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Why Cramming Doesn’t Work – How to Study Right and Be Happier [Guest Post]

Posted Aug 31 2009 10:09pm

This is a guest post by Regan Bozman at Terra Firma Education, which powers SAT University. The blog was designed for high school students and parents, and features helpful articles dealing with the college process and the SAT/ACT. Subscribe to the blog or become a fan on the Facebook Page, where you can post questions and get them answered by tutors.

Cramming, a test-taking strategy that involves large amounts of studying right before an exam, is widespread in American high schools and colleges. I’ve certainly crammed for many tests, and I’m sure the majority of my friends have too.

Of course, many teachers admonish it. I can’t count the number of times one of my high school teachers told me to start studying as soon as we knew about a test. However, the effectiveness of this advice is meager at best. One researcher lamented that cramming is  “a technique as widely condemned by educators as it is widely used by students.”

So, is cramming actually effective? Most researchers disagree. Shelby H. McIntyre and J. Michael Munson, both professors in the marketing department at Santa Clara University, note that the “overwhelming point drawn from research about study strategy is that distributing…study time over several sessions generally leads to better memory of the information than a…single study session.” A group of researchers led by psychologists at UCSD taught more than 1000 students a set of facts and then tested them on what they had learned. They found that “students perform better when they space their study sessions rather than when they try to cram everything… during one sitting.”

So how should you study? First of all, don’t cram. Plan for a consistent study schedule, with a light session (no more than 3 hours) the night before the big test. This will motivate you to study earlier, knowing that you’ll be taking it easy while your classmates are scrambling the night before.

This strategy also allows you to get a good night’s sleep the night before the test (experts recommend at least 8 hours). Instead of being groggy and miserable, you’ll be well-rested and happy during the exam. It’s just common sense – happier students get better scores!

And when it comes to the most important test of all, the SAT or ACT, you should think even longer-term. You need to start not days, or even weeks in advance, but months (Terra Firma recommends at least 6 months). The reason is that there are certain subjects that these tests cover, like grammar and vocabulary, that you simply can’t learn in a matter of days or even weeks. You need to build a strong foundation of knowledge, and you need to start early.

I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but it’s true. Shortcuts can only take you so far. When it comes to tests, exercise, or life in general, you have to not only work hard, but work smart. It’s like the old saying: practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. If you are smart about the work, you’ll get better results with less stress.

This is a guest post by Regan Bozman at Terra Firma Education, which powers SAT University. The blog was designed for high school students and parents, and features helpful articles dealing with the college process and the SAT/ACT. Subscribe to the blog or become a fan on the Facebook Page, where you can post questions and get them answered by tutors.

Why Cramming Doesn’t Work – How to Study Right and Be Happier [Guest Post] is a post from: Radical Parenting

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