Confessions of a Crammer

To cram or not to cram... that is the question. As final exams approach, stressful late-night caffeinated cramming sessions are all the rage on college campuses. If I could give any advice, it would be… don’t do it. Committing material to long-term memory involves understanding the course work, and the process takes time. On the other hand, cramming is merely committing information to short-term memory where it will vanish if it is not stored to long-term memory. Expecting to learn a whole semester of material in one night is just not realistic. That being said, some of you may find yourself cramming over the next two weeks. The hope is that we have good notes, attended lectures and have a basic idea of what our professors are focused on. With a pile of past exams, quizzes, and papers for review, it is time to cram.

Tips for Cramming:

1. Make sure to be caffeinated. It is only for one night (hopefully), so let’s sacrifice a little health for being alert and awake.

2. Get out of your dorm room, there are way too many distractions. You may be surprised to know that dorm rooms get clean and organized during exams. Why? Procrastination. It is easier to focus on other tasks than to study.

3. Spilt your time consistently. I suggest working diligently, distraction free, for 60 minutes and then take a 15-minute break. Continuously do this until you have covered all the material.

4. Figure out the major concepts.

5. Study notes in order and then out of order. Go over your notes, tests, and papers once in order, and then out of order. Believe it or not, this will actually help commit subject material to your long-term memory.

6. Rewrite notes and condense them in a different format; you can even try using diagrams or single word cues.

7. Study with a friend. You will be surprised by how much you already know, and it will give you insight into what you need to focus on studying.

8. Sleep. This is by far the most important; try to find a balance between caffeine and a good night sleep. Getting at least six hours of sleep will allow you to encode the knowledge you have just took the time to learn.

Ideally, we should have been studying all along, eating well, exercising, and sleeping. But, being a college student, this is not always realistic. While cramming for a test should be your last resort, the tips above may help alleviate some of the panic. Welcome to crunch time and good luck.