Before we learn the cramming techniques, we have to one thing in mind beforehand: Don’t learn it! Because cramming doesn’t really work, it is the last study method you would want to resort to unless you feel that it is absolutely, definitely necessary that you don’t cram the hell out of it, you are going to die anyway. It is a common sense to realize that it’s not possible to learn a whole semester’s worth of lessons overnight. Nevertheless, despite your determination, best intentions, strong belief that cramming is a losing proposition, you may well often find yourself (hope not too often) in a situation that you are left with a whole bunch of untouched materials right before the exam dates. If so, below are some general guidance to follow and make your effort at least slightly successful.
Be realistic about what you can do. There is certainly now way you can be like Neo in the movie <The Matrix> who just needs one minute of data downloading into his brain and says:”I know kung fu.” Digestion of knowledge takes time. The more you try to cram in, the less it is going to work. So be selective on choosing which parts to focus. It’s better to know a lot about a little rather than a little about a lot. If the exams still have a few days to go, do your best to go out and find out all the materials the test may cover by attending review sessions, join your friends’ study group, do the pass year papers, anything that can let you know the more important parts. However, if your nightmare is just hours away and you are one man army, look at the first and the last section of every chapter which usually include the key points, summary, equations. Write them down on cramming notes or flashcards. They are your short-term memory life saviors. Try to color code the flashcards for different topics or important points. Write keywords on one side, explanation on the other. Train yourself to remember the whole story by just taking a glance at the keywords, recite things out loud repetitively or even act them out for maximum memory retention.
During your cramming sessions, beware of the surroundings which may distract you from studying. Clean your room, or at least your study desk. Leave only necessary books and stationery. Keep away from TV, although some people study better with a little TV noise in the background. Let your family members know that you need a quiet environment. Soft/classic music may help you release tension and concentrate more when brain is in alpha state. Adjust the lighting to appropriate density. Studies have shown that 3 out of 4 guys study better with a dimmer light (no, no candle light), while girls need a brighter space with a little noise. Finally, be sure to hold your body in the correct study positions. Lying on bed is a no-go because it’s not the best time to cure insomnia.
No matter how less the time might seem, you need to schedule a break every now and then, say ten minutes every hour of studying. Stand up and walk around, maybe making a cup of coffee or stretch your muscles. Exercise a little bit helps blood circulation to your brain, providing it oxygen and nutrition for long hour work. Also, taking a rest allows your newly absorbed knowledge to digest and sink into your more long term memory. Just be careful don’t let this leads you to procrastination. From time to time you may feel sleepy, there are a few ways to help you stay alert. The most common solution is to drink come coffee or tea, albeit the effect is temporary. You can also take a cold shower, the temperature change will jolt you awake. The other similar option to get your blood flowing is to do some exercise like running up some stairs till you get sweaty. Chewing on some peppermint gum has also been proven to help focus for some students.
After a couple of hours of intensive studying, you’d want to test yourself on how much you had actually learned. Flip your textbooks to the end of each chapter and only do the questions that you have identified as important ones. Note the questions that you can’t solve at that time, skip to next one and come back to it after you grade your test. Find out why you couldn’t solve the problems within your study scope by looking up the relevant information in front or on your flash cards. Make your own essay titles or maths’ question and think how you would answer them, preferably write it down on a piece of paper to gain more confidence.
Next, know when to give up. If you can’t remember your name or eyelids weights a ton, go get some sleep. Or you can sleep on books, hope you learn through osmosis. Get at least a full cycle of sleep which equals three hours for some quality REM. All of your efforts will go down the drain if you study all night but sleep through the exam the next day. A better suggestion is to consider an early-morning sessions versus a late night cram. It’s more effective to get up early and study with a refreshed mind, rather than go to bed with a fried brain and feel exhausted before the exam.
Lastly, the judgement day arrives. Have a healthy breakfast like fruits, whole grain crackers, bread with peanut butter, anything that provides you enough energy for the day. Avoid greasy food like cheese burger. After that, go over again anything you feel like you still not confident before you leave for exams. Keep a positive attitude. Tell yourself you have got it, you will be just fine (whether it’s true or not). Go to the exams early. Spend a couple of minutes write down whatever you are afraid to forget. Take a deep breath, pray, and get started.
In conclusion, applying the methods above will at least save you from misery that you you’d have otherwise. But to be truly excellent in academy, plan your study habit right from the first day of the class starting semester, and vow to be a better student from there on.