4 reasons to stop cramming for exams

By Rachel Simpson***

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Many students struggle with time management in college as their busy class schedules and challenging assignments create a never-ending grind.

In response, college students often make a habit of cramming – the popular study method of trying to learn all information in a short amount of time right before the exam takes place.

This generally involves high stress levels, pulling all-nighters and loading up on caffeine of all types.

But is cramming even an effective or productive study method?

The short answer is no, crash studying is not effective – and it all has to do with the way humans store memory and information.

Stress disturbs memory retention

Cramming generally involves a pretty high level of stress as students are pressed to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time.

Short-term stress can affect a person’s ability to recall facts, making it difficult not only to learn the material in the first place but also to recall it during the exam. 

It’s also important to note that stress can be a good thing, but only when it’s motivating.

Knowing there’s time to wrap your head around that difficult concept or even go to office hours is very different than knowing there’s only the evening to study.

Sleep will benefit test scores

Poor sleep impacts not only memory, but also concentration.

Sleep is necessary for memory to “stick.” It allows the memory to consolidate in your brain, making it a stable thought.

Without consolidation, the brain will have a harder time recalling the information while studying and during the exam. 

The National Institute of Health found sleep deprived students have lower GPAs than students who get a good night’s rest due to their low concentration levels.

Get some rest, and the focus will come easier when it’s exam time.

Memorization is different than familiarization

After looking at the same material for many hours, it’s easy to trick the brain into thinking the content is fully memorized. 

A more accurate description would be that the content is familiarized – a useless tool when approaching an exam with quick minute-per-question turnovers. 

When a long enough study period is allotted, the student has time to realize they actually aren’t memorized enough. The brain needs time to process, refocus and learn. 

Knowing you’re more-than-familiar with the content leads to confidence, meaning less stress going in and (again) better concentration and recall!

Health issues can occur from repeatedly cramming

If a student is cramming often, this likely means they aren’t getting enough sleep or eating nutritious foods and consuming too much caffeine.

These habits can lead to depression and anxiety, either from sleep deprivation, restlessness, wonky blood sugar or all of the above. 

Not only do these have an effect on one’s schooling, but more importantly, on one’s life.

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