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Is cramming for exams worth it?

by Tamera Robinson

Design Lead

It's time for midterm exams. Your professors have been reminding you for weeks now about the upcoming tests, and you think you have it covered. You blow off studying and suddenly realize: "Oh no, it's the night before the exams, and I haven’t studied at all!"

So now you have to pull an all-nighter for the exam. Fast-forward to the day of the exam, and you know nothing. Everything you crammed for has gone out the window the moment you sit down.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

So, why do students do it?

In a UCLA 2009 survey, researcher Nate Kornell found that “99% of students admit to cramming...and yet 72% of the participants thought that cramming had been more beneficial.”

RU senior Michelle Marek, a psychology major, said she doesn’t know why she waits to cram before exams but this method has proven been successful on most of her exams. She said, “Maybe I learn better under pressure.”

Cramming the night before or even the day of a test can lead to information overload because it doesn’t allow your brain to put information into long-term memory. In some cases, cramming the night before or even the day of an exam can work to some degree, but it is highly advisable to not go that route.

How does cramming affect you?

Cramming is associated with emotional, mental and physical impairments that reduce the body's ability to cope with its environment. Students who depend on cramming to get through exam week often find themselves struggling to perform consistently when the brain adjusts to prolonged sleep deprivation, according to Ralph Heibutzki’s article, “The Effects of Cramming for a Test.”

RU students discussed their study methods and if they work or don't work for them.

Erica Doherty, a senior mass communication major, said she does not cram for exams. "It makes me feel good to know that I am prepared for my exam and that I don't need to cram for my exams,” she said.

Tia Robinson, a senior psychology major, also chooses not to cram for tests. She said she feels good knowing that she took the proper time to prepare efficiently. “It feels rewarding to do well knowing that I’ve studied. I would rather study throughout the week, and then on exam night, I will usually go over my review before bed and before class starts on exam day.”

Marek, who does cram for tests, said she feels stressed when she waits until the last minute to study. "One way I have crammed for exams is by studying the day of for an exam. I mainly look over the notes that were given in class. Sometimes I create flashcards if the exam is more term based.”

Techniques to avoid cramming for tests

Studying for exams doesn’t have to result in pulling all-nighters or cramming 10 minutes before class. The best advice to avoid the cram is to space out your studying and take a few minutes out of every day, such as before you go to bed, to review a section of the material.

In an article by Tim Stafford titled "Memory: Why cramming for tests often fails," he writes that students should always make a study plan, which allows students to space out their preparations for the test rather than being dependent on pulling all-nighters.

This BBC video explains that cramming often doesn't work and gives tips on how to avoid "the cram."

In conclusion, studying for exams doesn’t have to be pulling all-nighters or cramming five minutes before. Studying can be frustrating at times, and if you are not good at studying, you might become discouraged. But it doesn’t have to be! Follow the tips here to help!

Having a system or plan that works for you will help you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically confident, which will also help you in the future in your career. So try it now and stop cramming!



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