College Studying

How to Effectively Cram for an Exam

Today, I turned in my Intro to Film Studies final paper. It was a five page analysis on lighting, and it sucked all of my hopes and dreams from by being. Rough right? Too bad for me, because I still have exams and papers due next week, some of which make this film paper seem laughable. Does anyone else have to write a ten page explication on how Flannery O’Connor and Susanne Collin’s both exemplify the grotesque distrust of society post WWII? Probably not. Regardless, I’m certainly not alone in my final exam stress. We’ve been preparing for weeks, right? Ha! Most of us mere mortals have only just began our exam studying! Read on for tips on effectively cramming for an exam!

How to cram for an exam

Utilize your time

It may seem obvious to study during your free time, but what about the 30 minute gap you have between classes? Or the time you spend on the spin bike at the gym? Your time spent in the shower? (don’t even tell me you haven’t thought about it.) My point isn’t that you need to spend every waking moment between now and your exam reviewing notes. However, think about all those little bits of free time you have on a daily basis and how you could use those intervals to study. Using your time wisely prevents you from having to take more drastic measures as your exam approaches. Here are some ideas ways to best use your time in order to avoid an all-nighter.

  • Create flashcards and carry them everywhere! I repeat, EVERYWHERE!!
  • Make a study guide with the most important information and carry it everywhere! I repeat, EVERYWHERE!
  • Study during your commute (unless you’re driving, obviously)
  • Study between classes, even if only for a few minutes
  • Recite as much information as you can while doing mundane tasks like showering or applying makeup

Focus on the important stuff

If your professor provided a study guide, first of all thank them for being wonderful human beings, then dedicate your life to that guide. The test usually doesn’t stray much, if at all, from the study guide. If your teacher isn’t a wonderful human then you probably haven’t been graced with the glory of a study guide. If that’s the case, it can be helpful to create one of your own. Include the overall big pictures as well as important topics. Be careful not to get sidetracked into including too much information. We don’t have time for that in this cramming session, so focus on the most important things only! Also, don’t worry about using official terminology (unless that’s part of the exam!). Instead, use whatever words helps you remember. If it helps you to write out the battles of the civil war with slang and emojis, then you go for it!

Don’t study the textbook!

In these final hours that textbook is not your friend! It may be hard to close it and put it to the side, but really it can only overwhelm you at this point. If you took notes, those are your best resource for important points. If you didn’t take notes of your own, or your notes ended up being illegible like mine, see if you can borrow some from a classmate.

Find some peace and quiet

Sometimes your room, full of its many distractions, is not the best study space. Find somewhere quiet where you can sit with your materials and just study for a few hours. The library at your school probably offers some quiet study rooms, and these are perfect because there are virtually no distractions in there. Turn off your phone and laptop, don’t go on Facebook, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. You need to study, not check your Instagram.

Review past exams

This is so important for final exams. The big topics covered in your prior tests are likely to appear again on this one. Quiz yourself in order to determine which areas you know well, and where you need to spend more time. Note the mistakes you made the first time and aim to fix them for this upcoming exam.

Take care of yourself

It can be easy to forget to take care of yourself when you’re stressed about a test, but neglecting to eat or get enough sleep can negatively effect your test taking skills. Remember to take a few quick study breaks, and bring snacks to your study sessions. Stay away from harsh energy drinks if you can avoid it! Check out my post on eating healthy in college for more healthy eating tips. Also, don’t underestimate the value of sleep! Aim for at least seven hours of sleep, but if that doesn’t seem possible then there’s platforms such as sleepytime which calculate your optimal time to fall asleep based on when you need to wake up. Sometimes it can be more beneficial to call it a night and just chill, rather than staying up late cramming information last minute. Treat yourself with kindness!

Good luck on all your exams! Have you ever crammed for a test? What tips can you offer?

  • Amy

    I really like the tip about not studying the text book. It seems like the logical choice but you really can’t study enough info quickly. Notes are already a summary of what the textbook says. Good tips!

  • Two weeks left. Working and school is overwhelming plus being a procrastinator, but my index cards are always handy. I even have a reminder on my phone that appears every few hours with important information for me to remember.

  • Love your tips! Especially take care of yourself because i have the weakest immune system in the entire world and always fall sick during exams period.