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How to Cram for a Test

Sure, the best way to prepare for a test is to faithfully attend class, take copious notes, and join a study group. But if it's a little late for that, cramming is the way to keep that F at bay.


  • Step 1: Read over notes Begin by reading over your lecture notes. If you don’t have any, beg and plead with a classmate to photocopy theirs.
  • TIP: Some campuses have note-taking services where you can purchase class notes.
  • Step 2: Highlight key points Highlight the key points in your notes.
  • Step 3: Skim textbook Skim the textbook for anything in bold, or key definitions, sections, and charts, and highlight those portions.
  • TIP: Read the first and last few pages of each chapter thoroughly, because they often summarize the information.
  • Step 4: Create flashcards Create flashcards by reviewing all the highlighted portions of your notes and textbook and writing one key piece of information on each index card.
  • TIP: Keep your energy high by drinking water to stay hydrated and eating snacks that raise your blood sugar without it crashing afterwards, like bananas.
  • Step 5: Memorize Memorize the material on your flashcards. Recite it out loud until you’re sure you’ve got it.
  • TIP: If you’re having trouble remembering something, write it down six or seven times in a row.
  • Step 6: Sleep Get some shut-eye. A Harvard study proved that eight hours of sleep before a test improves performance by 25 percent.
  • Step 7: Eat breakfast Eat a hearty breakfast the day of the exam. Numerous studies prove that people perform mental tasks better on a full stomach.
  • TIP: Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, like eggs and whole-wheat cereal or toast, so your energy lasts. Sugary foods will give you a quick rush and then leave you yawning in the test.
  • Step 8: Take your flashcards Take your flashcards with you to your testing site and keep going over them until the exam begins.
  • Step 9: Relax Right before the test starts, take several deep, slow breaths to help you relax.
  • Step 10: Take a nap Take a nap after the test. Studies show it will help you retain what your learned—for the semester final.
  • FACT: Half of American teenagers admit to cheating on a school exam, according to a 2004 Gallup poll.

You Will Need

  • A quiet
  • distraction-free area
  • Your textbook
  • Your class notes
  • if you took any
  • Paper
  • A pen or pencil
  • A highlighter
  • 3x5 lined index cards
  • Water
  • And healthy snacks

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