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The Exam Cram

By Ali Rawling, 3rd-year Kinesiology student

As exam season is fast approaching (I can’t believe it’s week 11!), lots of people will be putting tons of hours into their studies in this upcoming month. There are lots of effective and different ways to study, but there is one type of studying that doesn’t work well for most: cramming.

“Cramming” normally means

packing every single bit of material into a study session the night or day before an exam.

There are many reasons cramming doesn’t work, including not allowing enough time for your brain to consolidate what you’re studying into your long-term memory. That can make it more difficult to remember answers to exam questions without having your notes or textbook around as a cue. Another huge reason cramming is ineffective is that it increases stress and test anxiety — and stress can have a negative impact on sleep, which is essential if you want to remember any of the facts you just studied!

Want some tips to avoid those last-ditch cram sessions?

  • Create an exam study schedule ASAP to avoid cramming all together. Come by Learning Strategies to make one today, or use our famous online Five-Day Study Plan.
  • Keep your study session length according to the 50-10 rule. Study key material in short, focused bursts over several days leading up to the exam. This way you can learn the material better and retain more of the information.
  • Exercise before you study. Exercise has been shown to improve memory, increase focus, and reduce stress. Your brain is a physical organ — a healthy body often means a healthy brain!
  • Sleep after studying. Did you know the brain encodes what it has recently learned during sleep? It is more effective than staying up all night to study earlier and rest up — you’ll remember more in the morning!

If none of the above tips convince you that cramming is a bad idea, consider this: Going 18 hours without sleep results in similar cognitive functions as a person who’s legally drunk!