How to Cram Effectively
By Natalie Umberger
That’s right, it’s finals time. That means presentations, group projects, final papers, and final exams! There never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish everything properly. Although cramming isn’t the best way to study, as college students, we’ve learned that cramming may be our only option sometimes. Here are some tips to help you cram more effectively.
Divide up your time.
- Figure out what you actually have time to do. Tally up your total study hours and estimate how much time you’ll need to spend studying each major concept, allotting the most time to the material you are least familiar with. Tackle the most unfamiliar concepts first, while you’re still fresh, and save the material you know best for last. If you need to re-allot your time, donate more minutes to the lowest-ranked material to make sure you understand it fully.
- Work steadily, but take frequent five- or ten-minute breaks to conserve your energy and avoid getting overwhelmed. Take a walk; get a snack and some fresh air. Move around often to prevent fatigue.
How to stay alert.
- If you’re having trouble staying alert while you’re cramming, and you have no time for sleep, drink some coffee. If you’re tired right before your test, drink some more. Caffeine aids mental alertness. Tea has also been proven to aid concentration. BUT be prepared for a crash. Drinking high amounts of caffeine, while helpful at first, can end up being counterproductive.
- Run up some stairs or do some jumping-jacks. Exercise gets blood flowing and relaxes you. It also increases your alertness.
- It has recently been proven that the smell of cinnamon and peppermint can help you stay alert. So chew on some gum if you’re feeling worn out.
How to remember.
- Recite, recite, recite. Recitation will burn facts into your mind like no other study method. Recite the material out loud until you’re sure that you’ll be able to recall the information selected.
- You have to decide which information is most important to remember and concentrate upon those facts and ideas. Resist the temptation to try and learn all of the important-looking material. You’ll need to use as much time as you have to remember the material you’ve chosen.
- As you go through your notes, find important definitions, concepts and equations. If you don’t know them by heart, write them down on a separate piece of paper–your cramming notes– or, better yet, on 3X5 note cards. This will help you identify what you need to know, and you’ll have a handy set of flash cards. The process of rewriting may also help you memorize the content.
Eat a good breakfast.
- Eat a good breakfast the morning of the test. Fueling up with nutritious foods will help keep your nerves steady and your brain engaged. Leave yourself enough time to give the test material one last review before you leave for school, but don’t look at the material after that.
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