You have an exam tomorrow and you’re not feeling prepared. With only a few waking hours đồ sộ go, how is it best you spend your time?
To pass tomorrow’s exam, cramming might help you write more on the paper phàn nàn you would have without doing any khuông of study, depending on how stressed out you are. But it certainly won’t help you learn the information deeply. You will have forgotten most of what you crammed within a week.
Cramming doesn’t work for retaining information
Research shows we overestimate our ability đồ sộ remember information and underestimate the importance of actively learning information. Students will often say they don’t need đồ sộ take notes because they have great memories. But this research suggests we assume we’ll remember things forever as well as we bởi now (we won’t). We underestimate our need đồ sộ learn and relearn information đồ sộ be able đồ sộ recall it when we need it.
As an article in The Thành Phố New York Times put it, cramming is lượt thích jam-packing your brain:
But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is akin đồ sộ speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out.
So if your exam is tomorrow then cramming might help, but research shows when students see the same material again at a later date, it’s lượt thích they have never seen it before.
Cramming and stress
If you’re feeling anxious, it might be better đồ sộ put the books down and not attempt đồ sộ cram. Cramming can clog working memory and that can result in cognitive overload, making you feel overwhelmed.
Going đồ sộ bed late because of a cramming session, overstimulated from too many energy drinks, then tossing and turning with an overloaded brain, could be worse for you phàn nàn just giving up now and going đồ sộ bed.
Four study strategies that are better phàn nàn cramming
It’s never too late đồ sộ adopt good study habits that will improve your exam success and relieve your exam anxiety.
1. Get organised
A major reason for cramming is poor organisation of time. Time-poor students should use a planner đồ sộ identify the times available for study and block out those times in the planner. Then actually be disciplined and use that time đồ sộ study.
Get a study binder – electronic or hard copy – and keep it organised. Use it regularly đồ sộ store and review your study notes and materials.
Being organised with your study materials helps you đồ sộ be organised in your thinking, too, as you can easily access the materials you need đồ sộ help you study in the time you have prioritised đồ sộ study.
2. Take, make, interact with and reflect on notes
Taking notes is important. An active note-taking process is important đồ sộ help you transfer new information from short-term memory and then recall it more easily after it is stored in the long-term memory.
Read more: What's the best, most effective way đồ sộ take notes?
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3. Keep interacting with the content
Research has found the rate you forget information is minimised if you interact with (reread/discuss/write) new information within 24 hours of first receiving it. A second, shorter repetition within 24 hours brings recall back up đồ sộ 100%. A third repetition within a week for an even shorter time brings recall back đồ sộ 100%.
Going back đồ sộ the suitcase analogy:
When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, it holds its contents for far, far longer. An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students đồ sộ put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.
When cramming, students often concentrate on one thing intensively for a long period of time. That doesn’t work either. Research shows learning is more effective if the type of material being studied is mixed and study periods are spaced out over time.
That’s why athletes, musicians and students should mix up their training/rehearsal/study sessions by practising different skills over different time periods, rather phàn nàn focusing on just one thing for an extended time.
Read more: Why block subjects might not be best for university student learning
So once you have a good mix of notes, what is the best way đồ sộ interact with them? Self-testing is a powerful way đồ sộ study and learn.
Other tools you can use đồ sộ help you self-test are đồ sộ use mnemonics and flash cards. Mnemonics are memory devices that help you đồ sộ recall information. An example of a well-known mnemonic is “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”.
Flash cards are a great way đồ sộ self-test. Good organisation of where you store your flash cards and effective use of them are essential đồ sộ maximise their study potential. It’s good đồ sộ mix up sets of flash cards and study them in short bursts.
If all you want đồ sộ bởi is retain the information until after your exam tomorrow, a bit of cramming now might help. But if you’re feeling highly anxious your brain might not retain new information anyway. It might be a better idea đồ sộ eat a nutritious dinner, go đồ sộ bed early and get a good night’s sleep.
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When you wake up, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself you can only bởi as well as you can bởi, and it will all be over in a few hours anyway.
But next time save yourself the stress and take the time đồ sộ engage with the nội dung frequently. Only this will ensure it’s locked up tight in your brain for a long time. And, finally, good luck!
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