It’s that time of year again. The semester is at its end and you are facing another round of final exams. Just the thought of preparing for these tests is enough to give anyone a headache. So what can you do to make this time different? Read on for some tips to help you avoid the cramming crisis and prepare for life after graduation!
Cramming, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, means to study hastily and concentratedly for an examination. Most likely, if you haven’t crammed before, there may be cramming in your future (do you want to do that in life after graduation?) Why do you cram? Maybe you’ve been sick and missed school. Maybe your extracurricular commitments have taken up more time than you planned. Maybe you are not the most organized person or maybe you’ve mastered the art of procrastination.
Dr. Todd Damrow, a professor at Carroll College, Helena, Mont., offers this explanation: “I think that the majority of students, unfortunately, are more concerned about their grade than they are about becoming educated.”
Whatever your reason may be, now is the time to consider the pros and cons of cramming. Let’s say you have a job or play sports at school. You may argue that cramming is all you have time to do. You’ve done it in the past and it has helped you maintain a respectable GPA. Kudos to you! Yes, cramming can be an effective way of studying for a test. This leads to one problem. Damrow says, “Previous-night cramming for tests commits information to short-term memory, whereas extending one’s studying of material over time is more likely to result in retaining information in long-term memory, and this is better for your overall education.”
There is also a physical side to cramming. Cramming puts stress on your body. Sleeplessness and anxiety are a bad combination during final exams. In a 2008 study, researchers from the University of California-Irvine, found that stress, even if it lasted only a few hours, hindered brain-cell communication in areas associated with learning and memory. What is the solution? Constructing a study chart can be effective even with only one week to prepare for final exams, and these are skills you can use for life after graduation.
Here’s how it works:
• Take an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper and turn it on its side.
• Use a pencil and ruler to divide the paper into seven columns across the top.
• Use the pencil and ruler to divide the paper into rows for each class.
• Label the columns with the days of the week.
• Label the rows with class titles.
• Fill in the exam day and time for each class.
• Cross out remaining days on the chart after you take the exam.
• Fill in remaining boxes with study times and ideas.Now as the end of the semester approaches, look forward to it! Make your study chart, stick to it and reap the rewards at the end.
Things to remember
• Be as specific as possible. Instead of writing “study Bio” put “read through study guide and highlight questions to ask my ?teacher.”
• Set time limits. Instead of writing “read study guide” try “from 1:00-1:20 p.m. review vocabulary cards.”
• Be realistic. Consider which classes need the most attention. These will probably NOT be the classes you enjoy the most, but then focus on coming up with ways to make studying fun. • Reward yourself! No one said studying is easy. Write down what you will do after exams are over.
• Be willing to try something new. The way you studied in middle school or high school may not be effective as the material you are required to learn increases in difficulty.
• Stay current. If you must miss class, then make sure to borrow someone’s notes. Either rewrite them using your chosen format or photocopy them and add them to your notebook at the appropriate place.
• As soon as you take a chapter test, refer back to your notes and highlight any information you remember from the test. If it was important enough to be on a chapter test, it might show up on ?a semester test.
• Always keep graded and returned papers. Study the ?teacher’s comments.
• Correcting your own errors ?is a great way to study. Only throw away papers after you are sure you will not be tested on the information.
Heather Bode has worked in the field of education for 15 years. She lives in Helena, Mont.