Bombing a College Test with ADD

Bombing a College Test with ADD
When you have Attention Deficit Disorder and bomb a college exam, which means to fail it really, really badly, it can seem like a thick, black cloud is hanging over your whole life. Negative thoughts swirl through your consciousness. Many students feel like they are in a hole that they cannot possibly get out of. What can you do to avoid the epic test bomb or salvage your grade, if that becomes necessary?

Everybody bombs at least one big test when they are in college. For me, there were two memorable ones. One was at the beginning of my college career, and the other was one of my last classes for my Bachelor's degree. The first was a Micro Economics exam. I'll be honest, I was so devastated that I did something stupid. I dropped the class, although I would have passed the class, even with the terrible test score. The next time I took the class, I bombed the same test! I made great grades on all of his other tests. As a more experienced student, I hung in there and did better on the next test and passed with a "B." In retrospect, since I am a teacher with years of experience constructing tests, I think that the professor was not testing the way that he was teaching. I found out that most of the class failed that particular test.

My genetics lab final was the same—a massive explosion of information leading to an epic test bomb. However, by that time I knew to get every last, single point that was offered in the beginning of the class and to continue doing that until the final exam. To get an "A," I needed a 35 percent on the final. Even though I had failed the final, and did a great job of bombing the test, I pulled an "A" in the class. Between the time I started college and when I finished my undergraduate degree, I learned some things about taking my Attention Deficit Disorder to college and how to get the most out of classes.

*Start getting to know your professors from the first day of class. Ask for their advice when you have a question. Don't make guesses about what they want. When you have a problem, ask for help before it is a big problem.

*Take advantage of tutoring services. Get a study buddy. For especially challenging classes, develop a study group to discuss information and complete assignments.

*For skill-based classes like math, foreign languages, and science classes (Anatomy and Physiology) that take a lot of memorization, the watchword is practice. Practice until the skills or information are automatic. That means 2-4 hours of homework in that class EVERY DAY that you have class. Is it a lot? Yes. Is it necessary? Yes. Most students want to do homework until they understand concepts. Understanding is important, however you must reach a level called automaticity to reach a level where you can do the testing under stress. If you tutor or teach another student, it helps you remember and be able to access information when you need it.

*Recopy notes as part of your homework. Even if you have a notetaker, YOU should recopy the class notes as soon as you can after every class. You can type or write them by hand. This helps to put information into your long-term memory.

*When you do fail a test, and most of us do have at least one spectacular fail that sends us into full panic mode, limit the time that you panic. Take some time to relax and refresh yourself. Go somewhere pleasant. Do something that you have been wanting to do. Then, make a plan to do better. What went wrong? The chances are pretty good that you were not devoting enough time to the subject. Plan more time into your study day to deal with that subject. Study in a different way. Write things down. Do problems past the time when you understand the information. Practice the subject under test conditions. Give yourself a test every other day. It doesn't have to be a full-length test, but do it under test conditions. This will habituate you to testing conditions, so that they do not seem as stressful. All of this practice will help you do better on subsequent tests.

*Discuss your grade with your professor. Ask for suggestions.

When you are a college student with Attention Deficit Disorder, everything is just a bit more difficult. However, you have a deep well of creativity that you can tap to develop a plan to help you get through the tough times. The difficult times in our lives prepare us for solving larger problems. They are learning opportunities, as long as you don't let them overwhelm you and throw you into persistent negative thoughts.

Get your plan together and work it! While a lousy test score is a sad, bad thing, over the course of a lifetime, it is just one event. It is a stumble along the path of life. Take a long view.


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