How to Cram for an Exam – Cramming Tips and Tricks
Let me guess: you’ve been putting off studying for the last couple of days and now are virtually forced to study to save yourself from a fatal grade. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Below I’ve assembled some handy tips on how to cram for an exam, no matter what subject.
Location, Location, Location
Grab whatever you need and settle down for a long night at your preferred study location. If your library is still open, lucky you. If not, then find a place far from where you usually relax (we are humans, and we form habits. If you’re used to watching movies, hanging out with friends and chilling in your room, you’ll be likely to fall back to those activities and forget about studying) and get to work.
Eliminate all Distractions
Turn off your phone, turn off your computer (unless you need it, in which case you should disable the internet or at least restrict access to sites you know will distract you). In short, eliminate all possible distractions.
I would love to listen to music whilst studying, but I know I work better without it (small test: write down two lists of 20 items each, give yourself one minute each to memorize as many items as possible. Memorize the first list with, the second without music. Depending on the result, you study better with or without music!).
Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, yeah
During breaks, before you begin your studying session and directly before your exam, take a minute to stretch your muscles, run up and down a flight of stairs, do some push-ups, whatever you prefer: just do some exercise. Exercise gets blood flowing, relaxes you and increases your alertness.
Cinnamon and Peppermint Scents
«The scent of peppermint or cinnamon in your car might make your morning commute less frustrating and you more alert when behind the wheel.» That’s according to the results of a study led by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. Get yourself some peppermint or cinnamon gum, and chew it whilst studying. Chewing peppermint (or cinnamon) gum is actually a double plus, since chewing gum improves memory. Your memory will be improved, and you’ll be less frustrated and more alert! Can’t get any better than that, now can you…
Prioritize Key Topics
You’re cramming mate, you’ll not be able to study every aspect of each idea and remember every miniscule detail. Instead, try to understand the main concepts. Make a list of everything you’ll be tested on and prioritize. Group similar points together and plan how long it’ll take you to review each topic. Divide up your time efficiently and intelligently, cramming is your last chance to pass your exam!
This isn’t a post on different memorization techniques (although one is coming up!), it’s on how to cram for an exam. You can rhyme (like I just did there, cram and exam), use mnemonics, flashcards, association, verbal memorisation, memorization by repetition etc. If my last resort is cramming, then I usually use a bunch of different techniques, and try to understand the main concepts. A couple of my classmates and friends are usually online (doing the same), and I explain the most important topics to them in my own words.
Take A Break
I find the pomodoro technique (no need to buy a product, a normal timer will suffice) very effective for me. You study for 25 minutes and take a five minute break. After every session (work and break), the work time decreases while the break increases. Then you start again from the beginning. During the breaks you should relax, and try to let your brain process the new information. Perhaps do a bit of exercise, eat a bit and drink something.
Food and Drinks
Eat small snacks during your study breaks. Enough to keep you going, but not too much, otherwise you’ll dose off. I recommend nuts, chips, crackers, raisins, candy bars etc. Drink plenty of water, and, if needed, consume a couple of energy drinks along with your obligatory coffee to keep you awake. Important: Eat a good, filling breakfast the next morning. It’ll keep you awake and give you enough energy to get through the exam (and hopefully until lunch!).
Practice Possible Exam Questions
Did your teacher or professor provide you with a practice exam? Solve it, multiple times (but only after you’ve completed studying the key topics. Additionally, come up with possible questions on your own or search for different exercises online.
Personally, I’ve never taken any drugs such as adderall or ritalin to improve my study and absorption skills, although I would enjoy trying them, once (his famous last words). I’ll write about my experience sometime, but in the meantime I recommend you only take such drugs if you are in absolute need of them (as they do have some nasty side-effects…). If you make it with drugs, you might wonder if you would have ever made it without them.
Cheat if you like, it’s your choice. I dislike cheating, and only resort to it (if at all) if I feel like I haven’t had any other chance to study and that the fault is not mine (e.g. the professor crams his exam into an already incredibly busy week, although the next (rather slow) week would have worked perfectly fine for him).
Now Finally, Sleep
Don’t fool yourself, you won’t get a relaxing, nine-hour sleep tonight. However, a bit of sleep is important to help your brain process new information and will assist you in retaining learned material. Try to get at least one entire sleep cycle in (the first cycle is around 90 minutes). You can find out when you need to hit the sack with sleepytime.
GET TO WORK!
Now: stop reading and get to work. Follow my tips and tricks on how to cram for an exam, and you might just pass your exam tomorrow! Good luck, and remember, next time, just start studying beforehand!