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How to Cram the Smart Way – The Absolute Best Way to Cram Before the Exam!

Best Test Prep for Cramming for a Test How to Cram for a Test with 1 Day 2 Days and Same Day

Okay, so you’re in a predicament. The test is coming up, and you haven’t studied at all! You have to cram, there are no ifs ands or buts about it!

But what is the best way to cram for a test? 

Well, that depends on a number of factors, the most important being – have you studied at all, and how long do you have before taking the test?

Let’s assume you haven’t studied a single thing (because if you have studied, then you probably won’t be in this predicament in the first place). In that case, we have exactly what to do based on how much time you have. 

Whether you have the class period before, the day before, or three days to work with, we have a study tip for you! Just click on the link below to take you to which predicament you currently find yourself in.

I am cramming the:

  • Class Period Before the exam
  • Day Before the Exam
  • 3 Days Before the Exam (Best Option!)

Best Test Prep for Cramming for a Test How to Cram for a Test in 1 Day

The Class Period Before the Exam

Wow, okay, this is definitely a predicament that you have found yourself in. The name of the study game in this instance is short-term memory, and to get something quickly in your short-term memory, you need repetition! Hopefully, your test is memory-based.

Have you ever heard of the naming game Impulse? In this game, you start in a circle. The first person in the circle says their name. Then the next person in the circle says their own name and the first person’s name. The third person in the circle says their own name, the 2nd person’s name, and the 1st person’s name, and so on until everyone has said their name. 

It is a fun icebreaker where you can surprisingly learn a lot of names quickly. 

Well, you are about to do the same thing with cramming!

First, create a list of what you need to learn. If you have the time, turn that list into flashcards. Then go down the list one by one. For simplicity’s sake, here is an example for a Spanish cram session:

  1. Casa – House
  2. Mesa – Table
  3. Libro – Book
  4. Lo Siento – Sorry
  5. Salud – Bless you
  6. Quien – Who?
  7. Que – What

So, for this repetitive study method, you would start with #1 and try and memorize that Casa means House. Next, you would memorize that Mesa means Table. But instead of going to #3, you would go back to #1 and say that Casa means House, then you go to #3 Libro means Book, Mesa means Table, Casa means House. It looks like this:

1st round

  1. Casa – House

2nd round

  1. Mesa – Table
  2. Casa – House

3rd round

  1. Libro – Book
  2. Mesa – Table
  3. Casa – House

4th round

  1. Lo Siento – Sorry
  2. Libro – Book
  3. Mesa – Table
  4. Casa – House

You would keep going in this repetitive method until you get to the end of your list. Then try and say the entire thing in one go without looking at the answers. If you miss a word, take note of that word. At the end, go over all the words that you missed until those words are memorized as well. 

If you have time, scramble the list and do it again. Keep reviewing the list until it’s the very last moment to take the exam. When you get the exam, write down as much as you can remember on the back of the exam paper. Then you can refer to that during the test. 

Of course, this is only if the teacher or professor allows you to write on the exam. If your teacher does not allow that, then be sure to quickly scan the exam and answer all the questions you know first!


Best Test Prep for Cramming for a Test How to Cram for a Test in 2 Days

The Day Before the Exam

In comparison, the day-before-the-exam crammers have a bit more room to work than the class-period-before-the-exam crammers ­– though not much. 

The first thing you need to do is find out what is going to be on the exam. So, if you are still at school, be sure to talk with the professor or teacher to find out what to study. If you paid attention in class, then you should have a roundabout idea of what is going to be covered. 

Start this study session as early in the day as you can; right after school is best. If it is the weekend, then lucky you! You can study all day!

Now, find a quiet spot and turn off your notifications to devote all your focus to studying. 

Because it is only one day before the exam, it is best to ignore your book and go straight to your notes for the essential topics covered. Organize these important topics into a list of potential items that could be tested. This is called a reductionist strategy. It is where you take something big and reduce it into smaller manageable parts. We are going to do this by forming questions.

Once you have your notes list, now you will form a study question. If your test is on Biology, then your questions could look something like this:

  • What is photosynthesis?
  • How does sodium bicarbonate affect photosynthesis?
  • What is an allele frequency? 
  • What does an allele frequency measure?

Questions reinforce your knowledge in two ways. First, your knowledge is reinforced when you create the question. Second, your knowledge is reinforced when you answer the question. Once you have your questions formed, spend the rest of the evening memorizing them. You can use the same method mentioned above or any memorization method that works best for you.

If there are any questions that you keep missing, put them to the side and go over those questions separately until you memorize them.

