Cramming is generally not a great way to prepare for a test.
But sometimes, under certain circumstances, you’re forced to go into a hurry-up mode with your studying. Maybe work was crazy that week or you had a family situation to deal with.
No matter the reason, you’re down to the wire and the clock is ticking on your big exam. What do you do?
Below, we’ve compiled a few cramming tips and tricks that can get you ready quickly. Hopefully, you won’t have to use these methods too often, but you may be able to incorporate them into your regular studying routine.
1. Organize Your Notes
In a perfect world, you’d be able to rewrite your notes wholly, fleshing them out and comparing them against your textbooks and independent research. But we’re on a time crunch here.
Try skimming your notes and writing them as if you’re remembering a joke: don’t memorize the entire thing, just get the broad strokes down so you can put a cohesive story together.
While you’re writing down the major points of your notes, say them out loud, as well. Doing both will help you remember the material.
Read it, write it, say it. And do it quickly.
2. Figure Out What You Don’t Know
If you only have a few hours to cram, start by figuring out your weak spots.
You might be tempted to fully master the stuff you know, but you should trust that you have a handle on that portion of the material and put your focus elsewhere.
This is something you can do as you’re organizing your notes. Take stock of a few chunks of information you need to brush up on, be realistic about the time you have and hit the items where you need more work.
You know you’re under the gun with your studying, but freaking out isn’t going to help.
Do what you can, while you can.
Try to be positive about the challenge ahead of you. Look at it as an opportunity to see what you can do with limited resources. Plus, it’s easier to study when you’re relaxed.
Maintaining a good vibe while you’re studying can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
Also, be sure to eat well and get a good night’s rest. These can be just as helpful to taking a test as the studying itself.
4. Recall Previous Tests
If you need a break from studying the coursework, take a moment to think back on previous tests. (Of course, this will be tough if it’s your first test of the year. We’re cramming already?)
By thinking back to earlier exams, you might get a sense of the type of questions that will be asked, putting you in a better position to study efficiently. The format, multiple choice or essay, makes a big difference too.
You can’t spend all your precious time doing this, but it could help guide your studies and help you remember items for potential test questions.
5. Use Studying ‘Tricks’
Little tips and tricks can be useful whether you’re cramming or studying normally.
Try using some of them to quickly memorize and understand the material. A couple of options include:
Mnemonics, basically memory devices that help you recall something, can be a great way to remember an idea in a simple way. It could be a short phrase or acronym that helps the information stick in your head.
Here are a couple of simple examples.
No. 1: To remember all the Great Lakes, think of HOMES: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
No. 2: To remember the number of days in each month: 30 days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31. Except February, my dear son. It has 28, and that’s fine. But in a leap year it has 29.
If you’re really struggling with something, a mnemonic can be a great way to remember it.
This is a bit more abstract, but it involves thinking of the information being stored in a virtual place, like a home or a room.
Take each piece of information and place it in a particular spot in your mental space. Then, when you need to recall it, just think of where you left it.
Cramming isn’t the best way to study for an exam, but hopefully these tips will help you the next time you’re confronted with a test and little time to prepare.