Exam Cramming Tips and Strategies

Do you have to prepare for an exam or test that will take place within 1 or 2 days? There are different pros and cons of exam cramming and several methods you can use.

What exactly is cramming? It’s a test-preparation method that’s used in order to memorize a big amount of info in a short time period.

It’s important to keep in mind that cramming is actually a technique for memorization. However, it’s also only effective for memorization info in the short term.

If students want to store information in their long-term memory it’s important to do critical thinking and active learning. 

Educators usually have a negative opinion about cramming. Studies have shown there's a correlation between how much study students put and their overall grades.

Basically, the more effort you put into studying, the higher your grades are. Common sense right?

Benefits of Exam Cramming

exam cramming techniques

While students often have the belief that cramming is an ineffective way to prepare for a test or exam actually provides the following benefits -

1. You have to perform under pressure

We often have the belief that being under pressure is a bad thing. However, when you have within a few days then it puts pressure on you to study hard.

That will usually produce good results because you have to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time. That will make your studying more efficient in specific areas.

2. You can save time

Spacing out study sessions results in a better score for tests and exams.

However, the problem is that you’re more likely to forget the info if you start studying weeks before the test. That’s why you can make your studying more efficient by doing exam cramming.

3. The information is fresh in your memory

When you cram 1-2 days before a test or exam it will still be fresh in your mind.

You study before going to sleep you’re more likely to remember the information during the next day. That’s a plus if the test is the following day.

4. You can focus better

It’s easier to focus when you have to recall info at a super-high speed. You’ll have to be focused if you must review multiple chapters and tons of notes.

In that case, your short-term memory also improves because you have to store a ton of information in your mind within the period of one night or day.

5. More processing of info

The brain is able to process more information overnight. So if you study the night before a test or exam you’ll be able to store more info in your short-term memory than if you study weeks before the test, for example.

It’s still important to get a full night’s sleep so your brain has enough power to process all the info it’s stored in one study session.

6. More focus

Some students focus better when they have less time to study. If that sounds like you then you might have better study sessions by cramming.

You might just be studying for half an evening but being focused can make your studying more efficient and help you learn more in less time.

7. Better efficiency

If you’re studying for an exam that won’t take place until weeks from now then there’s a greater chance you won’t study hard.

The studying can certainly be helpful to prepare you for the test/exam. However, you’ll also be more likely to take more breaks and get distracted if the test isn’t for quite a while.

Meanwhile, when you cram it’s easier to use better time-management since you’ll have to study a lot of info in 1-2 days.

Drawbacks of  Exam Cramming

popular cramming methods

Here are some of the main drawbacks and negatives of exam cramming -

1. Time wasted

One of the problems about cramming is that you’ll have to study a lot of information in a short amount of time. After 20-30 minutes of studying your focus will drop. That can make it tough to memorize things like:

  • Equiations
  • Dates
  • Vocabulary
  • Theorems
  • Small details

2. High-stress levels

If you cram 1-2 hours for a test or one night before a final exam can cause you a lot of anxiety. In fact, there are several possible negative results that can cause indigestion, jitters, illness, or forgetfulness.

The worry doesn’t end there. During the test, you might second-guess the answers you’ve given because you weren’t properly prepared. Then after the test, you might worry that you performed badly on the test/exam.

3. Lower test/exam scores

Cramming often results in lower test/exam scores. If you’re unable to recall certain information it will be tough to answer complex problems.

Spending more time on each question often results in running out of time during the testing period and lower scores.

4. Forgetting info in 1-2 days

One of the main problems of test/exam cramming is that there’s no long-term retention. Students usually forget what they’ve studied 1-2 days after cramming.

So the information you learn is “rented” instead of “learned.” You’ll likely have to study the information again for the mid-term or final exam, and after you launch your career.

5. Not getting a full night's sleep

In some cases, you won’t get any sleep at all because you’ll be putting in an all-nighter. However, even if you only get 6 or fewer hours of sleep it can affect your performance.

This is especially true when you cram and study a ton of information in one session. If you must cram make sure that you start early enough so you can still get 7-8 hours of sleep before the big day.

6. Feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed

This is especially true when you’re doing last-minute studying for a mid-term or final exam. However, cramming can also cause feelings of being stressed or overwhelmed if you’re studying for a basic test/exam, aka test anxiety.