Right before going to bed, review all the questions again. Review the questions you kept missing last. Then go straight to sleep so your mind can continue working on them while you slumber. 

Yes, the mind actually does this!

In addition, it is important to get a good night’s rest before the exam because the brain cannot function properly on a lack of sleep. So, even if you don’t want to, sleep at least 7-8 hours.

When you wake up, immediately go over the questions you got wrong. Hopefully, your brain has been working on them overnight, and now you know them! If not, go over those questions again as well as the questions that you have memorized. Do this throughout the day.

Right before class, go over your questions list once more to make sure this information is fresh in your mind.


Best Test Prep for Cramming for a Test How to Cram for a Test in 3 Days

3 Days Before the Exam

Yes, if you start studying 3 days before the exam, you are still cramming. Though, this is with the assumption that you have not studied anything for this class at all. But, looking on the bright side, you are in better shape than the person who started studying the day before the exam and much better shape than the person who started the class period before!

If you have 3 days to study, the first thing you need to do is find out what is going to be on the exam by asking your professor or a studious friend who takes the class with you. You can also refer to your notes (hopefully, you have been taking great notes!). 

Read over your notes, make questions from them, and try to answer those questions. Pretend like the exam is tomorrow and try to memorize as much as you can using the methods described above. You are basically giving yourself a cram session three days in advance of the exam. You do not have to try and memorize everything, but do try and memorize at least half the study material.

From those questions, identity which ones you get right or wrong, and review the questions you got wrong right before going to bed.

Cramming 3 days before works well because you have just enough time for spaced repetition in your studying. On the second day, continue your study method with the questions you have created. Try to memorize as much as possible, and be sure to review what you studied the day before. Take note of the questions that you routinely get wrong and review those right before going to bed.

As mentioned, when you go to sleep, your brain will work on those questions.

The day before the exam, it is time for another cram session. By now, there should be questions that you know well, questions that you get right most of the time, and questions that you frequently get wrong. Put aside the question that you get right all the time; those are firmly in your short-term memory. 

Now it is time to focus on studying the questions that you are still getting wrong. Keep using repetition memorization techniques to study these questions. 

If these questions just aren’t sinking in, then you may have to get creative. Here are some tricks to help retain information in your short-term memory:

  • Explain the answers to a family member or friend
  • Draw what the answer means
  • Write the answers in different colored ink
  • Write the answers in all caps
  • Have someone quiz you
  • Give yourself a single M&M candy if you get an answer right
  • Try doing jumping jacks while memorizing the question

Right before you go to sleep (and remember, you are going to get a good night’s sleep of at least 7-8 hours), review all the questions for the test, saving the most difficult questions for last. Then go straight to sleep. 

As mentioned, (yes, we want to repeat this because it is important) your brain will work on these questions while you sleep. Which is why it is important to get a good night’s rest!

In the morning, as soon as you wake up, go over the harder questions. Hopefully, now you know all or the majority of them.

If there are still some that you do not know, then group those questions together. As the day goes on, continue to review your questions.

Right before you go into class, review those harder questions again, so they are right inside your working memory. But they are going to fade fast, so as soon as you get the test, write those facts down on the back of the test right away, then take the test and refer to what you have written.


Overall cramming tips

  • Don’t drink alcohol the night before; you will learn nothing!
  • Coffee is great to drink the morning of the exam, but have it without sugar. Coffee has proven memory benefits, but the sugar messes that all up.
  • Do not have sugar 20 minutes before the test because you will sugar-crash once the test begins. But you can have sugar during the test. Dark Chocolate is probably the best sweet to have, though an apple might be the overall best test-taking snack to eat (however, it could be too loud for your test-taking neighbors).
  • Turn off social media while studying because you need to have an intense study session, and social media provides too many distractions.
  • If you prefer studying in a group, try Zoom cram study sessions that are 25 or 55 minutes long with 5-minute breaks.

Hopefully, you will never be stuck in an all-or-nothing cramming situation, but if you are (and we all are at some point), we hope these tips are helpful and helped spur you to more frequent study methods (ala, at least once a week). 

You can try the Blast Study Method for lecture-based study quizzes, learning narratives, and reminders on the best days to study to reinforce your knowledge.  Plus, Blast has a Countdown cram study session built right in to cram the smart way!

If you have found a study method that works best for you, then stick with it! Don’t be swayed by someone who says they barely study and ace the test. Perhaps that works for them, and that’s fine. You do what works best for you. 

If you try the Blast Study Method, pretty soon, people might be asking what the secret is to your study success! *whispers* We don’t mind if you tell them.

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