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1 week until finals' week.  About 2 weeks at the most until your last final of the semester.  That means you have at least a little over a week to prepare for your final exams.  I know, they're not fun to think about, especially when you don't actually have to start studying right now.  Nevertheless, it is highly beneficial to begin reviewing material ahead of time rather than cramming the night before.  I'm sure you've heard this advice before, but do you really know why cramming is ineffective or what may be a helpful alternative? 


Cramming: Using the last few hours (or even the last day if there's a lot of material) to study for an exam.  Studying usually occurs non-stop without many breaks and results in loss of sleep.


As I wrote the definition, I thought to myself—this method makes no sense! Yet, I have used it many times (okay maybe almost all of the time in undergrad).  Let's face it, it is hard to motivate yourself to start studying when you have homework due the next day and the exam isn't' for another week! 


So, why exactly is cramming ineffective?  Our brains need time to process information and store it in long term memory.  This process called consolidation requires sleep!  It is also beneficial to take a lot of breaks when studying to give your brain time to rejuvenate.  For instance, it has been shown that studying 20 – 30 minutes and then taking a short break helps the learning process rather than studying for 3 hours straight and taking a break, and then studying another 3 hours.  Also, if you want to retain what you learn after you complete the exam, cramming won't help.  You will likely forget what you learned shortly after the exam.  Lastly, you will do much better on an exam if you have a good night's sleep.  Taking an exam while you're half asleep is obviously not going to help you succeed.


I don't want to encourage cramming, but it can be effective when you know none of the material and you only left yourself a short time period to study.  In this case, taking the exam while you're sleep deprived, but know some of the material (as a result of cramming) is better than not knowing anything and being rested.


That said, good luck!


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