It’s common for crammers to be worried about all sorts of things including whether they can complete their studying, and whether or not they’ll get a good test score.

7. No long-term retention

One of the main drawbacks of cramming is that it’s not very effective for long-term retention. In fact, people forget what they studied 1-2 days after cramming.

So you’ll probably have to restudy the material for your mid-term or final exam.

Exam Cramming Techniques

exam cramming

below are the most effective exam cramming techniques for most students. You might already use some of these techniques without even know it -


Do you want to use an effective method for improving your cramming? If so then you should consider mnemonics. This is a device that helps to memorize information. The word is derived from a Greek word that refers to the human mind.

This can include various options like Acronyms, Rhymes, Spelling, and others. The time you spend finding some effective mnemonic devices can be worthwhile in terms of making your cramming more efficient.

This method is especially helpful when you have a lot of technical terms or complex processes to memorize.

In that case can be quite tough to memorize everything in a traditional way so it’s a plus to use methods like mnemonics since it will make it easier to memorize a ton of facts and figures.

1. Rhymes

This could be in the form of a song, poem, rap, etc. It makes it easier and even fun to memorize information when you’re cramming for a test or exam. It’s very effective because the rhyming

2. Spelling

This type of mnemonic spells out a word. For example, ARITHMETIC can be memorized by the sentence “A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream.” Another example is the word GEOGRAPHY: “George’s Elderly Old Grandfather Rode A Pig Home Yesterday.”

3. Order

This allows you to memorize information by memorizing easier words that represent the information you’re studying.

For example, the spaces on the musical staff are: (A, C, E, G) or “All Cows Eat Grass.” Another example of the order of the planets is: My Very Excited Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto).

4. Acronyms

The first letter of each letter spells out an acronym. It’s better when the letters spell out an actual real word so it’s easier to memorize. One of the key benefits of this mnemonic is that it’s easier to remember several concepts through one word.

Reading Out Loud

People often have negative views of people who read out loud. However, it can help to improve memorization.

That’s especially important when you’re cramming for a test or exam and have to memorize a lot of information in a short period of time.

In fact, cramming is only effective for short-term memorization so it’s important to store info efficiently when your study session is only a few hours, for example.

This is a tactic that might seem odd but it provides many benefits in terms of issues like retention. The main benefit is that it helps you to connect better to the notes you’re reading while cramming.

Meanwhile, it can certainly be effective if you want to improve how much information you’re able to memorize and retain before a test or exam. This process is most effective in places where reading out loud won’t disturb others.

You might feel odd reading out loud but it can be a major benefit in terms of how much information you can store in your short term memory.

When using this cramming technique, you don’t have to shout out the words. However, saying the word out loud as you read them can help to memorize the words better, which is a plus when you have tons of info to memorize in a short time period.

This process is known as the “Production Effect.” Some people have a photographic memory and remember everything they read. However, for most of us, we have gaps in these types of memory connections.

This means we have to find other methods for remembering info. Reading out loud is one way to do that. One of the key benefits is that it helps you to connect better with the information you read.

Re-Writing Notes

If you’re cramming the last night you might consider doing is rewriting your notes. Won’t that take a lot of valuable time and reduce how much time you have for cramming?

This is a cramming method that works for some people and helps them to make their study sessions more effective.

Take some time to re-write your notes so they’re more condensed. Don’t spend too much time doing this as it will reduce your cramming time.

However, it can certainly be effective when you only have 1 page to study instead of 100, for example. Another plus is that you can do some extra studying by reading and rewriting the notes.

This process is about making your notes more compact. The fewer notes you have to read the faster you can read through them. That will make your studying more efficient since you can focus on the most important facts and ideas in your notes.

Things to remember

One thing to keep in mind is that the process of making your notes more compact will take some time. So if you’re cramming it’s a good idea not to start cramming too late or you’ll have less time to study.

The main benefit of this process is that you’ll focus your studying on what’s most important before taking your test or exam. The process of reading several pages of notes can take tons of time and that’s not something you’ll want to do when you’re cramming.

Still, it’s a good method because it will reduce the total time you’ll spend studying after you rewrite your notes.

Another plus of this approach is that it can also help you to study your notes as you rewrite your notes. In fact, you’ll probably be very surprised at how much you can learn by rewriting your notes.

Speed Reading

How fast can you read? When you’re cramming for a test or exam there are several ways you can study more in a short amount of time.

