Standardized Testing

For a child with ADHD, test taking can present a number of challenges: boredom, sitting in one position for an extended period, and the pressure of performing well. Most studies show that those with ADHD score lower on tests than other students, especially on standardized tests, such as the ACT or SAT. This doesn’t mean that your child is guaranteed to do poorly on every test. A student with ADHD simply needs more preparation and attention.

On the Day of the Test

How well your child performs depends on what you do before the test. If you take time to help your child prepare, they’re more likely to perform better.

Get Plenty of Rest

Many children with ADHD have trouble “turning off” their minds before bedtime, which is why sleep problems are common in this group. Some children use an aid such as music, a fan, or a TV at low volume to help them fall asleep. An alert and rested mind is essential to test taking.

Eat Breakfast

A nutritious breakfast is key for any student about to take a test. Eating well in the morning can help boost energy and aid concentration and focus. Be sure to avoid any foods with additives, as these may increase hyperactivity.

Kids often reach for cola and sweets when they need a quick energy boost. However, these items can make a child crash an hour or so into a long exam. For snack breaks during an exam, prepare your child with trail mix or energy bars. The carbohydrates will provide a quick boost, while the proteins and fats will break down more slowly.

Take Medication as Prescribed

If your child is on any medications, make sure that they take them as prescribed. Inconsistently or intermittently taking medications can wreak havoc on the body and mind.

Preparing Your Child for a Big Test

Avoid Cramming and Begin Early

A student with ADHD requires more time to prepare for tests. The sooner they begin, the better. Don’t let them wait until the last minute to start studying. This will increase anxiety and frustration.

If you know your child has a test coming up, encourage them to begin preparing a week early, with a little bit of studying each night. This will help them retain information and will reduce anxiety. If your child is taking a standardized test such as the ACT or SAT, they may need to begin preparing as early as one year in advance.

Hire a Tutor

Research shows that tutors for students with ADHD are enormously beneficial. One-on-one time with a tutor will not only hold your child accountable for learning, but it will also provide them with fewer distractions than in a classroom.

Teach Test-Taking Strategies

Once your child has mastered the test material, you’ll need to teach them how to actually take the test. Students with ADHD often have problems figuring out what others expect of them. Review types of questions that might be on the test and how to answer them. Ask the teacher for a study guide or practice test.

Section 504/IEP Compliance

If your child has a section 504 or an IEP that includes special accommodations for testing, such as testing in a separate room or more time to take the test, make sure the teacher knows about them.

How to Help Your Child Focus During the Test


Anxiety is a common co-existing disorder with ADHD. Anxiety is likely to arise during a test, so teach your child how to lower apprehension by performing breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques.

Avoid Distraction

If your child is old enough, they should ask to be seated in an area of the class with fewer students and distractions. If your child is younger, work with their teacher to find a way to minimize distractions during testing.

Take Breaks

Teach your child to take breaks between sections of a test. This can be as simple as putting the pencil down and doing some deep breathing or counting before starting the next section of the test.