It happens to the best of us. Exam week seems so far away, and there’s all the time in the world to study — until suddenly there isn’t. Cramming is now the only option. To make the most of your cramming sessions, make sure to avoid these three study habits.
Rereading Your Notes
You’ll need to study your notes, of course, but you won’t remember much by simply rereading them. Rereading helps with recognition but not recall. If you want to ace your exams, you’ll need to use a different study method.
People remember information more easily when they process it on a deeper level. To do this, you can rewrite the material in a way that makes sense to you. You could also explain facts and concepts — in your own words — to a study partner. It may feel like you’re spending more time than usual on each topic, but you’ll remember far more this way than by skimming through your notes.
Cramming Way Too Late
There’s regular cramming, and then there’s last-minute-panic cramming. If you’ve waited until the day of your exam to start studying, your anxiety will go through the roof. The more stressed you feel, the more difficult it is to remember anything. Another common mistake students make is staying up late cramming the night before. You might be able to pull it off, but you’ll be sleep-deprived during the exam, and your performance will suffer.
Try to set aside a reasonable amount of time to cram for an exam. You’ll need more study time for the more difficult exams or for the classes you’re most behind in. Giving yourself one or two extra days to study (even if you really need another six days) can make the difference between passing or failing.
Studying Too Long in One Session
If your exam is only a day or two away, you may feel you have no choice but to study for eight hours straight. However, you won’t retain much information this way. Most students can only study for 25 to 30 minutes before their concentration falters. If you have a limited amount of time to study, you want to use that time as efficiently as possible.
Break up a longer study session into smaller, multiple periods of 25 to 30 minutes. Take breaks of at least 15 minutes between each study period. Do something you enjoy on your break, such as grabbing a snack or going for a short walk. According to Dr. Marty Lobdell, a psychology professor, it’s possible (with training) to extend your study-time endurance to an hour or even several hours. Unless you’ve already trained yourself, however, it’s better to keep your cram sessions short and frequent.
Even though it’s better to avoid cramming altogether, sometimes it happens anyway. The next time you find yourself short on time, make sure to set aside more study time for the most difficult classes, study your notes on a deeper level, and take regular breaks during your cram session.