Nobody likes to do it but sometimes cramming for a test is simply unavoidable. You put off studying, didn’t look at the review guide, and waited until the night before the test to even think about preparing. Though I obviously would suggest that you not make this your normal strategy for test studying, if you do find yourself in this precarious position there are a few things you can do to help yourself out:
1. Figure out what to study – When studying on a limited time budget you need to make sure you aren’t wasting time. Your first priority should be to figure out what exactly will be on the test and stick to only studying that information. Look at the review guide, look at your notes, and think about what has been talked about in class. Pick out the most important concepts from there, perhaps the ones that are mentioned the most, and focus your studying on those. Don’t waste time on something if you think it won’t be on there or if it will only be in one question.
2. Don’t get overwhelmed – This is huge. Do not let yourself get overwhelmed by anxiety and nervousness when thinking about everything you are going to have to study in a short amount of time. Simply take it one minute at a time, focus on the problem or concept you are studying only and then move on. Stay positive and focused.
3. Don’t burn yourself out – There will come a point at some during the night where you simply need to be done studying. No amount of energy drinks is going to make that extra hour of time you want to put in at 4:30 a.m worth it. Get some sleep! Even if it is only a few hours, it might make the difference for you on the test. Even if you cram everything into your brain the night before by staying up the whole night, it won’t do you any good if you are too incoherent to even write your name on the test.
4. Focus on the study guide – This goes along with #1 but it needs to be said again. The study guide given to you by your teacher is the best place to focus when studying. It was obviously designed to make you aware of the problems and concepts that will be on your test. Use it!
5. Don’t bother asking teacher for help – Just to save you some time, don’t bother emailing your teacher or professor at 11:30 p.m, or even 7 p.m, the night before a test. As a teacher I can tell you that more than likely they aren’t going to respond to you. Why? They probably aren’t too concerned with the fact that you waited until the very last minute to start studying for a test. Don’t waste your time waiting for a reply.
6. Do ask your friends for help – Generally you know a few people in the class and they might be studying at the same time you are. Perhaps they are even trying to cram everything in just like you waited to do. If so, give them a call, text them, get in contact with them somehow. They are going to be far more willing to help you. My only suggestion though, don’t rely on them solely for help. You have to figure it out yourself.
7. Don’t just look at solved problems, do them yourself – Don’t solely rely on looking at problems that are worked out for you, especially in math and science. Trust me, you need to practice doing them yourself. Simply looking at the solution isn’t going to cut it when it comes to you working something out on a test. I can’t tell you how many times I have had students say they looked at the solutions over and over again without trying it themselves. They then are shocked that they didn’t get that question right. Try it yourself!
8. Use the Internet – If your friends have abandoned you for sleep and you are just stuck on something turn to the Internet for help. Obviously, you have some hook up to it if you are reading this. Use it. There are an incredible number of resources out there that can help you out. YouTube is a great place to look for educational videos that explain every concept under the sun. If you are confused and need help, just search for it on the net. Trust me. The answer to your question is out there, you just have to find it.
9. Move around, don’t just sit there – There is nothing worse for learning than sitting still at a desk for 6 straight hours. If you want to make your time spent studying more valuable, move around a bit. Every hour take a 5 minute break to walk around, get a drink, do a few jumping jacks, or basically anything that gets you out of your chair and moving around.
10. Eat breakfast in the morning – I know this is obvious or at least sounds obvious but do it anyway! Eat before you leave for school or go to class. It will make a difference. If you just spent your entire night studying, you need to eat. Your brain and test score will appreciate it!
I hope these tips help in your cramming session. Next time, print a little note out reminding yourself to study before the night before!
Founder and President of SchoolEdge Mobile Inc., High School Chemistry Teacher, Father, Husband, Michigan State University Graduate