Every student has pulled an all-nighter to study at least once. In fact, overnight cramming is a common thing. Some people do it from time to time to write an urgent paper or prepare for an exam.
Does Cramming for Tests Work?
For others, it is almost a regular study routine. It seems that if you learn something just before the exam, you will retain information better and improve your performance.
Yet, in reality, cramming is associated with a high forgetting rate. To find out why cramming is not an effective way to study, let’s look at how memory actually works.
How Memory Works
Our memory includes conscious and unconscious processes. There are stages of encoding, storing, and recalling information. By understanding how they are interconnected, you can learn more effectively and boost your academic performance.
- When a person learns information, he or she encodes it. At this point, information is understood and acquires a form it will be stored in (visual, tactile, semantic, acoustic encoding).
- The second stage, storage, determines how the information will be retained. In the context of learning, we are primarily interested in how long it will be stored. Otherwise, what is the purpose of learning when we forget material shortly after we have learned it? The encoded information is kept in short-term memory at first. Unlike long-term memory, it has limited capacity. To transfer information into long-term memory, we need constant repetition of what we have learned. The problem with cramming is that it does not include this component. As a result, students often forget information they tried so hard to learn just in a few hours.
- The third process is retrieval. It allows us to access the information we have learned and use it. Talking about retrieval, we also need to mention the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. In his experiment, Ebbinghaus found that recently learned information gradually gets lost over time unless a person uses active recall to refresh it in his or her memory.
Why Cramming is a Bad Study Strategy
When overnight cramming becomes a habit, a student risks developing sleep disorders. It is the worst consequence of cramming that harms health and well-being. Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on our cognition in general, including memory.
If assignments pile up and you feel like you cannot handle all of them without cramming, just contact EssayHub service. An essay writing helper will assist you in maintaining good academic performance without sacrificing sleep for it. When we sleep, the process of memory consolidation happens. This is exactly what we need to have information stored in long-term memory.
Overnight cramming pushes us beyond limits. It leaves us no time to refocus and replenish our resources. As a result, cramming becomes counterproductive. It causes fatigue, anxiety, and irritability. Students become more likely to score lower than they could if they had a more balanced study schedule.
Cramming is also associated with the increased stress level in students. They push themselves to memorize information in an unrealistic time frame, which results in frustration and confusion.
Tiredness and stress impede information retrieval, making it difficult to recall any information, not only recently learned. Therefore, it is important to develop a study plan that will help you to avoid cramming.
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When you spend a night learning a certain topic, you might feel that you know it well. However, cramming is tricky. In reality, the material becomes only familiar, not memorized. The fact that you can recognize it does not mean that you will be able to recall it during your test or exam.
It is much more productive to start learning days or weeks before the exam instead of leaving it to the last minute. When you use spaced learning, which means that you learn something during a prolonged period of time with active recall, you will significantly improve retention.
The study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology proves that the thought that cramming can be beneficial is a misconception. In reality, spacing turns out to be much more effective than cramming in helping students memorize information. Such results were noticed in 90% of participants even though the majority of them thought otherwise.
Organize Your Study Sessions
Well-structured and balanced study sessions are a way to gain better results from learning. It will ensure substantially improved knowledge retention and better academic performance in the long run.
This is what it means to study smart. Students need to learn how to manage their time and stay organized in the first place. There are some of the strategies that can help.
- Organize short study sessions. They allow you to work with one chunk of information at a time and stay more focused on the task.
- Make use of planning. You should note down all due dates of your papers, tests, and exams. It will help you to plan study sessions and do everything in time.
- Take care of your nutrition and sleep. Leading a healthy lifestyle is the foundation of success. It will keep your memory sharp.
- Stay active during classes. Ask questions, take notes, and collaborate with peers. The more involved and concentrated you are during classes, the less you will need to learn at home.