Last-Minute Cram Sessions: Are They Worth It?

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We have all been up in the middle of the night, sitting tirelessly in front of a computer or frantically scrambling through notes and textbooks cramming for an exam. But how helpful are these late-night, last-minute cram sessions?


The fact is last-minute cramming rarely does any good. And in most cases, it actually increases people’s anxiety levels. Do not pull an all-night cram session, especially if the exam is in the morning. Experts say it is best to simply read and study the most important information as well as any information that you have struggled to absorb. But pulling an all-night cram session generally does not work because our brains naturally put the information in short-term storage. Even if you were to coffee clutch all night long, pop a few NoDoz and study your brains out, you may not even remember what you studied when it comes to sitting down and taking the exam.


If you have an exam in the afternoon or late after, experts suggest that you do not cram in the hours leading up to the exam as well. It is best to relax during the hours before an examination, so you can access the information that was stored during the initial learning process.


Last-minute cram sessions can actually increase your test anxiety, increase your vulnerability to get sick, cause you to fail the exam or, at a minimum, cause you to perform worse on the exam than you would have without the increased consumption of caffeine and a full-night’s rest.

And the reason for this is simple: It’s biological. Cramming fails because you are relying on short-term memory. If you are learning something new, it is always harder to remember. Retaining information takes time: You have to absorb it, reinforce it (possible through application) and review it. And if this process is followed, you are much more likely to store the information in your long-term memory.

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