How to Study Last Minute for a Test: How to Cram Smartly

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You may have intended to study well in advance for a test but ended up slacking or getting  distracted by other commitments. In that case, you might be freaking out about studying at the last minute and don’t know what to do. Fear not, because there are certain steps you can take to ensure that you still obtain a decent grade. Keep reading as we delve into how to study last minute for a test.

Does Last Minute Studying Really Work?Does Last Minute Studying Really Work?

Sometimes, coursework piles up, and the overwhelming feeling of covering all the syllabus at once leads to you falling behind. You can reassure yourself that you’ll spend a few days cramming before the test, and while this practice may allow you to pass, it’s not a long-term solution. Unless the material is thoroughly covered, a student is unlikely to remember it for long.

So, is last-minute studying effective? If there is no other way to save your grade, yes, but it help serve you in the quizzes or exams that come after a few weeks or months. Research shows that spacing out study sessions over some time is in your best interest, as it improves memory. For example, rather than spending ten hours cramming for a subject, you should study the content for two and a half hours each week for four weeks.

And the more time a student takes between their study sessions, the better off they will be within the time restrictions of an academic semester. Don’t hesitate to plan how to cover your coursework beforehand and space it out to relieve considerable stress.

Although researchers aren’t completely sure why spacing works, one possible claim is that people may forget what they’ve learned in their initial study session, but returning to the material jogs their memory. For this reason, they can easily recall what they studied the first time around, helping cement the new knowledge as well.

Research Study About Cramming

Research Study About Cramming

Now let’s look at experts’ opinion regarding the question ‘is cramming effective?”. According to cognitive psychology and the Levels of Processing theory, there is a difference between shallow and deep information processing. This research states that ‘shallow processing’ is less likely to result in excellent long-term memory than ‘deep processing’.

While the brain embeds shallow processed information based on just words and not meaning, deeply processed information is stored according to its significance and meaning. When you learn things with concentration and depth, you can easily link concepts together and better understand the demonstrated knowledge. Since there is a more meaningful analysis of the material, your recollection of it will be stronger and more long-lasting. A subject that needs to be crammed in a short time can’t be processed deeply, leading to rapid loss of information.

A 2011 study states that students who cram for exams and tests usually only pass with average scores. Most of the knowledge obtained by cramming gets forgotten not only over a period of time, but also during the test itself. Still, we understand that it can be challenging for most college students to avoid cramming because there is always so much going on.

At times, cramming becomes a necessity and might even transition into second nature with hectic class schedules, various assignments, and side jobs. You may not be able to make enough time to study properly for every test, resulting in condensing months/weeks of coursework into a few late nights of studying. Try to study the notes covered in class every day if possible, as what your professor taught will still be fresh in your mind. If this is not possible for you at times, there are certain last-minute cramming tips you can adopt to maintain your grades.

Advantages and Disadvantages Last Minute Studying

Advantages and Disadvantages Last Minute Studying

In this section, we’ll consider both the advantages and disadvantages of last minute studying.

Advantages of Cramming

Cramming can be beneficial in specific situations, helping you tackle high-stress educational and personal life matters:

  • You can apply cramming to various bits of information, such as formulae, names, timelines, titles, or passwords. This is useful in practical situations where not everything you learn has a deep, underlying meaning. In certain aspects of academics, geographical, historical, and other related concepts don’t serve a deeper purpose; they’re better crammed than understood.
  • The practice is quite time-efficient. As you only memorize certain information, it is much more convenient and faster than understanding an entire concept. Essentially, it comes down to figuring out how to cram smartly.
  • At times, cramming leads to a better test score compared to studying extensively for the examination. If you are well-versed in lengthy procedures and atypical spellings, you are likely to perform well even if you study at the last minute. Last-minute memorization gives students the ability to rewrite the material word-for-word.

Disadvantages of Cramming

In addition to listing the benefits of cramming, it’s essential to look at its disadvantages as well. This way, you can determine which learning method works best for you and how early you should start studying for your exams.

  • Cramming has a negative influence on an individual’s discipline and habits. The act of covering your syllabus overnight creates a false sense of knowledge. Sure, you may be able to retain the information in your short-term memory, but that doesn’t mean it won’t fall short when you have to apply theoretical knowledge practically.
  • It reduces a student’s overall potential. Most of them can’t employ their intelligence to the best of their ability, leading to poor results when solving questions with crammed answers.
  • You’ll likely experience a considerable loss of information if you try to cram a lot of syllabus in a short time. The risk lies in forgetting everything you have crammed on the exam day when you’re attempting to answer the questions. And this happens a lot, with most students feeling panicked and frustrated.

7 Smart Ways to Last Minute Studying: Cramming Before a Test

7 Smart Ways to Last Minute Studying: Cramming Before a Test

If you’re unsure about how to study for exams in one night, here are some last-minute study tips for final exams:

Reduce Distractions

Whether you’re going to study in your living room, bedroom, or even a public library, learning how to focus on your notes completely is crucial for cramming. If you listen to music while studying, listen to focus-boosting soundtracks; otherwise, invest in cheap earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. For the utmost concentration, we recommend turning off your phone altogether.

Explain What You’ve Learned to Others

Don’t hesitate to ask your loved ones whether they’d be willing to listen as you explain your revision flashcards, notes, or mind maps to them. When you explain your answers out loud, you are much more likely to identify gaps in your knowledge and work on your weak points.

Plan Ahead

You’ll sleep easier knowing that your pencils, pens, and other supplies work properly before the test, allowing you to go to bed with a clear mind. Planning for your exam day and packing your bag the night before is in your best interest for a good performance. You’re bound to wake up feeling confident, refreshed, and like you can tackle whatever is to come.

Manage Time and Prioritize Revision

The best way to get the most out of a last-minute study session is to manage your workflow. Highlight the most important material your teacher has emphasized in class, and do your best to concentrate. Keep telling yourself that this is the one night you can’t procrastinate, as it will make or break your grade.

Focus on Your Weak Points

Let’s be honest; it’s unlikely to revise all your study notes and class material at the last minute, so try focusing on the stuff you don’t know. If you’re unsure where to begin, answer a few sample questions or attempt a practice exam to see where you stand. Mark the areas where you’ve made the most mistakes and get to studying. Trust us when we say brushing up on your weak spots will take you a long way.

Take Breaks

How you perform on the test is directly related to the amount of sleep you get. Individuals who get a good night’s sleep are likelier to outperform their sleep-deprived peers. Pulling an all-nighter has its consequences, and most students end up regretting doing so. It would be best if you aimed to get at least seven hours of sleep the night before your exam.

Stay Healthy

One of the most effective last-minute cramming tips involves staying healthy. Exercise in your breaks, eat nutritious food, and drink plenty of water. You might be tempted to chug a can of Red Bull or have another cup of coffee, but don’t. While these drinks give you a short-term boost, they leave you feeling irritated and tired in the long run. Instead, stay hydrated and stay concentrated!

Wrapping Things Up: How to Study Last Minute for a Test: How to Cram Smartly

If you’re here reading this article, it means that the clock is ticking, and you need a quick fix on how to study at the last minute for a test. From minimizing distractions to planning your time effectively, go through our last-minute study hacks before your exam to ensure you’re prepared enough to give the exam your best shot with confidence.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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