Let’s imagine for a second that it’s 8pm, you’ve just finished having dinner and you’re relaxing on your bed when suddenly, you remember, ‘You have an exam tomorrow and you haven’t started studying!’
What do you do?
You could just give up there and then and accept your impending failure and wallow in a pit of despair…
Or, you could take the more hopeful approach and try to cram it all in at the last minute. But how does one even start?
Flashcards are great tools to use when cramming since they train your mind to quickly recall short pieces of information on command.
It’s best to start using flashcards 3 or 4 days before your exam to really sharpen your memory and lock in the important definitions, equations, or quotes you need to memorise.
This may sound obvious but it’s crucial! Repetition is what will get information into your brain the quickest.
Now you may tell me, “Isn’t repetition and using flashcards the same thing?” and the answer is YES! That’s how important it is for you to repeat and repeat and repeat your subject!
I personally recommend explaining whatever topic it is you’re studying to other people. Teach them what it is you are trying to remember since this will force your brain to actually understand the information and it will be more likely to stick. If you can explain it, then you’ve understood it.
This tip goes hand in hand with repetition.
When you’re going through your notes and you have to memorise something long-winded or complicated I suggest you come up with associations. For example, let’s say you’re studying Latin, and you have a long list of vocab to memorize. How do you do it? Simple!
Think of English words that sound similar to foreign ones. Such as; “Laudare” - meaning ‘to praise’, I recall this particular word by noting how in Latin it sounds similar to the English word ‘loud’, and what do we do loudly if not sing the praises of ourselves and others?
4. Study Buddy
If you’re like me and get easily distracted then a study buddy is going to help you stay on track and get all your work done in time for your exam.
Ask your friend, relative, classmate or teacher to read out notes to you while you make short notes on the information. And if possible, ask them to explain it to you and then explain it back to them.
This will help you not get bored or distracted quickly and will mean you can work for longer hours before you burn out.
5. Take Frequent breaks
Divide your time between more than one subject and if possible make sure they aren’t both super difficult. This way you won’t be completely overwhelmed!
Set small time goals like 30 minutes of studying one subject and then a 10-minute break before you switch to the next subject. This will help you retain information better because there is no way to remember anything once you’re tired, and chugging coffee or energy drinks isn’t going to help you in the long run so just don’t do it!
6. Mind Maps
Everyone has heard this one before, it’s one of the most commonly recommended study techniques there is. And the fact of the matter is...it works! Amazingly well in fact! This way the information you need to retain is represented on a single page in a visual format that is super easy to recall.
And here’s a pro-crammer tip:
After you make your mind map, put it away and 10 minutes later do it again from memory. Then cross-check it and add anything you forgot, making sure to highlight it. Keep doing this and you can learn a whole topic in an hour.
7. Past Papers
And finally, the good old favourite, past papers. Another technique that is constantly recommended to students and often comes off as boring or too slow. The best way to use past papers is by going through them topic by topic.
Let’s say you’re studying biology, go through all the past papers you can and do all the questions for respiration, then do the same thing with ecology, and so on. And that’s it! These are the best tips I can give you. What I do want to leave you with is these things to remember not to do when cramming;
- Don’t try and avoid all distractions all the time, you need a break!
- Don’t sacrifice food or sleep to study more, you’re only hurting yourself in the long run!
- Don’t get overwhelmed and shut down, when you start to panic remind yourself that you are more than capable of passing!
- And finally, don’t assume that cramming the night before is enough, revise in the morning too!
And now you have all you need to be an awe-inspiring crammer! I hope you can take this information and apply where you need it most. Now please join me in promising myself that next time I will start studying early... only to inevitably cram everything at the last second again.