Back in school, I remember staying up the night before my mid or final semester exams, and try to learn as much information as possible. This is one habit that followed me into university as well. I suppose, I thought that cramming all that information would help me remember everything to just go and spill it out in the examination hall. And, to a certain extent, it did. In fact, a lot of students, like me, would agree that staying up and learning all that information really did aid in how they prepared for their examinations. But the question remains, is cramming really effective? Let’s find out.
First up, let’s understand what cramming is all about. The idea is that you stuff in as much information as possible in a short span of time. Your short-term memory plays a huge role here. However, the biggest downside is the stress it causes. “Exam cramming is generally accompanied by a reduction in sleep time. This is because, in order to maximise their last-minute revision time, students neither go to sleep nor wake up early in the morning. This has been shown to elevate stress levels and can cause panic and anxiety, making it much more difficult to absorb information. ,” says Dr Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, rehabilitation and sports medicine department, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai.
So, if the added pressure is stressing you out, how can you ensure that whatever you learn is effective? Well, here are some tips as suggested by Dr Dordi to help you prep you better:
1. Recognise when you're at your most awake and attentive: Your mind is more focused at different times of the day. Every person's situation is unique. Knowing when you're most aware will assist you in figuring out when you should study. It may be the morning for some, and the night for others, but figuring out what time of day works best for you is beneficial.
2. Look for opportunities to teach others: Unless you're an expert on a subject, you're unlikely to contemplate teaching others about it. Yet research shows that explaining a concept to someone else is the most effective method of learning it yourself.
3. Concentrate on one topic at a time: Jumping from subject to subject will dilute your efforts and, as a result, impair your ability to retain information. It is therefore critical to concentrate on one lesson at a time.
4. Make a note of it: Reading and writing involve separate parts of the brain. This means that if you take the time to write down a notion while reviewing the material or afterward, you'll be able to cover it more extensively.
5. Material chunking: Instead of reading your study materials from beginning to end, break it down into small chunks. Pause to ponder and review the principles, and then continue.
6. Connect new material to what you already know: When you're learning something new, connecting it to something you've already studied might help it stick in your mind.
7. Mind map: Mind mapping is a diagram that is drawn to represent the information virtually. It aids learning retention, particularly when revisiting mind maps strategically. Building a mind map can also help you retain information for longer periods of time.
8. Memory palace: If you want to remember something, you must revisit it. A memory palace is a particular mnemonic device that is simply a mental reproduction of a familiar edifice that you can recall quickly. Building a memory palace may be difficult in the beginning, but can serve you for a lifetime.