Truth Behind Cram Studying: Cram for Exams



Despite what people say about cramming for exams, students who cram may be surprised by how they do.

Jeanelle Wu, Photojournalist

Cramming, in relation to studying, is the act of studying intensively over a short period of time just before an exam (Oxford American Dictionary). One week before a test or exam is plenty of time to study. But then, homework from other classes and added extracurriculars start to pile up, taking priority over studying for the heavily weighted exam, which is technically still one week away. Well, soon enough, that one week becomes 5 days, which becomes 3 days, until you find yourself sitting at your desk the night before the exam cramming more than a week’s worth of information into your brain. This is an exhausting experience that is the opposite of a fun way to spend the night. Sadly to say, it is an experience that students are bound to go through sometime in their education, and cramming for an exam late at night is the epitome of stress students face and how overwhelming classes can be. Teachers will often tell their students to not cram for exams or procrastinate until the very last second to study because it will be ineffective. In all honesty, cramming should never be plan “A” when it comes to studying. However, whenever someone says that cramming is ineffective and that it is more worth it to sleep, only part of what they say is true. Yes, that’s right fellow procrastinators, there may be some hope after all.

The information being crammed into the brain in a short period of time is stored in the brain’s short-term memory, but it is forgotten after a certain period of time ( Those who cram for a test the night before, or for some the entire night until the minute they walk in the classroom, do not necessarily fail the test. Potentially, they could receive a good grade on the test because they still remember all the information they crammed in their short-term memory. However, most of that information is usually forgotten the second you walk out of the testing room. Cramming, in most cases, is frowned upon because it defeats the purpose of learning since the information and concepts that are studied through cramming do not last long-term. Although it has been shown that cramming can be helpful to pass an exam, there are many risks that come with cramming that can negatively affect retaining critical information and taking the test.

Needless to say, cramming is stressful. Even though students can still get a good grade, cramming should be used as a last resort because there are risks to it not working effectively. Students who cram are trying to squeeze all the information they need to know into their brain in a limited amount of time, which has been proven to increase their stress levels. Consequently, the information that they are cramming is harder to comprehend and understand when under more stress ( Additionally, when students stay up late, or even all night cramming for a test, they are sacrificing their sleep time. Getting enough sleep is an important part of concentration and doing well academically, which is why cramming for a test could cause students to be unfocused when taking the test if their cramming doesn’t allow them to get enough sleep ( If part of the studying requires reading new information, cramming is not going to be effective. When short on time, the material can only be skimmed and not thoroughly read, and the information read in a time crunch or stressful situation is not fully absorbed. However, there are times when cramming is the only option left, and these are risks worth taking. 

Many may argue that there isn’t a “right way” to cram for an exam since cramming itself is not the “right way” to study. Well, if it’s already 10 p.m. and you haven’t started studying for the big exam the next day, cramming would be the best and only option in order to have a chance at passing. To make sure you make use of the short period of time you have to cram, you should start by making a simple list of the main things you have to cover and prioritize them starting with the most significant topics. From here, you can begin going down the list and studying the topics, but it is important to be realistic and consider the number of concepts you can review in relation to the amount of time you have.

Cramming is a part of almost all students’ lives… Though it may not be the best option for studying, it’s something some may not be able to stop.”

— Camille Khong

So, if cramming is taught to be an ineffective and unreliable method of studying, why is it so common among students? It is common for students to have a certain mindset that promotes cramming, such as just wanting to pass the test without actually absorbing any of the material. A study done on students and cramming showed that the students agreed that cramming is not a strategy to really learn the material, however, many continue to do it ( Late-night cramming sessions are never really a preferred choice and are just due to poor time management, procrastination, busy lives, added activities, multiple classes, and other factors. Here at YLHS, students can relate to the stress of cramming, and junior Camille Khong (11) shares how she has observed that “cramming is a part of almost all students’ lives. It may be for the night before or even the morning of a big test. Though it may not be the best option for studying, it’s something some may not be able to stop.” Camille further elaborates her thoughts that “cramming can be beneficial in regards to recapping major concepts,” but should not be used as a study method to “[learn] the whole unit in one night.”

If you’re looking to try a different and hopefully more effective way of studying, spaced-out learning (studying something once and waiting before you study it a second time) has been proven to produce better long-term memory ( Another method, that has been proven to work more effectively than cramming in recent studies is interleaving (basically mixing up different material and studying one subject for a short period of time, then switching to another, then maybe another before going back to the first), which has shown to produce longer retention ( 

Overall, cramming has become a very familiar concept to many students, and although it can work, it is the most stressful option. If cramming is a must, at least do it effectively and the right way with priorities. Or, if you’re tired of staying up late at night trying to understand a bunch of information nonstop, try to give yourself enough time to study using the spaced-out or interleaving methods, to make sure you actually comprehend what you study. There are many ways to study, and the method you choose to use is the main factor in how you do on the exam. Therefore, start studying before your one week turns into one night.