How to Cram for a Test

Cramming isn’t such a bad thing; if you do it right. Of course the best option is the traditional one: study frequently, read the chapters of your textbook every week like you’re supposed to, and take copious amounts of notes. But comon, we’re in college right? Who has time for studying that often when there’s beer pong to be played? 😉

This post contains a guide on how to ace your exams with just a few hours of study time. Assuming you’re a halfway decent student, you can use the tips I list below to help you out when you’re in a jam with limited time to study. Note: Cramming does require some ass-busting! I don’t cheat. Anyhow, my methods will get you a better grade than any cheat method could.

Damage Control

When you’re short on time, you can’t afford to read every word of every chapter in your textbook. You had weeks to thoroughly memorize all the material and you didn’t do it. Don’t waste time trying to do this now.

You’re in damage control mode. You must learn how to pick out the important bits of information and remember them the first time, because there won’t be a second time.

Be focused, organized, and efficient.

Sit down with your book, notes, etc, and tell yourself you’re going to study for X amount of hours. Turn off the TV, turn off the music, and close your door. No distractions.

A little bit of coffee helps me to stay clear minded during my cram sessions, but don’t blast yourself into oblivion on caffeine or other stimulants. This is college, not Requiem for a Dream.

Study using a top-down, non-linear approach.

As opposed to a bottom-up approach, top-down means you want to start with the most general concepts first and then work your way down to the more specific stuff. Then you can go back through again, if you have time, and cover the rest.

When you have a solid grasp of the general concepts, it makes it easier to figure out answers without explicitly memorizing the info, and you’re better able to bluff on the questions you don’t know.

Learn the art of BS

Testing is a lot like poker. You have to bluff your way to an A. The truth is, when you’re being tested, you just have toappear to know the material. This is why the top-down approach will get you a better grade, especially on short answer and essay exams. Specific facts or statistics may appear once or twice on your exam, but general over-arching key points could be applicable to many questions.

Plus, most instructors want you to do well on their exams. No instructor wants to have to explain why half their students fail their class every semester. If you at least appear to know what you’re talking about, you’re giving your instructor a reason to give you points.