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How to Cram for an Exam

Published on July 13, 2016 by Tom Westover

Ideally, you should stay organized so that you never have to cram for an exam. However, realistically, there may be at time that you have a limited period to study before taking an assessment. While you should always stay on top of your coursework, life happens. Here are some tips to successfully cram for any exam.

Review your notes first.

While you may be tempted to try and complete all of the reading that is going to be covered on a given exam, the information your instructor presented in class is likely the most important. Review your notes on the subject, and make sure you have a good understanding of how all of the topics relate. If your instructor took the time to cover something directly, you can probably expect to see it on your test.

Read the summaries and bold words.

Go through your textbook and look for end-of-section and end-of-chapter summaries. These sections will hit the high points of the content. Also, some textbooks provide special vocabulary words in bold or italic text. Know these words well. Make sure you can understand them when reading and that you can use them coherently in a sentence.

Call a friend.

One of the main reasons you should build a relationship with other students in your program is so that you can call on them in times like these. Having them review some of the major topics that will be covered on the test with you can be invaluable. It will also help them to remember the material, so it is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Making up practice questions and working together to answer them can also be a great learning strategy.

Don’t rely too heavily on caffeine.

Having a cup of coffee or a small energy drink to get in a few extra hours of studying can be ok. However, don’t make the mistake of ingesting too much caffeine. It will leave you jittery and unable to focus on the material you are trying to learn. Your sleep schedule could even be disrupted for days after which could throw you even more off of your game.

Don’t forget to sleep.

Make sure you leave as many hours as possible at the end of your cram session to get a restful night’s sleep. It may seem like a better idea to study until the wee hours of the morning, however, being rested is the first step to success. Set your alarm about an hour early, take one last look over the material, and do your best.

Avoid a repeat performance.

After you have completed the exam, take a look at the factors that led you to be unprepared to take your exam. If you can identify what caused you to get off track, you can prevent it from happening again. Next time you have an exam coming up, make a study calendar that will give you plenty of time to learn the material. Cramming is never ideal, and you don’t want to cheat yourself by only learning the minimum amount of information that is being presented.

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