How to Succeed If You Have To Cram For A Test

by Christine Chadwick

You should always do everything within your power to avoid cramming for a test: schedule study time every week, partner with someone who will keep you accountable, visit the teacher during office hours to ask questions about the material - whatever it takes. However, there are some times where you simply run out of time, and if you're reading this post, you're probably in that situation. Here are your best bets for success when studying the day before an exam.

Keep your energy up

The body needs fuel, but caffeine and junk food won't improve your learning curve. In fact, you'll study better if you don't eat much sugar at all. You don't want to crash, so consume high protein snacks and plenty of water if you're hungry while hitting the books. If you are craving something sweet, eat a piece of fruit or dark chocolate.

Change the scene

With the multitude of distractions available in your apartment or dorm, a new environment may actually improve your retention. Take your essentials somewhere with fewer temptations to slack off. Coffee shops, bookstores, the library, or a quiet lounge on campus might work. Set up somewhere with a minimum of distractions where you can concentrate without interruptions or being asked to move.

Find safety in numbers

If you have already established a study group, you'll have an easy time finding someone to study with the night before a test. If your class has set up an informal directory, reach out and find someone to work with. You learn how much you know - or don't - best when you have to describe concepts to another person aloud. A duo, or team, can better determine what you need to cover. Plus, you can quiz one another as you review the material.

Put it in writing

Rewriting your notes can be a great study method. However, writing does not mean copying notes verbatim, but rephrasing, condensing, and changing the order of the material. Halving the length of your notes forces you to find out what the highlights are and increases the efficiency of your studying. Also, writing items out may cement the concepts in your memory more effectively than re-reading them. As you review your notes, arrange them in digestible groups instead of attacking all the material at once.

Take a break

If you have all day to study, take 20- to 30-minute breaks. If you only have the evening before the exam, take a ten-minute break every hour. During the break, stretch, take a walk, or get a snack. Once you get in this habit, you may find that you are concentrating 80 percent of the time, instead of being distracted and studying during only half of your scheduled time - a 30 percent increase in efficiency.


It's past the point when you can stuff every detail of the term into your head, so make sure that you are clear on the major concepts. Move on to the details only once you are certain that you know the most important material. If you are reviewing a text, read the first chapter, the final chapter, and the first and last paragraphs of the intervening chapters.

Sleep on it

You will likely perform better if you are reasonably well-rested. Try to get up two hours before the test so you aren't trying to recall the data-jam of the night before while you're still in snooze mode. Keep in mind that over-caffeinating as you study can decrease your performance by limiting your ability to sleep. Snacking too late in the evening can also be harmful.

Tags: revision cram study test
Categories: Revision