Speed reading is one of the best techniques. Studies show that the average person reads about 120 words per minute. That also includes the person’s comprehension.

Speed-reading can help you to read 1,000 words per minute (wpm) compared to the average 120 wpm. Make sure to learn different techniques that will allow you to read the notes side-to-side and top-to-bottom faster.

When you use such techniques you’ll maximize the speed at which you can read through your notes. That will speed up the process.

An important issue when speed-reading is that you don’t lose a lot of comprehension in the process. If your comprehension drops because of the reading speed you should slow down a bit.

Things to keep in mind

The key is to learn the best speed-reading techniques. This will help you to maximize your reading speed. When you’re cramming the amount of studying time you have is limited.

As a result, it’s important to make your sessions as efficient as possible. Learning effective methods is one of the best steps.

However, it’s important for comprehension not to drop too steeply o it will negatively affect how much info you can retain before the test/exam.

There are several benefits of speed-reading. The most obvious one is that you can read faster. However, another one is that your studying will be more efficient.

Teaching Someone

If you want to cram for a test or exam one of the most effective ways is to summarize a topic and explain it to someone. There are certainly many benefits of studying by yourself when you have to cover a lot of information in a short amount of time.

By teaching someone, I don't mean group study, I mean explain to someone what you know. A study buddy, someone who'll listen to the topic you're trying to remember. 

That includes them quizzing you or you quizzing them. ​

In fact, it can result in a lot of stress and anxiety when you’re unsure about a concept that will be on the test/exam. When you have a study buddy, it can help you gain information faster. 

Yet again, not a group study. Cramming with a group will slow you down.​

Make sure to try all of these cramming techniques to get the most of your studying when you have little time and tons of notes.

cramming techniques to get the most of your studying when you have little time and tons of notes.

Strategies for cramming

Depending on how much you know about your exam, your anxiety levels could differ from subject to subject.

If you’ve been studying throughout the semesters, then you should be some-what prepared for what’s to come.

But if you aren’t prepped, there’s also a solution for you too.

Stick to your strengths

If you’ve been going to class, you should know bits and pieces about different topics that have been covered.

If only know one or two things about a certain topic, study the hell out of those few things. Cram as much as you need to using the methods above.

It’s better to know one or two areas well as opposed to know nothing at all.

Same goes for knowing nothing about the topics being covered in the exam. If you know nothing, choose one or two topics and cram as much as you can within the limited time that’s left.

Final words

Cramming is something that students have been using for eons. It’s about studying a large amount of info in a short time period.

One of the main issues is that it allows you to study a lot of information but isn’t a good option if there are very complex ideas and concepts in your notes.

In that case, it can be quite tough to prepare for the test/exam through cramming.

One of the big issues about cramming is whether or not students should.

More final words

Another issue to consider is that some people tend to perform better when they’re in a pressure situation. Others have a tough time in those situations and will stress out.

Should you cram 1-2 days before a test or exam? There are pros and cons to this approach. There are various pluses. For example, it’s easier to stay focused since you’ll just be studying for a few hours or one evening.

You can also get more studying done because you have little time to study your notes before a test or exam.

Another plus of cramming is that it can help you to perform better since you’re under pressure. Meanwhile, it can be easy to procrastinate when your test/exam will be weeks from now.

On the other hand, there are also some possible drawbacks of cramming. You’ll likely forget much of the info you study 1-2 days after the studying is done.

Even more final words

So you’ll probably have to re-study material before the mid-term or final exam. Cramming can also cause a lot of anxiety because you’re under pressure to complete all your studying before the upcoming test or exam.

Another possible disadvantage is that it can be difficult to study difficult concepts, theorems, etc. when you cram, which would affect your performance during the test/exam.

Each of these techniques can be effective when you have to cover a lot of info in a short time period. Mnemonics make it easier to memorize info using methods like rhymes and acronyms.

This is just getting silly

Reading out loud is effective because it helps you to connect better with the notes. Next, there’s the process of rewriting notes that make your notes more condensed.

Another option is speed-reading, which helps you to read faster so you can go through the notes faster. Finally, you can teach concepts to people in a study group so members can help each other.

So the big question is: should you cram for tests and exams? It’s really up to individual students.

As a general rule, it isn’t a good idea because it can affect your ability to prepare sufficiently for a test or exam. That said, some students do better when they cram so that explains you then it’s a studying method you should probably consider.

Sarah A