ADHD and 2020 Exam Grades – ADHDUK Research Findings


A broad range of participants. Including pupils with ADHD, parents of current pupils with ADHD, teachers of pupils with ADHD and special needs teachers.

  • Pupils with ADHD 43% 43%
  • Parent or Guardian to pupil(s) with ADHD 12% 12%
  • Pupils without ADHD 10% 10%
  • Have ADHD and been through UK education system 8% 8%
  • Teacher with pupils with ADHD 4% 4%
  • Special Needs Teacher with pupils with ADHD 3% 3%

How fair do you think the 2020 exam grades will be for students with ADHD?


Consider 2020 exam results unfair to students with ADHD

  • Very Fair 1% 1%
  • Mostly Fair 11% 11%
  • Not Fair 50% 50%
  • Extremely Unfair 31% 31%

As someone with ADHD I perform really well in exams with hyperfocus which balances out the difficulty of course work and negativity of teachers who don’t understand the condition.

Pupil with ADHD

Due to a wide lack of understanding of how ADHD affects different students and they’re learning it can be seen as lazy and as though they are not applying themselves and also leaves a wide gap for teacher bias.


[Not fair] Because they tend to be outliers from the norm and therefore more likely to be caught out be the algorithm.

Parent or Guardian to pupil(s) with ADHD

Inconsistency in grades and performance throughout the school year and in final grades will cause them to be way harder to predict accurately and therefore are very likely to be even more unfair.

Pupil with ADHD

I’d expect the predicted grades to be more unfair for students with ADHD. I wasn’t diagnosed until University, but lots of teachers underestimated what I could do – likely because of the intersection of it being a under-performing state school “no one has got an a* in spanish before so I won’t predict you one” and that my undiagnosed ADHD meant that although I was diligent and hardworking, I struggled to pay attention in class, meaning some teachers would think I didn’t care. I ended up doing really well (and have just graduated from Cambridge) but if we were going off what I was predicted (both by my teachers, and by the government looking at my low-achieving postcode to lower average grades) I wouldn’t have made it.

Individual with ADHD. Has been through UK system.

This system [2020 exam grade system] is completely unsupportive of ADHD brains. It does not allow for the unpredictability yet brilliance of a ADHD brain.all.

Teacher (Pupils include some with ADHD)

My particular school didn’t make the mocks an equal playing ground to students with extra requirements

Pupil with ADHD

ADHD students can’t always perform well in classrooms and therefore students who are intelligent and might have done well in exams, but seemed to perform poorly within the class may not get a grade respective of their efforts. Teachers may also have personal dislikes of neurodivergent kids, which will impact that child’s result.


I suspect adhd students perform better in exams due to hyperfocus, and lack of distraction. Impulsive behaviour and other symptoms mean teachers often dislike these students, and underestimate them.

Teaching Assistant

People with adhd are expected to to work the same way as people without and most of them find it nearly impossible. The sad thing is I know I just as clever as my friends but exams seem to be the only way of showing your knowledge and is used as a way to see how clever a student is but and because of this is not seen as as smart as I actually am.

Pupil with ADHD

Adhd students struggle to focus in lessons and so the class work presented will be of a lower standard even if the student is capable in an exam based environment

Pupil in diagnosis process for ADHD

How fair do you anticipate the 2020 exam grades will be for neurologically typical students

55% consider the results for neurotypical students to be fair or very fair
45% consider it not fair or extremely unfair

  • Very Fair 6% 6%
  • Mostly Fair 49% 49%
  • Not Fair 38% 38%
  • Extremely Unfair 6% 6%

Because [neurotypical pupils] their performance tends to be consistent and predictable

Parent or Guardian to pupil(s) with ADHD

The education system favours and serves neurotypical students.


Neuro-typical students typically progress in a somewhat predictable incline. Therefore it is easier predicting there future grades. However, there are still issues with this system including potential bias, both in a relational and discriminatory way. Overall it is not fair as it cannot be guaranteed as fair for all.

Teacher (Pupils include some with ADHD)

Teachers are always kinder to neurotypical students 

Pupil. Friend has ADHD.

I work in a school. Many do not take the mocks seriously.

Teaching Assistant

In life in general, people with learning difficulties or disabilities feel the impact of various forms of disruption to a greater level than the rest of the population, which is why I feel that the exam results for people with ADHD will be ‘Extremely Unfair’, but merely ’Not Fair‘ for neurotypical pupils.


What percentage of teachers do you estimate truly understand the learning challenges ADHD presents?

Our research found that around two thirds of teachers do not understand ADHD. This is a significant issue as teachers can’t be expected to give accurate grade estimates when they don’t understand their pupils properly.


Teachers who understand ADHD


From Teachers - % Teachers who truly understand ADHD

Do you think that teacher’s having a better understanding of ADHD would have had a positive impact on grade estimates for pupils with ADHD?


