12 Tips on Improving Your Grade

Last time I mentioned that after you determine why you’re failing a class, you need to come up with a plan to address it. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Make the most of class time:

  • Do the required reading the night before. Repetition is one of the keys to learning and retaining, especially for ADDers. I know what you’re thinking – I can’t remember what I read. I get to the end of the page and have no idea what it was about. Try doing this:
    • Skim through the chapter reading only the section titles or headings. This gives you an idea of what the chapter is about.
    • Skim through again, this time reading section headings, caption headings under pictures, and charts, diagrams, etc.
    • Go through a third time, this time looking for words in bold within the text or definitions, explanations, etc contained in the margins. Read each of these.
    • Turn to the end of the chapter and look at the questions or chapter summary. Can you answer any of the questions based on what you’ve done so far? If not, do you have a good idea of where they are located?
    • Take a ten minute break. Walk around the room, get a snack or a drink, do something other than study.
    • Now go back and read the chapter. If you just can’t make yourself do that, then find a section or two that you’re willing to read and do that.
    • Take notes as you read. They don’t have to be lengthy, just write down things that you want to remember or don’t understand.
  • Be an active listener in class. It will help you stay focused. Make a point to listen for words or concepts that you read about the night before. Listen for key words that tell you something important is to follow: this is important, this is key, to emphasize, you need to know, first, then, in conclusion. Also make note of anything the teacher writes on the board or repeats.
  • Take notes in class. Don’t try and write down everything that is said; stick to key concepts and ideas.

Be a more effective test taker:

  • Start studying for the next test as soon as you take the last one. Really. Every day after class, take some time to look over your notes. Day 1 after a test, you read day 1’s notes. On day 2, you read day 1 & day 2’s notes. By the time the test comes, you’ll have very little to remember; most of it will have been reinforced day after day.
  • Make your study environment work for you. There’s no rule that says you have to sit at a desk in a quiet room. Music is OK as background noise, but it probably shouldn’t be your favorite music. The TV is most likely too distracting, unless you can’t see the screen. Don’t think you have to sit, either. Try walking around and reading or talking out loud while you study. It is surprisingly effective, especially for ADDers.
  • Study for no more than 15-20 minutes before taking a short break. Your brain can only hold so much before it stops retaining information.
  • Stop studying an hour before bed. Otherwise, your brain may not have enough time to store the information in long term memory.
  • Chunk your information. Gather enough to spend 15-20 minutes on, and study that as one chunk of information.
  • Teach the dog. Sounds silly, but it works. You may think you know something until you try to explain it to someone else. If you can explain calculus to your mom, your best friend, or the dog, then you’ve got it and you know you’ve got it.
  • Tie things together with descriptive or silly phrases. Let’s say you have to remember 5 concepts that go together, and that the first letters of the concepts are P,E,S,B,T,S. Make up a silly, descriptive sentence to tie them together: Pink Elephants in String Bikinis Tiptoe on the Sand.
  • On test day:
    • When you get the test, read through the entire test before you answer any questions. Then, find a question that you know the answer to, and answer it. Then find another. Do this until you’ve answered every question you know.
    • Make sure to keep track of the questions and answer them in the right space.
    • Now go back and answer the rest of the questions in order.
    • This method does 2 things for you: first, it maximizes your grade because you’ve correctly answered every question that you absolutely knew, and second, it increases your confidence, giving you a better chance of thinking clearly (not panicking) and possibly getting more questions right.

About those creative ideas:

Sometimes, a teacher will accept a “creative idea” in return for extra credit. For instance, your grade is lower than you would like because you did poorly on a written report. Writing is not your strong point, but you really shine at making web pages. You could propose putting together a web page for the instructor to use with future classes in return for extra credit.

Teachers aren’t always willing to allow these kinds of things – it means extra work for them – but it never hurts to ask. Just make sure that whatever creative idea you come up with is something that will require some honest work from you, will relate to the subject matter, and demonstrates what you have learned.

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About Brenda Nicholson

I am an ADHD Expert, Coach, and Consultant. I want you to learn how to celebrate your life with ADHD too.

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