The guide to ace this semester.

If you’ve been hard at work in college and haven’t had the time to study for an exam, then perhaps you should set aside time the night before to cram for the exam. 
As long as you’ve got the willpower to finish up this semester successfully, you’re well on your way to being home free for the holidays!

Plan Your Attack

You should know by now that cramming isn’t the most effective way to study for anything in college, but sometimes even the best students find themselves falling short at the last minute. If you want to actually benefit from your cramming session, it’s important to stay calm and get organized. You’ll need to start by determining four things:

How much time you have? Is it dinner time or 2 a.m.? How many hours do you really have to work?

Where you will study? Go somewhere with as few distractions as possible. If you don’t need the Internet to study, consider finding somewhere without wireless to keep yourself from procrastinating more.

What you need to study? Make a list of the most important things that you expect to see on the test. Be realistic and prioritize – you won’t have time for every little detail, so focus on this big stuff.

How you will study? Select one or two subject-appropriate study techniques, then write up a to-do list that incorporates each of the items you plan to study into one of these techniques. This will be your ‘road map’ for the night.

Once you have your cramming session planned out, grab your computer, any study supplies you may need (textbooks, notes, flash cards, etc.), healthy snacks and a caffeinated beverage, and prepare to hunker down.


Don’t forget to include at least two hours of sleep into your study plan! Even a little bit of rest can improve recall and focus and will serve you even better than eleventh-hour studying at exam time.

Review your notes.
Hopefully you took class notes. (If not, find a sympathetic classmate and photocopy theirs.) Reading them over will help you identify the subject matter that was most emphasized in the class, which is almost certain to show up on the exam. Furthermore, it can help you identify any materials that aren’t covered in the texts.

Make the most of your books.
You probably don’t have time to read a whole book, or even an entire chapter. Try to answer the end-of-chapter questions to determine to the best of your ability how much information you’re actually missing. Then look for summaries at the beginning and end of each chapter, as well as illustrative examples throughout. The index and glossary can also be helpful for studying key terms and concepts, as can the workbooks and student manuals that come with some texts.

Use study guides.
If you’re studying for a quantitative exam in a subject like math or biology, you may be able to find a study guide that reviews key equations or formulas. If you’re studying for a literature or other humanities exam, you’re going to need good summaries of the books covered on the test. Popular options include CliffsNotes, SparkNotes and Grade Saver, all of which offer e-book summaries that can be purchased and downloaded to your computer. Just remember that you should not rely on these book summaries to get you through the rest of the course.

Take a practice exam.
Some courses will offer practice exams or sample questions from past tests. If these are available to you, use them! They’ll help you become more familiar with both the materials that are likely to appear on the exam and the style of the exam questions.

Practice memorization techniques.
Simple memorization won’t work for anything beyond simple facts, but if you need to know how to conjugate a French verb or solve for the hypotenuse of a triangle, last minute memorization may help you. Try creating a mnemonic, writing the information out over and over again and saying it out loud to yourself, repeatedly. Musically inclined students may also consider writing a short rhyme or ditty to aid their memories.

Quiz yourself.
Be sure to pause periodically throughout your cramming session to check up on your progress. Just make sure that you’re not pausing so often that you fall behind.

Don’t try to memorize everything word for word. Try to understand what you are reading and make sure you get the main point.

Make sure to stay hydrated! Water is good for your body and will nourish you while you cram.

Instead of memorizing everything you
pose your eyes on, try to understand what you’re reading. By doing this, you won’t have any problems with remembering information when doing your exam.

If you’re feeling a bit tired because of so much late-night studying, take a shower (preferably with cold water); it will help you to feel fresher and awake.

If you’re very limited on time, you don’t have to study absolutely everything. Just do the material that you think will get you the most marks.

Think back to in class: What did your teacher cover most? You could also ask some friends what they think about what you should study.

Don’t have full confidence that you know all the material perfectly. Keep on studying. Research shows it’s better if you stress before the exam than saying you know it.

If you’re done studying but not quite ready to go to sleep, read a book or article related to what you were studying before going to bed. While you’re reading, if you see anything related to what you studied, then you will make a connection in your mind if you studied well! If not, then you should probably study some more.

Drink coffee if you are having trouble staying awake. If you find this makes you too jittery, try doing some exercise every time you start feeling sleepy.

Don’t panic. If you notice yourself starting to get anxious, monitor your breathing.

If you are writing finals, try looking on the provincial/college University website for expectations. If you know what you need to study, then you can narrow down the time wasted on things you don’t need. This on helps a lot if you forgot your textbook somewhere.

Summarising your notes in your own words and studying that might make it easier to remember them.

Discuss the important points with your friends.This will help you to remember them better.

Underline or highlight important information in red. It increases recall.

If you get a bit tired, get a snack!

A good nights sleep is best. As much as you study, take a deep breath. Everything will be okay.

Share it among all your friends.

All the best.

Shivendra Saxena.

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