We are probably all guilty of cramming for a test at some point in our lives. It may be better than not studying at all, but in terms of getting the information into the long-term memory cramming really doesn’t work that well. Let’s consider how memory retention works and why cramming for a test is not a good plan.
Cramming for a test the day before is a bad idea
Waiting until the day before a test to study doesn’t allow the brain to have enough time to store the information in the long-term memory. Information must be introduced and repeated multiple times over a period of time in order to be added to the long-term memory. After cramming for a test the information only has a way to temporarily be in the short-term memory. If the student is lucky they may be able to remember a few multiple choice test questions correctly that will help them pass the test.
Cramming may only “work” on certain types of tests
When it comes to answering an essay question, cramming is not going to help very much. The brain will have a much harder time formulating a detailed answer because the information has not been fully imprinted into the brain. A student might pass the test by cramming, but after the test they probably won’t be able to access the information at all.
Don’t hire a tutor the day before a test
If you expect that hiring a tutor the day before a test will automatically result in a better grade, you’re wrong. This is the same as cramming. A personal tutor can help students prepare for a test only if they have adequate time with the student before the test. Tutors can’t change the way the brain works, and the brain requires time and repetition in order to retain knowledge.
Why cramming for a test defeats the purpose of learning
If a student views their education as a series of tests that they need to pass in order to graduate they are missing the point. Education is the way to supply students with the skills and knowledge that they need in order to succeed in life. Passing a test by cramming or even getting a good grade may only get students as far as graduation or getting into college. After that a student may struggle to keep up if they only rely on cramming to get by in the real world.
Why it is important to retain information learned in school
Retaining the information learned throughout a student’s education equips them for so much more. The knowledge gained in school isn’t useless and it can be used throughout one’s life. Higher education courses will require students to build on previous knowledge, jobs will expect employees to use the skills that should have been acquired in school. If students see the importance of retaining what they’ve learned perhaps they would see that cramming is not the proper way to get through school.
As you can see, and have probably experienced in the past, cramming for a test is not the best way to effectively learn information. There are better ways to get ready for a test that involve spending more time studying and not waiting till the last minute to start. Next week’s blog post will cover some tips for studying for tests.