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My Life is GrUV: How to Effectively Use a Cheat Sheet


Other than the words “cancelled” or “take-home,” students always rejoice when they hear “cheat sheet” thrown into the mix when finals are fast approaching. The name “cheat sheet” can be a bit misleading considering it’s essentially a page or index card of handwritten/typed notes you are allowed to use. This beautiful gift your professor has given you will not only help you study, but will also relieve some of the stress (only if you use it wisely). It can act as a safety net, which will help you focus on understanding the material instead of wasting energy memorizing a bunch of equations and dates. Here are some tips for creating the perfect cheat sheet so when the day comes, you won’t break a sweat filling out those bubbles.


  • Make sure it’s easy for you to find all the information on your note card. The writing needs to be readable, so don’t write too small!
  • Since you’ll also have limited space, use it wisely- a picture can speak a thousand words. Usually the best things to put on the note card are tables, lists, diagrams, and specific formulas
  • Use headers, color-coding, arrows, etc. Go crazy with those highlighters!
  • Put on only what you need to help you remember, like mnemonic devices (think SOH CAH TOA)
  • Don’t write out examples, only write the processes with clearly defined steps

How to Make It

  1. Abbreviate! You’re probably the only one reading this so abbreviate words like crazy (just know what they mean of course). Ex) American Revolution now becomes AmRev
  2. If you’re typing everything up in Word and it needs to fit on a standard index card, move the rulers on the top and side so your text is 5 inches across on top and 3 inches on the side.
  3. Use the font MS Sans Serif
  4. Go to Format- Font,  then make sure Subscript is the only checked box. Voila! Your text just shrunk without even having to change the font size!

The truth is- a cheat sheet won’t miraculously solve all your problems in terms of understanding the concepts. Think of it as the last step of your studying process. After you’ve already gone over all you need to know, write only the things you just can’t seem to get down. Walking into an exam having everything crammed onto a sheet of paper without knowing what it all means could be a disaster. So with these tips in mind- go ace that final!

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