Becoming an Expert at Cramming

What to do if you have:

1 Week to Study

You have packed away your graffitied notebook and stolen pen when the teacher mentions in an offhanded way (which the exuberant extroverts in the class will subconsciously block…see the next section), that there will be an Exam next Monday. Your heart gives a little jolt, and you hurry to scrawl the information on the back of your hand, before heading off for lunch.

IF YOU HAVE KEPT UP (If you take diligent notes and pay attention, but have neglected to study consistently):

Make a study guide. Condensing your notes will solidify information in your brain. The simple exertion of writing out specific information will help it stick in your mind, instead of your trying hard to keep it there. Basically, like bringing an oxygen tank when scuba diving, instead of trying to hold your breath. Keep it on your desk or pinned to your wall where you can continuously read over it.

Memorize dates and names. Since you have a week, you still have time to memorize the more slippery material. On the first day, write out all of the information in notecard form, concentrating on what you are writing. Don’t waste the opportunity to absorb information by watching TV while writing note cards.

Get together with someone who knows less than you do. Because you pay attention, you have registered the way the teacher taught the information, but you may need a refresher. Teaching another student is the perfect way to memorize, and memorize conceptually, not in a way that will evade you on test day.

IF YOU HAVEN’T KEPT UP: (If you doodle in class and stare at your crush instead of watching the educational video playing):

Visit a professor to ask what they are looking for. Don’t worry about acting like you know more than you do; nine times out of ten, your teacher will know you have not been interested. Chances are, your teacher has just finished writing up the test or exam and has the specific information fresh in their mind. Make sure to take notes as they talk (I know you don’t have practice, but try anyway). They will usually divulge more precise information to you than they would to an entire class.

Find a classmate who knows more than you. Be bold and ask them to walk you through the parts you don’t understand; your grade hangs in the balance. At the end of the study session, ask them for a picture of their notes or better yet hand copy them down, this will cause your brain to register the content more firmly.

Substitute study time for Netflix or Instagram. It may have become a habit for you to spend 5 to 10 minutes each morning on Instagram and/or 20 minutes each night on Netflix. Instead, when you feel the urge to pull out your phone or laptop, grab your flashcards filled with bold terms from the textbook.

1 Day to Study

Your teacher has been warning you for days that the test is coming up. However, with friend visits, Netflix, practice, dish night, and Netflix, the time tends to scream and run when you try and catch it. Now the Exam is in the morning and reality sets in. Your mouth is dry, your guts seem to think you have food poisoning, and you are trying as hard as you can not to sprint to study hall.


Read over your notes. This method is better than reading through the textbook because the information the teacher writes on the board is the information they see as most important and will, therefore, be more likely to appear on the test. Hopefully, you have underlined or highlighted sections the teacher seems partial to, or has even mentioned the possibility of the topic appearing on an exam.

Stay up late. They say get good sleep the day before a test (this is because the information you have learned has to have time to cement itself into your brain), but if you haven’t touched your books the information isn’t going to magically appear there by getting a good night’s sleep.


Look up YouTube crash course videos. Since you don’t have good notes, it is acceptable to enter the YouTube arena. This field is only to be used in case of emergency, because professors usually ask more specific questions about what they taught you. Simply type “Crash Course” followed by the subject in question. The Green brothers will show you a broad overview of the material you have missed in no time.

Ask if any of your classmates have made a study guide. Once you get the study guide, copy it onto another piece of paper over and over and over again. After you have become familiar with it, give the paper to another person and ask them to test you. Write out the information you got wrong on note cards and start the process over again.

Good Luck!