How NOT To Cram For Exams

Judgement day in the form of exam day comes to all students. Almost all of them will feel a hopeless sinking feeling that comes with the realisation that the exam day that seemed like a distant problem in February and March is now racing at warp speed towards them and it won’t be taking prisoners. The exam will come. There is no escaping it!

So, it’s time to face up to reality and do what all most every other student does – cram. There are countless tips on how to study, but very few directions on what not to do. So here are a few absolute no-no’s when it comes to cramming:

  • Start with the essentials – Stockpiling books doesn’t actually help you learn anything. In fact, hoarding a host of study material together is going to probably overwhelm you and make you feel that you can’t cope. You will be much better off and prepared by keeping it simple. Start with reading the essential textbook that you are required to read. Knowledge doesn’t come with a stack of books – it comes with actually reading one book for starters.
  • Highlighting text doesn’t work – In a cramming situation, it’s not only a waste of time, it’s a waste of a good highlighter pen. Your brain won’t absorb the information any better because the words on the page stand out. Your brain starts to absorb information when you practice active learning, like writing important things down.
  • Preparing your study area should take no time at all – What do you need? Somewhere quiet, your textbooks and some pens and paper. Stop putting it off by setting up your study space ‘just right’. 
  • Re-reading text is not really studying – You need to engage with the study material. It might mean putting pen to paper and writing an essay on the topic that you are studying, or solving problems using formulas that you are meant to know and use. Simply re-reading does not cut it.
  • Avoiding an exam situation is no preparation – Unbelievably, for many students, the first time that they find themselves in an exam situation is the exam itself, which is just ridiculous. We need to practice any skill repeatedly to get it right and doing exams is no different. You need to practice solving exam questions and you can find previous year’s exam questions (or similar) very easily on the net. Saying that you were unprepared for the exam questions is really probably an admission that you weren’t that interested.
  • Don’t let negativity become your problem – Getting sucked into the negative thoughts and concerns that others project around exam time has absolutely no benefit at all. Focus on what you can do prior to exam day and let others complain that they’re done for. 
  • Don’t complain that the lectures did not prepare you. Everybody is on an equal footing. It is not the lecturer’s job to help you pass – it’s yours.  

Exams are a small but vital part of the education process. The trick is not to let them overwhelm you and to prepare with some basic study strategies that work. Avoiding time wasting feel good tactics is a good way to start.

The CFS Team
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