Male at laptop looking distracted with ehadphones and phone - studying with ADHD
Male at laptop looking distracted with ehadphones and phone - studying with ADHD

How To Study With ADHD As A University Student

Studying with ADHD doesn’t have to be impossible.

Education has often been treated as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach which is becoming more and more outdated and ostracising as the decades roll on.

Individuals with different types of neurodiversity such as ADHD can find themselves struggling in academic environments due to the nuances in how their brain works. No two brains are alike so it’s impossible to expect one way of education to be suitable for everyone. 

Starting university is a major stepping stone in any student’s life, but for people with a neurodiversity, it can open up a whole set of different challenges and anxieties. 

Our Student Beans survey, conducted by our user research team, revealed that nearly 25% of students felt that their neurodivergence or symptoms of neurodivergence consistently impacted how they studied or revised, with nearly 13% saying it impacts their studying sometimes.

When asked how their symptoms impact their studying, many responded with comments along the lines of lack of focus, procrastination, or time management.

“I think I might have ADHD and it does make it very hard for me to focus for periods of time”
“I get distracted while studying, procrastinate and have panic attacks”
“It’s harder to retain information and time management”

It’s clear there’s a long way to go for neurodiverse individuals to feel more supported and comfortable in educational environments.

In this guide:

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s a neurodevelopmental condition that affects the individual’s behaviour. Individuals with ADHD may appear to be restless, have trouble concentrating, and have high impulsivity. 

It is typically diagnosed in childhood and can last well into adulthood, but in recent years, there has been an influx of adults getting diagnosed with ADHD after spending years being misunderstood or unaware of their neurodiversity as a child. 

Some symptoms may improve with age, but others may need support using therapies, medication, and spreading awareness within environments. 

Signs and symptoms of ADHD

Blonde woman bored at laptop struggling to concentrate - studying with ADHD

Not all signs and symptoms of ADHD will be exactly the same from person to person, but generally, the most common types of symptoms or behaviours of ADHD include the following:

  • Restlessness — unable to sit still
  • Unable to concentrate on tasks
  • Interrupting/unable to wait their turn
  • Acting without thinking
  • Poor organisational skills
  • Forgetfulness
  • Starting tasks and not finishing them before moving onto new tasks
  • Impatience
  • Unable to deal with stress
  • Mood swings
  • Unable to prioritise

It’s important to note that some symptoms of ADHD can overlap and occur in other conditions such as anxiety, autism or personality disorders. 

If you feel like you have symptoms of ADHD or another neurodiversity, it’s worth checking with a medical professional to ensure you get the correct diagnosis and support for your treatment.

Studying with ADHD

University is challenging enough, but trying to navigate it with ADHD requires a more structured, tailored approach in order to reach your fullest potential. 

People with ADHD will often face obstacles at university that, if not supported, can impact academic performance and well-being. Research from a longitudinal evaluation of students with ADHD shows that students with ADHD turned in roughly 12% fewer assignments compared to their non-ADHD peers. And, the research found a correlation with those earning lower grades and being less likely to complete future assignments.

Interestingly, another study looked at lifestyle habits between individuals with ADHD and individuals that were ‘typically developing’. Results showed that those with ADHD actually spent more time studying than their ‘typically developing’ peers. This could be due to information taking longer to process or faltering concentration.

One of the key challenges for students with ADHD is maintaining focus during lectures and study sessions. One way to overcome this is to record lectures and use transcription services so you’re able to re-visit important information. 

Breaking study sessions into shorter, focused intervals with regular breaks can also help to improve your concentration. Creating a designated study environment that’s free from distractions can help you to maintain your attention, too — avoid working from the comfort of your bed, it will work against you (too cosy = no study).

Time management can also be a hurdle for students with ADHD. Creating a realistic study schedule and breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones may make studying more achievable. Make the most of physical or digital planners, calendars, or task management apps to keep yourself organised and on track. 

