How to Successfully Cram for a Test

The last thing we want to do when preparing to take a test is to have to cram. Unfortunately, with the demands of life, it can sometimes happen. There are successful ways to cram for a test so you can feel prepared and have a positive outcome. Here are some tips for staying focused and making the information stick.

Tips to successfully cram for a test. Tips for staying focused, making the information stick, and still be alert enough to take the test the following morning.

It’s late, you aren’t prepared, and you have to study. At this point, sheer panic starts to overwhelm your body. But it’s time to get started.

Step 1: Remove Distractions

This does not mean spending the next two hours cleaning your space and organizing. It is not a time to procrastinate. If you could be distracted in the space you’re in, or feel a need to clean or organize, grab your stuff and head to a place where all you will focus on is studying. That location may be a library, a coffee shop, or a study room.  If you can’t leave due to the hour of studying, find a place to focus on the task at hand.

Step 2: Setting up the space for success

Make sure this location is a quiet place with bright lighting. If it’s late at night, you are more likely to begin to get tired. Studies also show that you learn better when lighting is brighter. It helps you focus and helps you stay awake. Find a chair to sit in that also keeps you awake. Make the air around you slightly chilly, so you stay alert and wear comfortable clothes to focus only on studying.

Step 3: Organize

Take out the items you need to study, grab some water and a snack. Clear your space of anything else, so you only look at what you need to. This is not a time to sit and organize your desk. You can do that after your test the following day.

Step 4: Set a couple of alarms

First, set an alarm for the following day for what time you want to wake up, so you don’t forget to do that while cramming. Also, set an alarm every 45 minutes so you can get up, walk around, take a drink, and eat. If you get up and move, it helps the body stay awake, keeps your blood flowing, and keeps your brain working. Taking a break for 5 minutes is great during this time period.

Step 5: Cram efficiently

There are many ways to help your brain retain information. If this is a subject you feel that you know nothing about, go back to the teacher’s course guide or chapter titles first and read what was important. If anything was handed out during the weeks prior, take a look at those questions.

  •     Make flashcards
  •     Write the information down on paper in an outline form
  •     Study each chapter’s overview

Step 6: Focus on the important parts of the test

If you are going into a test where you have to write an essay and do multiple choice questions, focus on what is going to get you the best grade. Maybe it’s your essay topic in that case.

Step 7: Review and practice the information you wrote down

A great way to do this is if you have access to a treadmill is to walk with your flashcards or notes. As you review each note you are not only getting your body moving but activating different parts of your body. Don’t be afraid to repeat information out loud. If you don’t have a treadmill, walk around and review your material.

Step 8: Be positive

This is not a time for self-doubt. Be positive and remind yourself you are staying focused for a purpose. This is not the end of the world; it is one test in the big scheme of life. All you have to do is spend a few hours cramming, take the test, and then you can relax again. You can do this!

Step 9: Go to bed! 

You have to get at least 3.5 hours of sleep, so set your alarm to stop studying and go to bed. When you get up in the morning, review your notes again.  Eat breakfast and go early to the testing location and sit there relaxed reviewing.