Too busy or just too lazy, whatever the reasons might be, here you are, unprepared on the night before the exams. However, you don’t need to throw the towel in just yet. Be calm, get your coffee pot boiling and get ready for a long and hard night. A panicking mind will do you more harm than good. Apples are a good alternative to coffee. Study shows apples actually work better than coffee to keep you alert and awake, but whatever your preference avoid consuming too much sugar. Here are some steps to cram for a test the night before.
Step 1, Prepare
Prepare your arsenal! This is a very important step, especially when time is of the essence. Get you lecture notes together If you have them. If not, borrow from your friends. Having smart classmates for friends is truly a blessing during such times. If the professor gave out study guides, get them. Chances are, the professor included important key points in there.
Step 2, Scan
Time to make your own set of ‘good’ notes. Scan through your arsenal and note down important points, formulas, concepts etc on a separate piece of paper. Making flash cards for your notes is a good idea. Writing helps create a strong impression in the memory. Now read aloud the flash cards. The visuals and the voice help re-enforce the information into memory making it all the more easier to recall.
When dealing with facts, pointers and similar information, rewriting multiple times helps with the recollection factor. Not so much with theories & practical applications, which can be quite complex and confusing to memorize. In such cases, understanding the concept or theory is a much better and faster strategy. You can then explain the theory or concept in your own words.
Step 3, Focus
Further narrow down the topics. At this stage you have to be economical with your time. Find key points, by going through your notes and study guides, looking for hints such as repetitive mentions of concepts etc. Scan the textbook chapters for summaries, important points or formulas and equations. These are usually mentioned towards the end of the chapter. Scan previous exam papers for repetitive questions. Highlight your findings.
Step 4, Memorization
Use some or all of the following memorization strategies to help recall what you have studied so far:
Use ‘Mnemonics’. These are memory devices or systems that are a quick and simple way to recollect information. Create acronyms to remember facts or points. e.g.,’P-E-T-R-O-L’ is an acronym for Petrol, Electrolyte, Tyre, Radiator, Oil and Lights.
Attach information to ‘Pegs’. i.e., make a Rhyme to memorize the info, link the information to a familiar image or just make a memorable short story around it. Pegs act as anchor points which the brain can recollect with much ease.
Create meaningful categories to group similar kind of information. This is called ‘Chunking’. e.g., Rain, hail, snow and storm can all be grouped under ‘weather conditions’.
Step 5, Quick Review
Do a quick review of your notes or flash cards. Cross off points that you are able to recall easily. Re-write or say aloud the ones you are having difficulty with. Find practice tests and do an honest self-assessment. Finding mistakes in your practice test will also help re-enforce those facts into memory.
Step 6, Sleep
Lastly, be sure to get some sleep. No matter how tensed you are and no matter if topics have been left out, skipping on sleep will only make it worse. If your head keeps dropping and you’re starting to doze of, then continuing with your notes is just a waste of time. And If you want to be sure to recollect what you did manage to cram up, then be sure to get at least 2 hours of good sleep. Don’t forget to set the alarm.
On the day of the exam, have a healthy breakfast, do a quick read of your notes or flash cards and just be confident. Wish you all the best!