It’s the night before a big test and you NEED to get your cram on because you didn’t start studying earlier…. Here’s 10 steps to cram successfully:
1. Get Away
Studying in your dorm, apartment, or whatever you have can be incredibly distracting. Grab the bare minimum (books, iPod, notebooks, computer only if you need it) and head somewhere else. Make sure you find somewhere where you can really set up shop, and not have to move for a while.
I know, everyone talks about how bad caffeine and sugar are for you, and it’s true. But let’s face it: your bodily cleansing, for this one evening, needs to take a backseat. Do whatever you need to do to stay alert and awake; nodding off while reading isn’t very helpful.
3. Use the 50/10 rule
This is one of my favorite methods of studying, because it keeps me incredibly focused. Work- hard- for 50 minutes. No breaks, no distractions. Anytime you get distracted and stop working, the 50 minutes starts over. Once you hit 50, take a 10 minute break. Training yourself this way forces you to study hard 80% of the time, instead of half-studying all the time- it’s much more effective.
Though this tip doesn’t work for everyone, it’s still a good one. Rewrite your notes into smaller pieces. Eliminate the filler, and whittle down your notes from every class or reading into a specific portion- a page, or 1/2 a page. This forces you to figure out what’s really important, plus, you’ll be amazed at how much you learn simply by writing.
5. Study with a friend
Odds are, you’re not the only one who put off studying until the last minute. Find someone else to panic with, and you’ll be rewarded in two ways: you’ll realize how much you already know by asking and answering questions, and you’ll figure out what you need to study.
6. Figure out the Big Points
Given that you’re studying the night before the test, odds are you’re not going to remember every minute detail of the material you’ve learned. That’s okay. Instead, spend your time focusing on major concepts, the 5-10 things you’ve talked about the most and need to know the most about for the test. You’ll learn more about the connections between topics, as well as be able to answer more questions intelligently.
Try remembering these ten numbers: 9-1-4-6-5-7-3-2-4-1. Not so easy? Now try remembering this phone number: 914-657-3241. Much easier, right? That’s a process known as chunking, which can help you retain information at a much higher rate. To study with this method, follow a simple process: Come up with important terms you need to know for the test, and define them. Come up with a few major concepts from the course material, and explain them each in a paragraph. Then, on a notecard or piece of paper, group your terms into the concepts. Practice going over a concept, and remembering the relevant terms and definitions. Learning the individual parts as they relate to a larger whole makes remembering and applying them much easier.
8. Study out of Order
Most people study by reading their notes over and over again. This, believe it or not, really isn’t a helpful way of studying. Your brain doesn’t work in perfect order all the time, and neither should you. Instead, read your notes through consecutively only once. Then, randomly go back and read days’ notes, in no order whatsoever. This helps your brain remember the information on its own, instead of simply as a part in a series.
9. Study Out Loud
Read your notes out loud. Whisper, yell, sing, rap, whatever- say your notes out loud. I can’t overstate how much easier it is to remember something you say, hear and read than something you simply read. By speaking out loud, you give your brain three stimuli to remember the material instead of just one. Your retention skyrockets as you talk, because you’re forced to concentrate on the material. Don’t study in your head- study aloud!
This is literally the single most important thing you can do the night before a test. Studies have shown that you both remember incredibly more after 6 hours of sleep, and you perform terribly in pressurized situations without much sleep. This is a difficult thing to do, because, as I mentioned above, your instincts and caffeine will tell you to stay awake. Any sleep at all you can get is a crucial part of succeeding on a test, and the more the better. Balance caffeine with getting to bed at some point, and once you get in bed, forget about the test. Think actively about something peaceful, so nothing else enters your mind, and you’ll nod right off.