You’ve probably used this study method at some point in your education, I know I did. Procrastinating your work until the very last minute and then covering all of it in one very long study session. Let’s not forget the ten cups of coffee, bad eating habits, and loss of sleep that come with it. But is trading sleep for grades an acceptable price to pay?
Cramming is an ineffective learning strategy adopted by most students in higher educational institutes because it causes negative psychological and physical effects. Caffeine-fueled all-nighters may seem like a good idea, but students are more likely to perform worse academically the following day, not better.
Let’s face it, our memory does not hold up well in times of pressure. Think about meeting someone for the first time and trying to remember their name while not being socially awkward. Or trying to remember your grocery list at the store without writing it down and shoppers with full carts are passing you by.
To truly retain information in our long-term memory, it takes time, practice, and frequent review. When you cram, you are only temporarily remembering information, after the exam is over the crammed information leaves your brain. Research has proven that students who cram forget most of the information after the time span of about a month.
It goes without saying that cramming places too much stress on the brain, pushing it beyond its limits. Our brain’s short-term memory capacity is limited. It’s like having too many tabs open on your web browser, slowing the whole system down. Trying to use your short-term memory for long-term storage can lead to chronic stress, fatigue, and memory issues (Source.) After several hours of looking at study material, your mind will trick you into thinking you’ve learned it. Every image, fact and page begin to have a reassuring familiarity about it. You feel good about your prep time, but under false pretenses. Your mind and body will be more stressed out too, which will have an effect on your immune system and overall health.
The University of California Los Angeles sought to answer this highly debated question by asking 535 high school students to chronicle their sleeping and studying habits, “U.S. News & World Report” states. By their senior year, participating students were studying an hour per night, but sleeping about 41 minutes less. As a result, students reported prolonged academic problems after a day of sleeplessness (Source.)
What Should Students Do Instead of Cramming?
Use a structured study plan. Study plans keep you sane. It will break up all the material you need to retain into smaller chunks. You will be able to draw upon this knowledge in the future that is now stored in your long-term memory.
Get a good night’s sleep. Extra time spent studying cuts into the recommended 8 hours of sleep and is especially ill-advised the night before a big exam.
Write your notes by hand. Writing by hand tends to boost your ability to retain information, comprehend new ideas, and be more productive. Although it is not faster than a keyboard, it is more effective for long-term memory.
Overall, Cramming Gets an F in our Grade Book.
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