Wednesday, December 10, 2008

12 Tips for Better Cramming

Don't get us wrong. Professors consider "cram" to be a four-letter word. We don't think pulling an all-nighter the night before the test is the royal path to success. But sometimes cram happens. So if you're going to do it—like 99.9947 percent of other college students—at least do it right. After all, we'd hate to see you blow off all that sleep and still wreck your GPA.

1. Cram for the test, not for the course. Many students think that cram time is "go over the course time." It's not. There's no way you're going to be able to learn 15 lectures' worth of stuff in a night. So, resolve to focus your attention only on what you think will be on the test. And stick to your resolution.

2. Scope out the scope. Be sure you know what's on the test and what's not. Many times students aren't exactly sure which lectures, readings, sections, and homework assignments are to be covered on the test (Does the test include the material on the last test? Is the most recent lecture included? Are we responsible for that article discussed in section?). You can't cram right if you don't know what you're supposed to be cramming.

3. Figure out the format. There are many kinds of questions your prof could be asking—multiple choice, short answer, essay, problem-solving. Make sure you know which is his or her favorite type. Consult the sample exam, study guide, syllabus, or instructions in lecture or section to find out. And if you're not sure, text or E-mail a friend in the class (it's unlikely your professor will be answering your questions in the middle of the night).

4. Line up your ducks. Before you start cramming, make sure you have a complete set of lecture notes (putting them in order wouldn't hurt, either) and all the problems, homework assignments, and quizzes you've taken. It's difficult to cram well if you're missing essential pieces.

5. Remember this. In some courses—language, history, math, and some sciences, for instance—there's a lot of stuff to be memorized. Do this first. You'll memorize better while you're still half awake. And you'll feel a sense of relief and well-being when you've gotten the tedious work out of the way.

Extra Pointer. Use acronyms (that is, words formed from the initial letters of the things to be memorized). Make them as clever or as dirty as you can (easier to remember that way). And then sing them out loud while making faces and flapping your arms (you'll remember the tunes and your idiotic motions).

6. Capture the concepts. In many courses, the real cramming work is to get your mind around the key concepts and central ideas of the course. This isn't just memorizing some code words (as in the previous tip) but understanding the main points in a clear enough way to be able to explain them to someone who didn't know them. Like the reader of your exam. Tip? Locate the three or four main concepts the professor was trying to teach, and think how each can be explained in enough detail to communicate a real understanding of the idea.

7. Go for the score. No, not that score. The point score. Allot your cramming time in proportion to the points on the test. Short ID's worth only 15 percent? Spend about 20 minutes preparing them. And so on.

8. Never read. Reading the assignment—or if you've been good, re-reading the material—is never an efficient way to cram. Takes too long. Instead, scan your reading notes, or if you don't have these, study the lecture notes. Your prof probably flagged the main points. Rule of thumb: more time in lecture = more important.

9. Milk a friend. In many cases, it's good to invite a friend to your "study group"—that is, to find a friend, smarter than you, whom you can leech off of to explain to you the things you don't understand.

Just make sure you're picking on the basis of smarts, not looks, and that the focus of your study is the test, not your friend.

10. Take a trial run. The last stage of your cramming should always include some self-testing, in which you construct some questions in the format you expect to be on the test, and then formulate some answers. You might be tempted to skip this step, but don't. A trial run helps you start thinking like your professor and start processing the material in the way you'll need to do in the actual exam. Think of it as a warm-up for your brain. Which it's no doubt going to sorely need after all you've put it through.

11. Pull a "half-nighter." Figure out how many hours there are in the night, then spend half that number cramming. Try sleeping the other half.

Professors' Perspective. Most professors grade as much on how well you express your ideas as on how much you know. So. if you've stayed up 'til 5 in the morning funneling as much data into your head as you can, you won't be able to think and write clearly when it comes to the test at 8:30. That's where the sleep comes in.

12. Try an Egg McMuffin or Double Croissan'wich (or at least a Cholesterol-Free Egg & Reduced Fat White Cheddar). Your brain will work better with carbs and protein (even in reduced dosages). And since you're being graded on your performance on the test—not the size of your cramming session—a megabreakfast will work wonders.

Bonus Tip. And don't forget to take out a double espresso for the test. Hey, you've crammed like a fiend. Why not load up like a fiend?

Adopted from

Personal Comments:

Test 2 season start adi... Soon... There will be the much dreaded finals... So fellow coursemates, cram well!! =p

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