How to Cram for an Exam – The 24 Hour Plan

michael studying                      

The 24 Hour Cram

You pop out of bed in the morning; and suddenly, it occurs to you that your exam is tomorrow and you haven’t even opened your book or looked at your notes. As you get ready for the school day, the only thought that comes to mind is, “I’m screwed.” You know you should have studied. You meant to; but, this came up and that came up; and now, here you are, like a surfer without a board about to be ambushed by a huge wave. Relax; go to your classes and concentrate the best you can. If you have taken good notes, it won’t be as bad as it seems. If your notes aren’t that great; or, if you haven’t taken any at all, you have a whole lot to do in a short period of time. Don’t panic. Sometime throughout the day, ask a classmate if you can copy their notes; or, ask your teacher if he or she has any study material you can use. Check the school library or your local library to find out if they have any video or audio tapes on the subject. These may dramatically increase the chances of your grade increasing especially if you are a visual or audio learner. Visual learners retain more information when they see, visualize, or watch their lesson being performed. Audio learners retain more information when they hear their lesson being spoken, or being played from a recording.

If you are starting out with no tapes and no notes, make sure you bring your book home; and then, do this:

  • Scan pages for keywords, highlight them and the surrounding sentence or two. Don’t overdo it or you will have too much to try to squeeze in. Use this in place of notes.
  • When you have completed the step above or you have notes already, go to a place where you feel comfortable to study in and surround yourself with things that make you comfortable. For example, if you usually have a water or soda while you’re studying, have one there. Once you begin, limit yourself to as few interruptions as possible.
  • Read through your notes and try to associate them with something outside of the textbook.
  • After you have gone through everything making associations along the way, eat something, and set your alarm for 1 hour from that time and try to take a nap, if at all possible. While you are sleeping, your brain will work to retain the information you just studied. The links below explain how this works.

  • When you get up, work on something that you won’t need to remember, (something other than the exam materials), do this or something other than your exam materials until two hours before you plan on going to bed. Make sure you allow yourself at least six to eight hours to sleep for the night.
  • Begin studying your notes two hours before bedtime.
  • After you have gone through your notes a few times, look through the book again for anything that may seem important. If you come across anything, highlight it.
  • Go through your notes one last time before you go to sleep. Don’t worry you will be processing everything you just studied in your sleep.

Multiple Choice Questions

If the exam has multiple choice questions on it, read through A, B, C, and D, for example, and if you don’t know what the answer is, look for answers that you know it is not. Watch for words like “always,” or “never.” Analyze whether or not it is possible for “the question’s answer” to occur always or never. Sometimes the answer will have the definition to one of the words in the question; therefore, if you read through all the answers and none of them jump out at you as the correct answer, look for main words in the question and then look to the answers for one that will define that word. For example, the question may have the word “incised” in it and after reading through all the answers only one has “cut into” in it, this might be the best choice when you’re lost for the correct answer. Eliminate any answer that you are sure it is not; and then, concentrate on the remaining answers. If you have more than one option left to choose from, check to see if any are “all of the above” or “none of the above”; and, read carefully to see which of the two you can eliminate; and, if after you have done all this you still don’t know the answer, and if B is one of the options you have left, choose B. While the correct answer will not always be B. Some studies have shown that the correct answer follows the B more often than any other letter.

If you have more time to study, repeat the above process every day to retain even more of your lessons.

Good Luck! And, don’t wait til the last minute next time.     – Honey Halley –


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