First off, if you can’t, don’t. These are worst-case-scenarios, never to be used unless in the direst of studying emergencies. Cramming is not an advisable way to study; not only is it less effective than regular, shorter study periods, but it’s a detriment to your own mental wellbeing. If you find yourself faced with having to cram for test (perhaps you’ve been too busy with extracurriculars or other assignments the past few weeks, for example), here are some tricks that will hopefully make the process as painless and useful as possible:
• Limit the caffeine: Coffee and energy drinks are inevitable if you’re preparing for a late-night study session. There’s a difference, however, between a few drinks throughout the night and chugging an entire pot of coffee at once. Drink your caffeinated beverages in moderation, just enough to keep you alert. Too much caffeine will make you distracted and anxious, not to mention require twice as many bathroom breaks.
• Turn off the electronics: The only things you should be focusing on are your books and computer. Turn off your cellphone and TV, log off of Facebook and only access the Internet if it’s necessary for studying. If possible, find a study space that requires total concentration, like a cartel in the library.
• Make a schedule: Determine a start and end time for your cramming session. Time is limited, otherwise you wouldn’t be cramming in the first place, but you’re not going to stay focused unless you take the occasional break. Schedule regular breaks into your studying instead of taking them whenever you feel like it; they’ll serve as motivation to work more efficiently.
• Know your study habits: Everyone works differently. Some work better alone, others with a friend nearby; some need complete silence, others need a bit of background noise or music. Know how you work best and study accordingly. Try to create a working environment that best suits your study style.
• Study smart, not fast: Find out as much as you can about the content and format of the test and work accordingly. Don’t just try to memorize everything in your notes. Identify what terms and concepts you need to know most, and focus on those. Try a variety of study techniques, especially those you know work best for you — flashcards, repetition, practice questions — and make sure you can summarize each concept in your own words. Remember, professors don’t want you to regurgitate information onto a page; they want you to analyze what you’re expected to know.