You’ve just stumbled back into your dorm room after a raucous night of merrymaking. Just as you’re about to collapse into bed, a note posted to your bulletin board catches your eye. There’s a major exam scheduled in one of your classes tomorrow. With all that’s riding on your GPA, surrender is just not an option. Now what?
Well, put on an extra-strong pot of coffee, pull out a fresh notebook and a handful of highlighters, and get comfortable – it’s going to be a long night. Granted, last-minute studying isn’t the best way to make the grade, but sometimes, it’s just an unavoidable part of college life.
In fact, cramming for exams is practically a rite of passage for new college students. Between the pressures of a massively increased academic workload and the temptations that the newfound freedom of campus life affords, it’s not uncommon to find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to studying.
So, if you’ve suddenly found yourself in a desperate position and the only thing that can possibly salvage your GPA is an intensive, all-night-long cramming session, use these tips from leading study-skills experts to make sure you get the most out of your last-ditch effort.
*Start off with an action plan. Before you begin cramming, take a few minutes to assess your situation and sketch out a general strategy for your study session. How many hours do you have before your test? Can you squeeze in any time for at least a few hours of shut-eye? Are there just a few areas you need to review, or are you pretty much starting from scratch? Create a flexible schedule indicating how long you plan to devote to each section. That way, you won’t make the rookie mistake of spending all night on one chapter when your test is covering half the textbook.
*Eliminate distractions. Distractions are pretty much unavoidable in dorm rooms, but to get the most out of your cramming session, it’s worth it to try to make your environment as Zen-like, serene, and procrastination-proof as possible. Put away all of your gadgets, sign off of Facebook and your IM client, and hide your TV remote control. If your roommate isn’t down with an all-night study session, migrate to the library or the dorm lobby. Do whatever it takes to make sure you’ll be able to dedicate 110% of your focus to studying.
*Study strategically. Let’s face it – in a last-minute cramming session, you’re just not going to have time to memorize every line of your textbook. Make use of every tool you have at your disposal to help determine what you should devote most of your time to. If you’re lucky enough to have a study guide, utter a little prayer of thanks and follow it to the letter. If you’re freestyling with a textbook and your class notes, look for cues that indicate the relative importance of the content. In your textbook, keep an eye out for terms typed in boldface or italics. If you’re working off your class notes, look for things you’ve underlined, highlighted, or marked with a star. If your textbook includes study questions or end-of-chapter reviews, use them to check up on your progress.
*Pace yourself and take breaks. Even when you’re cramming, there’s still such a thing as too much studying. If you power through your all-night session without any breaks, you could crash and burn from information overload. Study-skills experts say you should set aside at least five minutes each hour to get up, walk around, stretch, splash some cold water on your face, and grab a snack. If it’s workable, try to sleep for at least two hours before your test. That should be enough to help you feel refreshed and power through your exam.
What’s your favorite cramming secret? Got any good stories of last-minute cramming triumphs or failures? Give us your feedback in the comments.
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