Communication is key.  Communication between you and your lecturers or support services is fundamental for ensuring you’re getting the help and support you so rightly deserve. Make sure they’re informed about your diagnosis and if you need any extra adjustments like extra time for exams/assignments.

The important thing is to allow yourself to have bad days or moments and not kick yourself for not getting ‘X’ done by a certain time or if you don’t tick everything off your to-do list! It will likely be trial and error until you find the right methods and support for your symptoms.

ADHD study tips

While symptoms differ between individuals and may need tailored support, these ADHD study tips are general helpful tips worth trying. We scoured Reddit to see what students with ADHD recommend for studying with ADHD.

Create false deadlines

False deadlines that are earlier than the actual deadlines may help to push you through any procrastination. Many individuals work better under pressure with looming deadlines.

Take practice tests

You’ll realise quickly how much you don’t know which could send you into focus.

Find a study/accountability buddy

Someone to sit and study with you in the same space. You’ll be able to hold each other accountable and help each other out if you need things explained/gone through.

Something is better than nothing

Reading a chapter or two is better than reading nothing, as is 30 minutes of studying than nothing – you don’t need to create really high expectations. 

Movement breaks

People with ADD tend to be quite restless and fidgety, so schedule in some study breaks where you can move about and get rid of some of that restlessness. Shake about, dance, go for a walk, just get your body moving! Doing exercise before you study can also help in a similar way. 

Increase playback speed

When watching back recorded lectures or study videos, increasing the playback speed can engage your focus.

Practice study techniques

There are plenty of different study methods and techniques that could help you. These could include methods like the Pomodoro technique or the Feynman technique.

Assign a study space

A good study environment is crucial for studying. Whatever that may look like to you, find and create a space that you dedicate for studying. It could be the desk in your accommodation, the library, a quiet coffee shop in town — try and keep this space solely for studying.

Colourful pens

Study notes don’t have to be bland and boring. Use coloured pens, highlighters, sticky notes etc to make your work visually more engaging. Colour coordinating different areas of your notes may also help increase your ability to recall the information.


Studying on an empty stomach is likely not to work well. Keep your favourite snacks on hand (preferably some nutritional options, too) when you’re studying, that way you can energise as you go on and won’t be distracted in your communal kitchen when trying to grab a snack. Ensure you stay hydrated, too, to keep your attention span.

Reddit is a great place for neurodiverse people to share their tips so we recommend checking out this thread of ADHD tips that can help you manage your day-to-day life.

We’ve also got a guide to the best revision techniques, which includes flashcards, mind-mapping, and active recall to name but a few.

Support for studying with ADHD

You can access a range of support services at university that can help you with your ADHD or any other difficulties that may hinder your academic performance and well-being at uni.

Your university’s disability support offices can provide accommodations such as extra exam time, note-taking assistance, and alternative exam formats. If you’re diagnosed with ADHD, you’ll have to be transparent with your uni.

Peer support groups and social networks within the university community create opportunities for students with ADHD to connect, share experiences, and foster a sense of belonging. These groups can help you pick up ways to cope with the challenges of ADHD, and you can equally share any of your wisdom with the group.

We asked students in our Student Beans survey if their university provides mental health support for students: over 68% said that their uni offers support, with the most common support offered being:

  • Student support advisors
  • Counselling
  • Additional accommodations like extra time, extended deadlines, 1:1s

Of the students we surveyed, nearly 25% said they weren’t sure if their university offers support, and 7% said their university doesn’t offer support for mental health. While it’s great to see many universities are trying to help their students, still not enough is done.

Some students believe their uni’s support isn’t adequate enough.

One student wrote: “They provide counsellors, however there is a long waiting list”.

In response to the question ‘what support does your university provide?’, one student simply put: “Empty promises”.

Another wrote: “There is a counselling service, but it’s not very welcoming – you might get a couple of sessions but they don’t want people being long-term recipients of help”.

The ADHD Centre has excellent free resources that aim to help individuals studying with ADHD, as well as ADDitude magazine — a publication dedicated to all things ADD.

