Cramming before a test can be done and one can pass a test by cramming; however, it is not advisable where few hours of sleep separate said cramming and the exam it was crammed for. Consider these tips for optimal studying when time isn’t a luxury.

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Atmosphere: What to study is nearly as important as where to study. It is important to study in a well-lit area that is relatively quiet. Dim lighting strains the eyes and encourages sleep. A noisy atmosphere can serve to be a distraction. Listening to music can be beneficial, but it depends on what’s being listened to. Classical music, such as Mozart helps the brain to absorb information, but music that encourages singing or dancing can distract a person from their studying.

Mnemonic devices: Mnemonic devices are wonderful. This system for remembering key items is useful because it involves the use of created acronyms to remember a list of words. This is useful for remembering steps to a process or a group of items under a particular category. This method ensures nothing is forgotten.

Groups of seven: The brain tends to remember information in groups of up to seven at a time. This is why phone numbers contain seven digits; however, the brain could perceivabley absorb 21 digits or more as long as the 21 digits are divided up into groups of seven. Dividing up information according to such helps the brain to absorb it more readily and serves to provide segues for breaks.

Take breaks: Allowing the brain to have a break every once in a while allows it to take in a greater amount of information overall. By cramming too much, too fast, the brain cannot absorb all the information it takes in. Study key concepts and take a five minute break, which is perfect for a restroom break, a cup of coffee or a quick brisk walk.

Prioritize: Read key points before getting into details. For example, hit up the syllabus, read chapter summaries and other important points before breaking each one down. This provides knowledge of a wide array of details that can help with educated guesses on questions that are unknown.

Flash cards: Flash cards are particularly beneficial for cramming, but studying in general. Write down key concepts, mnemonic devices and anything else needed. After studying everything and sleeping, review the flashcards once. Get to school and sit down before taking the exam and review them once more. Try to review them whenever possible with adequate breaks in between.

After the night of studying, it is best to get as much sleep as possible and not for less than three hours as this is roughly the duration of time it takes to have one complete cycle of sleep. Be sure to eat a balanced breakfast of lean protein and complex carbohydrates to ensure energy and a sense of fullness during the exam. It is beneficial to have coffee within an hour before the exam, but it is also beneficial to have adequate water. Dehydration actually depletes the brain of water and it is harder to remember key information during an exam. Practice with a partner to help quiz each other. Lastly, stay calm.