If you are a student with ADHD, studying material that is dry or uninteresting to you can be really challenging. When you have to read a chapter in a textbook or a long article, do you sometimes feel overwhelmed, exhausted, or bored before you even start? One trick to help focus on reading and recalling information is to make the process an active one.

This means you’ll have less of a struggle with your mind when it wants to be stimulated and go somewhere else more interesting. You will be engaging your brain right from the beginning and giving it a purpose – helpful for everyone but especially for those who have ADHD!

There’s a method that’s been around awhile called SQ3R. No matter how unexciting the required reading may seem, using the steps in this process can help you get through the material and remember it. Here goes:

The First S stands for SURVEY
This means a quick preview of what you need to read, without worrying about the main text yet. Let’s say you are reading a chapter in a text book.

•Scan the chapter paying attention to the titles and any sub-titles in bold. Those are important because they get your brain ready to take in the information to come.

•Look for charts, graphs or other illustrations. What information can you get out of those?

•Next scan for key words that are in bold or italics. Those terms are important. Even if you don’t understand them yet, your memory is being activated just by looking at them. When they come up again in the text, they will not be new information.

•Now read the introduction and the summary. Even if you don’t know any details yet, this will start the ball rolling and your later reading of the text will fill in the blanks.

•Last, read any questions or discussion at the end of the chapter.

The Q stands for QUESTION
Questioning changes the process of studying from passive to active. It can make what you are reading more meaningful and help your mind concentrate.

•After you read a subtitle or heading, see if you can think of questions that will be answered in the section. Be creative. Ask as many questions as you can think of.

•Write the questions down so you can find them when you are reading.

Now come the three R’s. The first is READ.

•Now actually read all the text.

•Use the head start you gave your brain by looking at the questions you created and finding the answers while you are reading.

•If there are questions in the back of the chapter, you can use them as well to give your reading another purpose.

•Write notes as you read or underline important points and ideas. Using a combination of underlining, highlighting, and notes can be more interesting. Some people even use different colors to categorize key points.

•Allow yourself to read slowly and carefully at this point. You want to absorb the material, not skim over it.

The next R stands for RECITE. Saying what you are learning out loud is a great tool for memory and comprehension. This is a way to use another learning mode. Although this step is helpful for everyone, it is especially beneficial for auditory learners.

•If you are alone, try some interesting ways to recite. You can talk to yourself in the mirror, for example. Or pretend like you are giving a lecture about what you have learned.

•If you have friends to study with, that works really well. You can ask each other questions and take turns providing the answers. Or teach someone else what you are learning. Teaching can be a great way to make sure you really understand the material.

The last R is for REVIEW.

•Re-read your notes and what you have underlined and highlighted.

•Go back over your own questions and any questions in the back of the book and be sure you can still answer them.

An important point: Don’t forget to take breaks! Because this process is broken down into steps, it provides natural times to take breaks. Maybe use a timer or your phone to remind you of when it’s time to come back. This method may take a little longer than you are used to, but it’s worth an experiment to see if it helps.

Mimi Handlin, MSW, is a certified Life and ADHD Coach. She has been coaching in Seattle and nationwide since 2003 and has a special interest in coaching women, college students, and young adults to help them live with more direction and success.

As well as helping her clients gain more control over the practical aspects of life, she is also a certified stress reduction coach and teaches interested clients skills in self-care, self-awareness, and relaxation to improve their well-being and better manage adult ADHD symptoms. Mimi is compassionate, non-judgmental, supportive, and flexible in her approach to coaching. If you are interested in learning how ADHD coaching can help you or a loved one, please schedule a free consultation below.
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