How to Cram: A Procrastinator’s Guide to Success

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Studying –it’s a necessary evil, one of the many S’s of school (the others being Starbucks, sleep, snacks and a social life). Everyone has a different approach, from flash cards to study parties to rereading everything until their eyes start to bleed. But the one universally accepted fact about studying is that cramming the night before is the lovechild of Satan and Hannibal Lecter.

Well, what if it’s T-minus two days until finals? Just how do you relearn (and actually remember) an entire quarter’s worth of information in such a short time?

1. Fill ‘er up

Never underestimate the power of food and more importantly, caffeine (but don’t forget water). Studying is hard enough and an empty stomach will just make it worse. Before you start, fill up your water bottle, hit Starbucks or dig out your snack stash–preferably something healthy and memory boosting such as avocados, blueberries or anything whole grain so you won’t crash later. You’re in this for the long haul.

2. Plan of Attack

Most professors give out a study guide of some sort before the test. This is the single most important document you’ll receive all quarter, since it literally tells you everything that’s going to be on the test. Think of it as your road map. Take a look and figure out exactly what you will need to review, keeping an eye out for the big ideas. You’ll be on the road to an A+ in no time.

3. Quick and Dirty

Although it’s tempting to spend an extra hour reviewing the section on the circulatory system that you never really understood, dedicate a certain amount of time for each topic and stick to it. If the heart seems utterly foreign, take a couple extra minutes (but no more) to review. But if you could teach a class on the liver (why would anyone?), feel free to just skim over it. Other than that, do a quick overview of each topic and move on.

4. Chill Out

You’re crunched on time, sure, but nonstop studying is never the answer. Schedule a ten minute break for every half hour of studying. During the thirty minutes, it’s you versus the clock–try to beat it by reviewing as fast as you can. When it’s break time, do some jumping jacks to get your blood flowing, grab a snack or go to the bathroom. Although it may seem like a massive waste of time you don’t have, it’ll actually make you more efficient. Getting burned out now is not an option.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

In a perfect situation, you would take the time to sit down and reread all of your class notes. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so skip the rereading and quiz yourself instead. Create questions that seem like ones that might be on the test. Practice essay questions and even though you don’t have time to write, jot down an outline for how you would answer if it showed up on the test. Less tedious than rereading, right?

6. Keep it Simple

Straight up memorizing may seem easy, allowing you to simply spit everything back out for the test. But will you remember this stuff later? Probably not. Rather than having to relearn everything again for the next test, re-teach yourself the material. Break it down, draw pictures, create a flow chart or group similar things together. The key here is simplicity-if your younger sibling wouldn’t be able to understand it, neither will you the next day. Breaking stuff down makes it seem less daunting and easier to understand so you can review faster.

7. Two Heads (might be) Better than One

What about a study buddy? Well, that depends. Both of you could be at different levels or you’ll probably just hang out. On the other hand, you could quiz each other so only find a study partner if you think it’ll help. Remember, time is not your friend right now. So don’t spend 10 minutes discussing the crazy night out you had.

8. Give Up

…Just kidding! Your eyes are slipping closed and trying to stuff everything into your poor brain seems impossible, but remember that you got this. On some level you probably already know at least some of the material–that’s what class is for. Nothing a little fine tuning can’t fix. If all else fails, keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world. You may not get the coveted 4.0, but then again who actually does?

Valerie is a senior at the University of Washington, studying English/Creative Writing and History. She loves anything caffeinated, Netflix and long road trips. She'll always be obsessed with Once Upon a Time, Scandal, Private Practice and Agents of Shield.

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