One of my colleagues created this great response to a question I asked about “tips” for taking multiple choice exams…so common in high school and college and often very difficult for people with ADHD to do well on (the author, Jonathan Salem is also one of the co-authors of 365+1 Ways to Succeed with ADHD due in October)…
Good test taking skills can really help boost grades, even if knowledge of the topic is not as good as you wish. I had to learn some of these skills as a HS student, but again had to learn them to help my daughter prepare for SAT tests for college admissions, a few years ago. So my memory of these techniques is based on best recall. Here is what I remember:
1) First, do all the answers you know for sure and can do quickly without a lot of thinking. Get them out of the way and done quickly.
2) Second, do all the answers you can figure out with some thinking, but not too much time required. If it takes too much time, move on and save it for later. Notate the question # on a piece of paper so you can go back to it later.
3) Third, review those that you could make an educated guess on. First, use process of elimination to limit which answers are possible. In other words, eliminate the answers that you know are wrong. If you eliminate 2 out of 4 possible answers, then you have increased your odds to 50% of guessing the correct answer.
4) After you have done process of elimination, and you have made your educated guess, stick with it. The only reason to change an answer you guessed is if you come up with FACTS that counter your choice and lead you to another choice. One big mistake people make is changing guessed answers based on a concern that you got it wrong, without any factual reason for changing it. In the absence of a good solid reason to change an answer, your first answer is more likely to be correct.
5) For the rest, which you have no clue of the answers, choose a single letter, such as A, B, C, or D, but only one, such as B, and put that in for the answer for every question you don’t know the answer to. By sticking wiht one letter, you are likely to get about 20-25% of those correct by simple chance.
6) If you still have time, go back to the questions that require a lot of time to calculate, and now you can spend the time to properly calculate those and change your answers.
Sometimes the test itself will yield facts that can be used somewhere else in the test, so use those facts if you know they are correct to answer other questions, but be careful, if you don’t know it is a fact, then you shouldn’t rely upon it for other answers to the test.
Some tests allow you to bring formulas, or notes, so if its allowed then bring all formulas, notes, dates, facts on a piece of paper and keep it available on the desk for the test.
Some tests allow you to have blank clean paper to make notes on. Memorize your formulas and facts before the test, and as soon as you get to start the test, write down all your formulas from your memory onto your blank paper, before the information gets lost in your head. Use it as a reference throughout the test.
Throughout the test, keep an eye on the clock. If it is timed, determine how many questions there are, and how many minutes you have, divide minutes by questions, and you will know how much time you can spend per question on average, so you can try to keep pace.
If you are going slow, move on to another question, or another section, and come back to the difficult ones later.
If there is extra time after all those steps have been taken, and you have time to review your answers, stay and review your answers, and work out the difficult problems with your best accuracy, but don’t change answers unless you have a factual reason to change them. You might find a few errors in there, and that will boost your grade as well. Every bit helps.
Relax when taking tests!
Get sleep the night before!
Bring snacks and water for tests, especially for long tests, so you don’t run out of fuel for your brain while taking tests.
Use index cards to create your own memory game to memorize facts, with questions on front side and answers on back side. Do them until you consistently get them right. Just writing the cards will help embed the facts into your memory.
Review your index cards as much as possible before going into the test.
If short term memory is weak, make up pneumonic tricks to memorize facts. Look up pneumonic tricks for memorizing on the web and you will find plenty of information.
If you need extra time, or a quiet room, get accommodations either from the teacher or through the counseling office or office of disability services. The extra time can make a big difference. If the noise of others bothers you, but you can’t get accommodations, bring some kind of noise reduction ear plugs (like the ones made for loud rock concerts) to reduce the noise. If people distract you, ask to be seated in the front row of the class. Reduce distractions any way you can.
Thats all from memory and experience. Others will have other tricks and advice, so listen to everyone, not just this list. This is purely from my experience and lessons learned ages ago.
Jonathan Salem, M.S. Specializes in Entrepreneurship, Applied Technology, and coaching clients with ADHD and/or Mild to Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury. 409-ADHD-NOW (409-234-3669) Jon@CoachADHDNow.com
Laurie and Jonathan – This list is excellent! I was diagnosed at 58 with ADHD. In looking back, written tests were easy for me in respect to getting high scores (though I would always get a severe case of nerves). The real test problems for me came in taking typing tests in a room full of typists and typewriters all going at once. The noise always threw me off. Then I went for a secretarial opening at a large company where I was told they only hired the top 5% percentile. After the written tests, I was put in a soundproof room to take the shorthand/typing portion. I was able to type 84 wpm on rough draft material and 120 wpm on my speed test. Needless to say, I was hired and 26 years later, retired from the same company. Even then, before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I realized what a difference the soundproof room made, it allowed me to concentrate without the interruption of others taking the test and the noise level they created.
Also, another company where I applied for work in my 20’s, gave a group of us a dexterity test in which we had to put 90 pegs that were poured out on the table back in their respective places on the board. The first person who took the test only got two pegs in place before her time ran out, so I volunteered to go second. I figured I could not do much worse. Being nervous and chatty (ADHD), I talked my way through the whole test and had everyone laughing. The supervisor that gave the test said I had the highest score of anyone who had ever taken the test with their company and I was once again hired. That was another way I used my as yet unidentified ADHD chatter to get a high score, along with pressure of a time restraint. Now I look back and realize that ADHD can be utilized to help but we have to be aware of the things that hinder us in life and turn our ADHD negative into a positive to get the results we want.
Thank you so much for sharing this information. I have a son in college right now that I plan to give a copy of this to. Thank you both again.
Thank you for your comments. I loved reading your personal stories that underscored how much of a difference small strategies can make to help our talents shine! Please keep in touch and let us know how your son is doing. ~Laurie Dupar