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The Pros and Cons of Cramming


School girls studying material together

Raise your hand if you’ve ever left studying to the last minute, then stayed up too late, trying to review as much material as possible.

Keep your hand up if you’ve ever been reviewing your study notes right up to the last second as you walk into the classroom.

Cramming is a study technique that we are all familiar with. And despite what teachers and parents say, it’s one that has actually been proven to have a beneficial outcome for students.

Cramming is even a recognized study habit, with universities providing how-to guides for students to maximize their minimized study time.

If you MUST cram, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

But we’re not saying that we condone cramming tips. While we do support the getting of better grades, in the long run, cramming is not the best way to go about it.

In terms of what’s going on in the brain, the neural connections being formed during the cramming process are temporary. All of the information being stored is in the short-term memory. So while cramming can help you rock that test tomorrow morning, when it comes to long-term remembering, it’s utterly useless.

That’s because in school, learning is incremental. Students need to remember—and understand—the material they study, because lessons tend to build upon what was taught previously. Learning only for the test is not helpful when considering what will be taught next year, or the year after that.

After all, you can’t perform quadratic equations if you can’t remember how to multiply.

It just makes sense that students take the time to learn and understand the material.

The best way to study for long-term recall is with a technique that experts call the “spacing effect.” This technique doesn’t require longer or more intensive studying: it simply means that students space out their study time. An hour here, and hour there, makes for a more effective—and long-lasting—approach to studying.

When it comes to education, better grades on the next test are important—and cramming can get you there—but better grades quickly are not as important as developing solid study habits that won’t leave you stressed and scrambling at the last minute.

And, better grades quickly are not as important as putting in the time to develop real and lasting understanding.

To sum up:

Cramming PRO: A quick way to review material and re-familiarize yourself with concepts to get a decent—even awesome—mark on a test.

Cramming Con: Reviewed material leaves your head as quickly as it’s stuffed in there.

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