When it comes close to exam time, sometimes even the night before, some students often attempt to make up for a semester’s worth of work in a few hours. Pulling an all-nighter, drowning in notes trying to stay awake and learn everything in one sitting is never an appealing option, but to some, it sounds easier than studying regularly over a few weeks or months.
But what students really want to know is does cramming for exams work?
The answer is NO.
While it may seem like your only option at the last minute, cramming often does more harm than good.
Last minute revision often leads far into the night, leaving you with little to no sleep before your exam. There are three extreme implications caused by lack of sleep; memory loss, decreased brain function, and stress or anxiety.
A deep sleep is essential to forming memories and linking features of a memory together while strengthening its new connections. During this stage, neural pathways are built in the brain when processing information, linking to existing knowledge stored in your memory. This process is essential to creating long-term memories and properly understanding what you’ve learned. Otherwise, an override of information that is stored in the short-term memory can cause confusion and an inability to remember crucial points of course content.
A lack of sleep impairs your ability to focus and concentrate during the exam time, you might misread questions, forget little things you’ve studied for, struggle to think of the right words and answer questions incorrectly, or at least, not to the best of your ability. A poor night’s sleep can often enhance anxiety, especially if you’re worried about an exam the following day.
You may think you’ve learnt everything in one night, but your brain struggles to remember information that has not been properly processed. Remembering material isn’t the only concern, your brain needs to make essential connections between concepts. If you haven’t been revising your work over the term and studying appropriately, it’s near impossible to learn your course material in the span of a few hours.
Connecting new concepts can be learned by combining diffused and focused mode during study periods. The diffused mode is understanding the bigger picture by brainstorming in a relaxed thinking approach, while the focused mode is actively studying and focusing on the material. Both are essential to making connections and developing a deep understanding of the newly learned concepts.
This approach takes time, and students need to switch between modes over a number of days. This is why cramming can cause an overload of information in the brain, allowing new knowledge to be stored only in the short term memory for temporary use. You also run the risk of confusing yourself and overriding or deleting existing knowledge from your memory due to cramming new surface level information into the short-term space. This surface level is also known as the shallow process, where the meaning of the concept is not understood, but there is a basic recognition which will only be retained for a short period.
What Can You Do?
Create diversity in your study routine
It’s important to switch up your study routine to keep your brain active and maintain motivation. In order to switch between diffused and focused mode, you need to try different techniques to memorise and develop a deep understanding of course content.
Over half of the population are visual learners, so visual stimuli such as content maps and diagrams are extremely effective. While handwriting your notes is always good, you need to continue to cut down to dot points and flashcards to trigger your memory and thinking. Try sitting practice exams in exam conditions and looking over past papers to get used to the answer style and timing for each question.
Read your notes slowly. Don’t skim over things
If you’re going to try and study, you might as well do it properly. Don’t bother reading material if you’re just going to skim over it, you won’t learn it. It’s important to read slowly and re-read things you don’t understand. Make sure you understand the content before moving on to the next section.
Plan an active study schedule
Set out an achievable study plan that you can stick to each week. Focus on a few hours a day with 15-minute breaks and one afternoon to spend on social or personal time. It’s important to manage each subject equally, but if you’re struggling with a certain area, you should prioritise extra time to that subject.
Organise assignment and exam dates
Integrate your exam dates and assessment due dates into your study schedule so you can better manage your time and have a visual guide of what you should be doing leading up to a certain task. Having a set schedule will help you organise your study and prioritise your time effectively.
Study in shorter sessions
We know it can be hard to keep your attention and stay motivated after school, but studying in shorter sessions with breaks can help keep concentration during focused mode. Try reviewing one topic area for 20-30 minutes at a time.
Get a good night’s sleep
Never sacrifice your 8 hours for a near useless cramming session. You’re better off rested and energised, so you don’t ruin your chances at getting a good grade because of memory loss, fatigue and brain fog.
Work with a tutor
Working with a tutor once or twice a week can help you prepare for exams earlier, so you don’t have to worry does cramming for exams work or not. You can just relax the night before and spend only a few short hours revising your notes.
Don’t wait until the last minute to start learning course content. Get prepared and start studying with a tutor from C3 Education Group, where you can find the best study solution that suits you and start getting your revision under way.Contact us today to get more information about our HSC tutoring services and specific subject tutors who are experts in their field.