5 Best Note Taking Tips for Students with ADHD

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


While the rest of the students seem to be effortlessly taking notes in class, you find yourself struggling to focus enough on the words uttered in front of you. You might have been diagnosed with ADHD, which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, don’t brush your symptoms as ADHD unless you have a medical opinion on it.

Studies have estimated that around 2-8% of college students in the United States have ADHD. Many symptoms are associated with the condition, often affecting the person’s lifestyle. Hence, you might struggle to focus in class, making note-taking seem almost impossible.

All that being said, the situation is not an impossible one. Some tips and tricks will be discussed below, which can help someone with ADHD take notes in class. Read more to find out how to do so.

How Does ADHD Affect Note Taking?How Does ADHD Affect Note Taking?

A person struggling with the condition has ineffective ADHD study skills. However, the person is never to blame. Numerous people resort to medication to manage their lifestyles and study. However, only 62% of children have been treated with medication.

Whether you choose to resort to medication under the medical consultancy or deal with it alone, you might experience some symptoms. These are often the three most noticeable ADHD symptoms which will stand in the way of your note-taking. These three symptoms are mentioned below.


Inattention can be portrayed in various ways. That includes:

  • Short attention span, hence difficulty concentrating for extended periods.
  • Easily distracted by stimuli or people.
  • Tendency to be forgetful.
  • Finding it difficult to retain details.
  • Poor study and organizational skills often exhibited from a young age.
  • All those taken into account, it’s safe to say that ADHD learning skills take a blow. Taking necessary notes might be difficult if one finds it difficult to listen to others, retain information, and stay focused.


Hyperactivity is generally defined as an abnormal amount of activity, whether moving around, walking, or even fidgeting. Some sub symptoms include:

  • Excessive talking.
  • Repeatedly losing items or forgetting things.
  • Constant fidgeting of the arms, legs, seat, or hands.
  • Difficulty sitting down for extended periods.
  • Might sometimes be moving around unnecessarily or running around when it seems inadequate.

Feeling like you constantly need to be on the move will hinder your learning experience. Not only is movement a distraction, but the constant itch that one has to move is a barrier between you and your focus.


Have you ever seen someone jump into the pool with their clothes? You might’ve brushed that off and called it impulsive, but that can be experienced in several different ways:

  • Interrupting others when it’s not your turn to speak.
  • Risking and taking chances often without predetermined thought put into the action.
  • Blurting out words, answers, opinions, or ideas when not asked to.
  • Difficulty waiting anywhere and running out of patience quite quickly.

Impulsivity has a tendency to become a huge problem. Maybe you answered incorrectly out of turn, and you got embarrassed. On the other hand, you might have no patience to sit through a classroom, leading you to act out in some manner. Using your phone can simply be exhibited when you know you shouldn’t be.

Should Students with ADHD Take Notes?

Should Students with ADHD Take Notes?

Every student needs to take notes. While you might be able to take your friends’ papers and study off of those, it’s never as effective. The whole point of students taking notes, especially in college, is forcing them to focus during the lecture.

What material will you use when you want to go back home and study? Of course, you can always use the textbook you’re provided, or the PowerPoint slides your professor might have. However, the power of listening, summarizing, and writing it down in your own words is underestimated.

Approximately 30% of people who struggle with ADHD also exhibit some anxiety disorder, which can be in the form of OCD. Hence, many people with ADHD also have excellent organization skills or neat-oriented behaviors. That might come in handy when taking notes.

Hence, you might want to consider the following note-taking strategies for students, and they come in handy for ADHD students or otherwise:

  • Make sure your notes are clear and legible.
  • Prepare yourself before class, especially if you’re struggling with ADHD. Try to sit at the front or in the first few rows. That means you have fewer distractions around you and your professor’s presence to snap you back when needed.
  • Ask your friends for notes, but make sure you do so after writing down your own. Comparing your notes with someone else, especially with ADHD, allows you to find any missing information.
  • Use whichever abbreviations and symbols you know by heart. Not only will that help you take notes faster, but it allows you to minimize the time spent thinking of the precise words to use.
  • Avoid writing complete sentences, and keep it to a few phrases if possible. You’re golden if you can go back and read them in your own time.

These ADHD note-taking methods can help any type of student. The aim is to exclude unnecessary information when taking notes, as that might distract you from another important topic your professor might be teaching next. Hence, take it one step at a time and don’t be hard on yourself.

How Do Students with ADHD Learn Best?

How Do Students with ADHD Learn Best?

A student with ADHD often struggles the most at a young age. However, the condition does not magically disappear once you’re in college, but the symptoms might subside. That being said, a person with ADHD becomes more aware of themselves, just like any other person, the more they grow up. This is when you take your learning habits into your own hands.

While it might be challenging to manage at first, there are multiple note-taking strategies for students that will help someone with ADHD learn. However, remember that the environment and techniques for an ADHD person might differ slightly, as they generally find it more difficult to learn during class.

Here are the best ways students with ADHD can learn:

  • Using external help when necessary. That includes tutors or friends who are willing to lend a hand.
  • Keeping up with work and making a flexible yet rigid enough schedule to follow. If you get an assignment due in a week, it’s a good idea to start on it the same day. Students with ADHD have the tendency to procrastinate.
  • Whenever needed, take a break. If you’re in a college lecture, ask for a bathroom break and go wash your face. Recalibrate so you’re ready to go.
  • Develop a regular schedule. While that might seem impossible at first, the more you get your things in order, the more accessible learning will be. For instance, if you wake up and have a specific routine, it slowly becomes a habit over 21 days. Hence, never neglect the power of consistency.
  • Consider using digital notes instead of hand-written notes. You might be old-school and traditional, but writing on paper is incredibly time-consuming. Taking notes on your laptop while your professor is speaking saves you ample time.

How to Take Effective Notes for ADHD Students: 5 Tips

How to Take Effective Notes for ADHD Students: 5 Tips

Here are the best note-taking tips for students with ADHD, guaranteed to help you if you consistently follow through with them.

1. Write the Date

While it might seem trivial, keeping track of the days and dates lets you know what comes on the exam. You might neglect this and assume you’ll remember later, but that is often not the case.

2. Keep Blank Pages

For every day of lectures, leave a page or two blanks. While that might seem unnecessary, it’ll come in handy. Later on, when you’re studying, add your own graphs, sketches, or questions. That allows you to keep your notes and your own additions on the same pages.

3. Short Notes

Instead of writing as your teacher speaks, consider listening for a minute or two or until your professor takes a short break (e.g., writing on the board). That allows you to summarize all the points instead of over-writing.

4. 24-hour Rule

Make sure you go through your notes extensively within the first 24 hours of taking them. That allows you to review them twice, once during class and once alone. Not only will that allow you to retain more information, but it also allows you to create questions to ask for the next class.

5. Colors and Formatting

One of the best note-taking techniques for students is color-coding or formatting the notes. You might want to create a concept map for your anatomy class or use different colors for different subjects.

Wrapping Things Up: 5 Best Note-Taking Tips for Students with ADHD

All in all, having ADHD does not release you from your note-taking duty. Instead of brushing it off, find ways to improvise using the above ADHD note-taking strategies and tips. While it might seem like a struggle, things get much simpler once you get into the routine. The key to doing this is getting used to it through consistency.

Here are some other high school study tips articles that you may find interesting:

> 3 Learning Styles: How to Use Them to Excel in School 

> Visual Learner Study Tips and Test Taking Strategies

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...