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How to Effectively Cram for Finals

Cramming is never a good idea. But everyone crams for exams at some point in their college career. Here are some ways you can be smarter about cramming.

Photographic Memory
Committing graphs to memory can be extremely useful when trying to “figure out” an answer during the exam. Look at these graphs right before your exam so you can reference them when you need them. Economics and Stats classes are the best for photographic memory.

Short Term Memory
Short term memory can typically hold 5 to 9 things in it at a time. Here you want to cram in dates, definitions, and lists. If you’re cramming, study these types of things at the end. Again, you won’t have to to do too much of this in upper division courses. The only time you’ll need to know dates and definitions are in classes with exams out of a test bank.

It’s scientifically proven that repetition is the key to understanding. When you’re cramming, make sure you take time away from the books as well. Just like your muscles need rest between sets when working out, your brain needs rest between sets of working. Rest can be achieved by either studying for a different subject or just goofing off. In the timeline below, the first study cycle is much more effective than the second one.

Repetition is effective for understanding concepts and lengthier pieces that need to be memorized.

Other tips

  • For classes with exams in from test banks, find textbooks with highlights and notes.
  • Find an extremely annoying alarm (there are some online alarm clocks that can be much louder than your phone or alarm clock). Set the clock far away from you and take short naps.
  • If you’re not a coffee person, apples help stay awake also.
  • And lastly, cramming for upper level concept classes doesn’t work. Cram for the easy parts of the test and try to learn some concepts through repetition. Chances are, you won’t be tested on the easy stuff, as much as the application. You’d much rather get good rest and be able to reason through the questions the next day.


Here’s a video from CoBE faculty and students on their advice for finals week. Tell us how YOU do it in the comments section!

About Mehul Kar

Senior majoring in Finance. Leader of the social media movement for CoBE.
This entry was posted in Classroom and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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