Think that if teachers understood ADHD better they would have increased grade estimates for pupils with ADHD

  • Agree Strongly – I think a better understanding would have overall increased ADHD student grade estimates significantly.Your Title Goes Here 52% 52%
  • Agree – I think a better understanding would have overall increased ADHD student grade estimates slightly 41% 41%
  • Neither agree or disagree – ADHD student grade estimates would likely be the same 6% 6%
  • Strongly Disagree – I think a better understanding would have overall reduced ADHD student grade estimates significantly. 1% 1%

Students are unable to individually challenge their individual grades. Instead they can resit A Levels in October or GCSE exams in November.How effective do you think this system will be for remedying faulty results? Where 10 is very effective / best and 1 is completely ineffective / worst.

Our research shows that people think the the resit process is much worse for ADHD pupils.

out of 10 average opinion on this process for neurotypical students

out of 10 average opinion on this as a process for students with ADHD

The stress and anxiety that accompanies ADHD means they will find the resit a challenge with regard to timing, revision, generally a stressful situation.

Parent/Guardian to pupil(s) with ADHD

Studying at home is very ineffective for students with adhd

Pupil with ADHD

For students with ADHD, not having a routine, teachers to help keep them focused, or a classroom to enforce learning habits, resitting exams very far in the future could be a huge issue.

Adult with ADHD who has been through the UK education system

Do you think the 2020 grading system is going to have a negative impact on the futures of students?


People think there will be a negative impact on neurologically non-typical students

Currently, everyone will be disadvantaged, but neurodiverse students even more so.


Impact on future of non-neurological typical pupils

  • Yes – very significant negative impact 21% 21%
  • Yes – significant negative impact 34% 34%
  • Yes – small negative impact 11% 11%
  • No negative impact 1% 1%
  • I think it will have a positive impact 1% 1%


People think there will be a very significant or significant negative impact on neurologically non-typical students

Impact on future of neurological typical pupils

  • Yes – very significant negative impact 9% 9%
  • Yes – significant negative impact 24% 24%
  • Yes – small negative impact 49% 49%
  • No negative impact 13% 13%
  • I think it will have a positive impact 6% 6%


People think there will be a very significant or significant negative impact on neurologically typical students

Bearing in mind your answers is there anything you would like to see the government doing?

 Allow neurodiverse/SEN students to appeal individual grades unlike nt students


Every teacher in every school should be more educated on mental health including neurological disorders as it is increasing and growing massively within the children and pupils of today’s society there needs to be a change and fast, the growing rate of drop out children or expelled is appalling as they are misunderstood massively

Pupil with ADHD

Taking in consideration neurodivergent students who have been severely disadvantaged by the pandemic.

Pupil with ADHD

Maybe being more aware of kids with ADHD as none of my teachers even noticed and the signs were very clear

Pupil with ADHD

Finding ways to give students more time with teachers maybe funding for afternoon slash evening classes to help them progress for the exams and possibly pushing exams to januray for those that need it to have time in a structured environment with teachers to enable them to take in the information.

Pupil in diagnosis process for ADHD

Training teachers to understand the minds of us neurodiverse people

Pupil with ADHD

Radically rethink their system and put in place a system to appeal.

Pupil with ADHD

Making sure all teachers have to be trained in neurodiversity

Pupil with ADHD

Continuing to provide access routes.via apprenticeship schemes and FE colleges that allow leeway for those ‘not good on paper’ to access further education and valuable work related courses.

Parent or Guardian of pupil(s) with ADHD

School teachers must be trained to identify signs of learning difficulty/ neurobehavioural conditions such as ADHD to recommend students for referral. In addition, students must be offered confidential screening at several points throughout their educational journey. These conditions have a very significant impact on the educational experience and academic performance of students. Moreover, the presentation of these conditions are rarely obvious outside of the school setting. In the cases that signs are present, in any setting, they are very often tragically misunderstood to be the students’ choice of behaviour which is responded to by continuing strict disciplinary action. This exacerbates the negative impact of these conditions on the students education, mental health and consequently their future life. It is understatement to say that this is beneficial to the education system. Many students across the UK are robbed of a chance of receiving a fair education because of suffering from undiagnosed ADHD or other conditions that impact learning. Putting children and young adults in the vulnerable position of spending critical years of their life punished for suffering from a neurological condition is actively cruel yet easily preventable.

Person with ADHD, has been through UK education system.

Information on this research

Research run by the charity ADHD UK. Running from August 7th and still available to contribute in here.

168 participiants with 93 completing the entirity.

Ethnic breakdown as follows:

Asian / Asian British : Pakistani : 2%
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British : African : 2%
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British : Any other Black / African / Caribbean background : 5%
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British : Caribbean : 3%
Mixed / Multiple ethnic groups : Any other Mixed / Multiple ethnic background : 2%
White : Any other White background : 9%
White : English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British : 76%
White : Irish : 2%

Gender breakdown as follows:

Female : 77%
Male : 14%
Prefer not to say : 9%

ADHD breakdown as follows:

Has ADHD or directly links to those with ADHD: 75%
Without ADHD & without links to those with ADHD: 25%

Breakdown of type of particpant:

Pupils: 64%
Teachers: 10%
Parents: 15%
Other (Adults): 11%