How not to cram

  • Read through every word of all notes, texts, and handouts as quickly as possible. Review all night. Drink lots of caffeine.
  • (Result: Not only have you retained very little of what you studied, but you're too exhausted to recall some of the information you did already know.)
  • Becoming a leach. Working with other cramming students can sometimes be helpful, but your partners will disappear real quick if you're contributing nothing and sucking all the information out of them.

How to cram

  • Take a planned break every hour.
  • Make sure to go to the class before the test (like Tuesday's class if the test is on Thursday); this is essential, as the professor may reveal key elements of what will be on the test.


  • Use the discussion questions at the end of each chapter in your text to quiz yourself. Answer them OUT LOUD. You'll be able to tell if you know the material or not by how intelligent (or ignorant) you sound out loud. It's much more difficult to fool yourself into thinking you know the answer when you hear yourself fumbling out loud.
  • Look at old tests. Ask your professor if they would be willing to let you see a copy of a previous exam so that you can get a feel for what this exam will be like.
  • Don't try to cram new stuff into your head at the last minute. Spend the last few hours calmly reviewing key concepts.
  • The night before the exam you're going to be more anxious than usual. This makes it one of the least effective times for study.
  • Cramming makes you more frantic about an exam, and therefore less able to do your best.
  • Don't go to a movie. Denial and avoidance will not help at this point in time.
  • It's better than not reviewing at all.
  • Smile. It will help to relieve your stress.

Use your environment to your benefit. "If exams were taken in the same room as the stuff was learnt, performance would on average be 10-15% better." (Brain Train) See if you can study in your classroom or in a similar-feeling classroom. (Often classrooms are vacant for some portion of the day.)