NHS vs Private

The influx of people wanting to get to the root of their ADHD symptoms has led to some super long waiting lists on the NHS, with some people waiting years to be seen. An alternative is to go to a private clinic — but be prepared to fork out quite a bit of cash, for what appears to be a ‘tick-box’ assessment.

A reporter at BBC Panorama went undercover as a patient to reveal how some private clinics run compared to the NHS regarding individuals waiting to be tested for ADHD. There is evidence to suggest that diagnoses are being given out frequently, without much testing or analysis. It seems that some of these private clinics are raking in hundreds of thousands and chucking prescribed medication to anyone who they deem to have ADHD — almost 100% of the clients they see.

If you want to find out more, we recommend watching this short documentary on the undercover investigation — Panorama: Private ADHD Clinics Exposed.

ADHD diagnosis journey

The ADHD diagnosis journey is different for everyone, and is especially different as an adult trying to figure out their symptoms.

We’ve put together a rough journey of what you can expect to happen on your way to your diagnosis — your experience may be different to this though.

Step 1

You may have some symptoms that are affecting your day-to-day life that may be signs of ADHD. You may also take some online ADHD tests that imply you may have a high chance of having ADHD.

Step 2

For most of us, the NHS would be our next step after figuring out which symptoms cause us distress.

Go to your GP and be honest about your symptoms and struggles, why you may have ADHD. Express all your concerns, whether ADHD-related or not, as this will help the doctor narrow things down. Following on from this conversation, your GP will decide whether you need to be referred for an NHS ADHD Assessment.

  • If your GP refuses to offer a referral, you can go get a second opinion from another GP by formal request.

Step 3

Once your GP suspects you may have ADHD, you’ll have three options.

  • Option 1: NHS Assessment — an assessment diving into your mental health, ADHD, and any other conditions. Typically involves a 45 to 90 minute discussion and checks with an appropriately qualified professional. After your assessment, the clinician will let you know the next steps depending on your diagnosis.
  • Option 2: Right To Choose — in England under the NHS, you have a legal right to choose your mental healthcare provider and team. For example, if the waiting time for assessment is too long, you can request alternative providers.
  • Option 3: Private Assessment — if waiting lists are too long, you may opt for a private clinic to assess you. This tends to be a pricey option for many.

Step 4

Depending on the outcome of your assessment in step 3, you clinician/GP will discuss ongoing care and what that may look like. This may include different therapies or medications.

Step 5

Live your life with your ADHD managed effectively!

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes ADHD?

ADHD is not yet fully understood, but there are several factors that may be responsible. According to the NHS, ADHD tends to run in families and is thought to be inherited from a parent or sibling with the condition.

It’s also thought that brain function and structure may have a role to play in ADHD, too. Studies of brain scans suggest that some areas of the brain are smaller in people with ADHD, whereas other areas may be larger. Individuals with ADHD may also have an imbalance of chemicals in their brain.

There are also groups of people who are believed to be more at risk of developing ADHD. These include:

  • People born prematurely (before 37th week of pregnancy) or born with a low birthweight
  • People who have epilepsy
  • People with brain damage — either from in the womb or a head injury later in life

Can you cure ADHD?

ADHD cannot be cured completely, but with the right support and/or medication, you can manage a lot of ADHD symptoms. If you were diagnosed with ADHD as a child, it may not disappear but, instead, express itself differently as an adult. 

Typically, a combination of medication and therapy is the most effective for managing symptoms.

How common is ADHD?

ADHD is estimated to be prevalent in 3-4% of adults in the UK. The male-to-female ratio is approximately 3:1. It’s expected that this number will rise over the next few years as more awareness is spread, therefore leading to more diagnoses. 

What is the difference between ADHD and ADD?

ADD — Attention Deficit Disorder — is an old term where someone could be diagnosed with ADD but with or without the hyperactivity symptoms.

However, since the 1990s, ADD has been filtered out and instead, people are now being diagnosed one of three different types:

  • Inattentive type ADHD
  • Hyperactive type ADHD
  • Combined type ADHD

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