The school year starts out with everyone working hard on assignments and turning everything in on time, maybe even a day early. Once the semester drags on, motivation seems to disappear and procrastination begins. Next thing you know you find yourself at the library at 2 a.m. when you have an exam the next day, with still so much work to be done. Here’s 10 ways to help you in this exact situation.
These 10 tips for successful cramming will prove to your professor that you can learn everything in the night before the test.
1. Limit distractions
As determined as you might feel to stay in your dorm all night studying, you will not make it the whole night with your bed five feet away teasing you. When your roommate starts to snore, you’ll want to get far away from your little square box home full of distractions. Get out of your dorm room and head to the library, but make sure the spot you choose benefits you the most. Distractions still fill some of the best study spots on campus. The library serves as an awesome place to go and work on a little homework, but with people walking around everywhere it’s very easy to daze off and people watch. If this applies to you, find a quiet room way off in the corner and seclude yourself. No distractions from people of the outside world. However, you still have access to the outside world right at your fingertips with your phone or laptop. As hard as it might be to put these away for the night, it’s nothing compared to how hard it would be to tell your parents you failed a class because you couldn’t stop scrolling through Instagram long enough to study.
2. Do more than re-read notes
Studying in high school meant looking over a few notes and maybe doing a few flashcards, but that won’t cut it in college. College exams will challenge you with more minute details than any test you had in high school. No more easy questions asking about a very broad topic; professors want you to learn every little thing about the subject. You actually have to do something with your notes if you really want to learn and get that A. Make practice tests, flashcards and even mnemonic devices to help remember certain things. The more you work with the information to really absorb it instead of rereading just to memorize, the more you will thank yourself later.
Grab some food from your school’s café or make a late night Walmart run so you have something to munch on throughout the night. This food can help give you a little boost of energy to get you through the night. Your brain will need it since you want to throw a semester’s worth of information at it in a short amount of time. “I feel like food makes me more focused and can help me stay on track because it’s like brain food,” said University of Iowa sophomore Jaylon Cotton. The distraction of a rumbling stomach all night will not aid in your studying either. Without anything to eat, you will only think about food, which doesn’t help unless you’re studying for your nutrition class. Do your brain a favor and feed it some healthy food. As much as sugary junk food sounds like a good idea, your brain works better with proper nutrients. Drink some water and eat an apple for the best cramming.
Make no room for technology during studying except for Quizlet. Quizlet helps students study as the 21st century way of writing out flashcards, but better. “I make my own Quizlets and they are usually extensive. They encompass all the lecture and textbook materials and I use the learning tool which is new and super helpful. It’s what I do last minute,” said University of Iowa freshman Nikki Shaw. The learn tool gives you flashcards and multiple choice questions and makes you write out the answer once it thinks you know the material. Let the technology aid in your studying instead of distracting you from it, for once.
5. Section it out
Your brain will not be happy with you if you decide to studying everything all at once. You won’t remember as much as you want to and the overwhelming feeling will drive you to go to bed instead of stay up and keep on the grind. “I divide it into sections and then when I get one section really well then I’ll move on to the next,” said University of Iowa freshmen Annie Stubing. Chunk out the assignment or notes to study and work step by step. Your attention and focus won’t last long enough to get everything done all at once anyway, so work on some and then take a break. Once you finish your short break, move on to the next section and repeat. You might not move as fast as you want, but your grades will thank you later.
6. Study groups
Late nights seem to drag on even more when you lack some people motivating you to stay on task and keep working. In a study group, everyone has the same goal: Pass the exam or assignment. Multiple brains working together at once piles many different ideas together and can help the process go faster. “If you’re gonna do a study group, come in with a set outline or plan in place with key points you know you want to hit with a clear go and it will be good,” said University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire freshman Megan Hansen. Someone might understand a specific topic better than you and explain it to you in a way that finally clicks. Sometimes your friend can be a better teacher than your professor.
7. Write as much as possible
Just about every college professor will tell you this: Take notes by hand instead of on the computer. You will remember the information better. During your cramming, you might want to type because it’s a lot faster, but if your main goal is retaining information, break out your pen and paper. “I feel like typing it is just manufacturing the words back on the page but with writing I feel like it’s more of a thought process,” said University of Iowa freshman Megan Connor. Even if it’s as simple as rewriting your notes or writing out flashcards, any bit of writing will help.
8. Don’t forget to sleep
Every college student knows the feeling of hearing last call. And no, not last call at the bars, but last call at the library. Nobody likes the point in the night where you’ve been buried in your notes and the clock must have sped up because it feels like 10 p.m. but it’s actually 1 a.m. Once you’ve hit this point, go to bed and rest up before your big exam. You may not have hit every topic you wanted to, but exhausting your brain until 4 a.m. will not benefit you or your grade. “Sleep is the most important and allows for your brain to process information and recharge. Above all sleep is the most important because if you didn’t sleep the night before you won’t give a shit how you do on the test, you’ll only think about sleep,” said Hansen. You’ll end up exhausting every last brain cell, which you need to perform the very best the next day. Also, staying up late leads to a tired student, and nobody wants to fall asleep during an exam.
9. Study a little bit every chance you get
The day before an exam, don’t just study in one big chunk for five to six hours. Instead, study every little chance you get throughout the day. Taking the bus across campus? Pop in some headphones to drown out the noise and do a couple flash cards. Going to the gym? Take your notebook with and flip through a few pages of notes while running on the treadmill. Even while grabbing a bite to eat you can grab your phone or laptop and take a few practice tests on Quizlet. Every little bit helps.
10. Don’t procrastinate so you won’t have to cram at all
Best way to help with cramming? Avoid having to cram at all. Even though schedules get busy and time slips away, studying a few days in advance will help you out in the long run. Your brain won’t retain all the information if you cram it in the night before, but your odds increase as you study earlier. Studying in advance also helps eliminate some unnecessary stress in your already stressful college life. Also, if you wait until the last minute, “You’ll regret not putting in as much work as you should have if you do really bad,” said Morningside College freshman Mackenzie Johnson.