.  Believe me; I’ve been there (minus the Lady Gaga.  She was still waiting tables back when I was in high school).

Having ADHD is like turning on the television, and seeing every single channel at once, audio included. People with ADHD notice all sorts of stimuli, and they all come in at the same frequency.  Not ideal when you need to focus on calculating the slope of a line.

When you have ADHD it is important to learn to control it with extreme discipline.  This discipline can help you get through the SAT or ACT.  It may be clichéd, but practice really does make perfect (or, shall we say, a 2400).  Revolution gives you the option to take five practice SAT tests or practice ACT tests in a proctored environment.  Take advantage of this.  There’s no better way to learn how to sit through a four-hour-long test than to actually sit through it.  When doing your homework, try to work in a location with a decent level of ambient noise– a cafe, the library, the park — so you can get used to working through distractions.

Revolution’s strategies really help, too.  When you’re reading a Critical Reading passage, asking yourself questions about what you’re reading forces your brain to pay attention.  Coming up with answers of your own in response to Critical Reading and Writing questions makes you an active participant in the SAT, making it harder to focus on the stain on your shirt.  To help keep track of time, I recommend placing a watch on your desk.  And when you finish your essay, look over it for spelling and grammar errors.  On Math sections, double-check that you haven’t messed up on any of the details.

Students who are eligible can apply for accommodations (like extended time and taking the test in a small group setting) on the SAT or ACT.  Make sure you start this process early, as it can take up to seven weeks for them to review all the information and make a decision.  Don’t be embarrassed about asking for these accommodations if you really need them.  For more information on special testing for the SAT see http://www.collegeboard.com/ssd/student/index.html or for the ACT go to http://www.act.org/aap/disab/opt3.html.

And last of all, remember that people with ADHD tend to be creative and good at thinking about the big picture– skills that might not help when solving for X, but are awfully important in the real world.

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