You know you’ve done it, and so has just about every other high school and college student in the world: crammed for an exam the night before. Procrastination in studying is incredibly normal, but it is also incredibly harmful to your health and even to your academic endeavors. While you might wait until the last minute to study because of a number of factors like social obligations, work, etc., in the end, it is smarter to make a study plan, and spread out your studying over time.
In 2012, UCLA did a study of high school students who were asked to keep a journal to record how much they studied every day for two weeks and if they had any problems understanding anything in class the next day and if they performed poorly on an exam or quiz.
The study found that “Regardless of how much a student generally studies each day, if that student sacrifices sleep time in order to study more than usual, he or she is likely to have more academic problems, not less, on the following day.” Cumulatively, this can result in worse grades, not better.
Consider it from this angle: if you don’t understand something in class as well as you might have if you had slept enough the night before, then you probably wouldn’t have to work as hard to review the material come test time. You wouldn’t have to cram the night before – again – to try to understand the lesson. On the other hand, if you cram, you’re more likely to perform poorly on the test, and the cycle repeats itself. Over the course of a semester, you can do some serious damage to your GPA.
Instead of cramming, review your notes on a regular basis from class. Make yourself flashcards to review, or use an app like Quizlet on your phone, to review the material you need to know in short bursts of time. Ten or 15 minutes a day on the material spread out over a couple of weeks can be much more productive than cramming it all in in a couple of hours the night before the exam.
Waking up groggy to take a test because you crammed is never a good idea, and you don’t want to miss the material you need to know in your other classes because you are tired from letting the midnight oil burn the previous evening.
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