Objective: Our aim was to provide an overview of prospective studies that have addressed the association between attention problems (AP, i.e. symptoms of hyperactivity and inattentiveness) and academic achievement (AA). Method: We conducted a systematic search in the literature. Normal population studies and clinical studies were included. The methodological quality of each study was evaluated by objective criteria. A best evidence synthesis was used to determine the strengths of the association. Results: Sixteen studies were included. We found convincing evidence for a negative association between AP and AA. After controlling for intelligence, comorbidity, and socioeconomic status (SES), the association between the hyperactive symptoms of AP and AA was non-significant in two studies. Conclusion: Children with AP are at risk for lower AA and subsequent adverse outcomes later in life. Interventions in affected children should focus on their behavioural and educational development. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.