We have all heard from our teachers growing up that cramming and studying at the last minute isn't good.  You don't learn the material as well and struggle to analyze and apply the information, and you tend to forget stuff as soon as the exam is over.  It is much better to try and learn it all naturally, even if it is for a subject you hate.

However, at one point or another, we all reach a point where we need to cram for a test.  Maybe you were out of town and didn't have the materials to study, or perhaps you forgot about it until the day before.  Either way, you don't have the luxury of taking your time and learning everything slowly.  And since any teacher or professor would prefer you crammed last minute as opposed to cheat, let's learn how to memorize as much as possible right up until you take that test.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

The first tip that you should follow is to simplify everything.  Dump down absolutely everything, into the smallest thing possible.  If you have a lot of stuff to memorize, you won't be able to keep it all in your head by memorizing paragraphs at a time.  Do not just be reciting stuff right out of the book.  Instead, take a group of sentences about the same topic, and come up with your own new, short, sweet, and simple sentence.  Memorize that.

This tip works particularly well for subjects like history, literature, science, etc.  Any classes where you would need to explain a concept or theory through writing.

Read Aloud for Memorization

Sometimes simplifying just won't work.  Maybe you need to remember an important date or a formula or math, physics, etc.  In these cases, you need to have something precise memorized, so you should try reading out loud.  Believe it or not, reading aloud helps you retain information much better than just going along in your head.  Then try this technique out.

Pick out the passage or equation that you are struggling to remember.  Next, write it down five times.  Actually write it down, like on paper with a pen.  Don't type it out, that won't help as much.  Now read it out loud, all five times.  After that, close your eyes and recite it again.  You are reinforcing it again and again, and you will be much more likely to remember it.

Also, periodically close your eyes and recite it again, all the way up until you are taking that exam.  Every hour, repeat it again.  Maybe don't say it out loud in the middle of church, but if no one is around to look at you weird, blurt it out.  This technique is great because whether you are the type of person who learns through listening or through hearing something, you are getting access to both.

Take Periodic Breaks

"What!?  The exam is tomorrow morning and I only have 4 hours to study tonight!"

Believe it or not, studying for 4 hours straight is NOT going to help you cram.  So don't try it.  You can only give serious concentration to something for about 40 minutes.  After that, your mind will begin to glaze over.  By the end of the study session, you'll feel worn out, and you'll be a shell of where you were when you started.  You want to end your session on a high note, so this definitely isn't the way.

Instead, try taking a break after 40 minutes of intense cramming.  Make it a 20 minute break so it conveniently fits into an hour.  Would you rather be studying efficiently for two thirds of an hour, or half-studying the whole time?

Note that during your break you should NOT be watching TV or playing video games.  Get out of your seat.  Move around, go for a walk, listen to some relaxing music (now is not the time for your death metal collectors CD.)  Check out the picture below, and decide which brain activity you would like to have.


Decide What's Important

If you are reading this, chances are its the last minute already.  If it's a big exam you have coming up, you probably don't have time to learn all of the material.  At this point, you're not shooting for an "A", you just want a passable grade.  After all, if this was that important, you probably would have started studying earlier.

So you want to decide what is really important for the test.  If there are concepts that you have a decent understanding of, don't focus on them, consider it down pact.  There's no time to review what you already sorta kinda know, you've got to focus on remembering the topics you are clueless on.

If you have taken notes in the class, look for any areas where the teacher or professor spent a lot of time lecturing.  Lots of instructors will drop hints, or just directly tell you things that you need to know for the test.  Don't just sit there when they say things like this, make note of it!  Think back to any times where hints like this may have been said.  If you have a review sheet, look it over thoroughly and you should be able to determine what concepts you should have a good knowledge of.


Ultimately, you are never going to be able to efficiently cram like you can if you would have started studying in advance.  But hopefully these tips will assist you, and get at least in a position to pass the test.  More importantly, perhaps it can serve as a reminder for next time.

Lastly, remember that no amount of cramming, regardless of how efficient it is, is a reason to neglect your health.  Make sure that you are not sacrificing sleep for study time, and be sure that you are eating healthy before you start the exam.  Those extra two hours would be better spent getting the proper amount of sleep and eating a good meal beforehand rather than being tired and on a bunch of Red Bull.  You will see the results for yourself.