The Right Way to Cram for a Test

How to Study If You Only Have Minutes

Students Studying at the Library
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We've all been there: you either procrastinate or forget about a test until the last minute, at which point you realize that you have less than an hour to cram in as much knowledge as possible. Here's how to make the most of your cram session and study for your test in an hour or less.

Find a Quiet Study Space

If you're at school, head to the library or a quiet classroom. If you're studying at home, turn off the TV, shut off your phone, power down the computer, and head to your room. Politely request that your friends and/or family give you time to study quietly. If you have only a short period of time to cram, you'll need 100% of your focus.

Review Your Study Guide

If you've been lucky enough to receive a study guide from your teacher, use it! Study guides are a crammer's best friend. Read through the study guide as many times as you can. Memorize as much of the content as possible, using mnemonic devices like acronyms or songs. You can also try reading out loud and discussing the content with a friend or family member. Don't worry about making flashcards or taking notes—an in-depth review of the study guide itself will be more effective.

Crack Open the Textbook

If you do not have a study guide, grab a pen and a notebook and open up your textbook. After you've confirmed which chapter(s) the test will cover, read the first two pages of each relevant chapter. Look for major ideas, vocabulary, and concepts, and as you read, summarize any words or phrase that are bold or highlighted in the text. (You can do this summary process in writing if you have time, or simply state your summary out loud).

After you've read the first two pages of every chapter, read the last page of every chapter and answer the review questions in your head. If you can't figure out an answer to a review question, look it up in the textbook before moving on. These review questions are often good previews of the type of content to expect on your test.

Review Notes, Quizzes and Assignments

Don't have access to your textbook? Gather as many notes, quizzes, and assignments relevant to your upcoming test as you can. Your personal notes will hold plenty of useful information, and your teacher's quizzes and assignments are often one of the main sources of test questions. Read every page as you would a study guide or textbook chapter, focusing on key terms and concepts. Try to memorize as much of the content as you can with mnemonic devices.

Quiz Yourself

Using your study guide, textbook, and/or previous assignments, hold a quick quiz session. Look for key terms, then cover up the answers with your hand and try to define them. Next, look for big concepts, then flip over the pages and explain the concepts in your head. Circle or write down any topics you have trouble with and review them several times.

If you have time and access to a study buddy, he or she can help out by guiding you through one last quiz session, but self-studying is just as productive.

Write Down Your Mnemonic Devices

As soon as the teacher hands out the test and says "begin", write your newly-created mnemonic devices (acronyms, phrases, etc.) down on your test paper. Seeing these mnemonic devices will jog your memory as you go through the test.

Ask the Teacher for Help

If you get confused or stuck during the test, don't be afraid to raise your hand and politely ask for help. Many teachers are willing to guide you in the right direction, particularly if they know you to be a hard-working student.