Cram Course: How to Cram for an Exam

To cram for an exam means to push the information you need for your exam into your head at high speeds, at short notice.

To cram for an exam assumes you're out of time and have an imminent exam. The key to an effective exam cram is to cut out the fat and concentrate just on the most vital core pieces of your course. To do this, you're going to need to predict future questions, lay your bets on them, and teach yourself how to answer them correctly.

Think of it like muscle building. For your chest, the treadmill warm up, light sets, abdo crunches, and first couple reps don't count. It's only the very heavy set that counts in making a barrel chest. But a great physique requires the other time wasteful stuff like cardio, isolation movements and weak point training. Cramming for an exam is no different. You focus on the high gain movements and leave out the low yield. So when you cram for an exam you're aiming for a B grade - an A if you're lucky. Cramming is not a perfect solution, but is often necessary with our crazy schedules.

How to Cram for an Exam

  • Get ready to cram for the exam. Get your Red Bull, Cola, or coffee out and prepare yourself mentally to blaze through your material.
  • The first step to cram for an exam is to look back to see the future. Take a look at exams on the topic for the previous 7 years and you can forecast the future! Examiners tend to ask the same themes each year in different ways. They then sprinkle a couple curve balls into each exam to separate the A students. If you concentrate on the main themes and skip the minutiae you can get by. The A plus student has to know everything, a crammer needs to know enough.
  • Step two in the exam cram game is to chose easy sources. Study guides, notes, and summaries are quicker to get through and digest than the gargantuan textbooks your prof. recommends.
  • The next step in champion cramming for an exam is to exploit those questions from past papers. Any topic common to two or more is a topic of interest you should attempt to answer with your book open in front of you. A topic present once across all the past exams in your possession is a curve ball unlikely to repeat and not worth your precious time. Move on to the next likely candidate. Try to do as many questions as you can in the time that you have, looking up answers as you go. If you can't figure out an answer, do not pause, flag it and at the end try it again. If you're still stumped, ask a pal, prof, or previous student in a higher year.
  • Now go to the recommended textbook and skim it quickly - you should have a pretty good feel for the material by this point - and if there are any questions with answers at the ends of chapters, slay them too.
  • Rest. Review. Kill the exam. And next time give yourself more time to prepare so you don't have to kill yourself cramming.
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Article Last Updated: August 31 2014
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