Midterm cramming hindrance to success
It’s a familiar setting for many students this time of year — the sudden realization that an exam is forthcoming, and the subject material reads like a foreign language. Anxiety sets in and students pull all-nighters in an attempt to cram as much information pertaining to the exam as possible in order to do well on the test.
“It works pretty well for me,” junior Sajanee Chopra said.
“I have a pretty good GPA because of my cramming skills.”
While a cram session may result in the desired effect of passing an exam, experts and professors argue that the practice is ineffective and robs students of long term information retention.
UH psychology professor Merrill Hiscock referred to the popular study method as an “intellectual crash diet.”
“(It’s) comparable to crash dieting,” Hiscock said. “If you want to lose weight for the big family reunion next spring and haven’t started a diet plan, and the reunion is two weeks away, and you are still 20 pounds overweight, you can try a crash diet.
“It will not work as well, but you will lose a few pounds, and you might consider that to be better than nothing. So you go to the reunion in a half-starved and grumpy state, but you are only 15 pounds overweight.”
A 2009 study found that approximately 45 percent of students admit to last minute cramming. While its effects may vary depending on subject material, a 2007 study on memory retention in “Current Directions in Psychological Science” shows that people subjected to spaced out study sessions fared far better than those who studied in one session in tests that occurred four weeks later.
Chopra agreed with the researchers’ findings, admitting that she hardly remembers anything after an intense cram session.
Some professors have taken measures to actively prevent cramming and increase information retention in students. UH Cognitive Psychology professor Arturo Hernandez implements weekly quizzes into his course, which encourages students to learn the material throughout the semester.
“The brain is like any other organ,” Hernandez said. “It obeys the same principles. People think it’s some sort of closet where you can just stuff things.
“I think we should call it practice instead of studying. People would think about it differently. Would an athlete practice only right before a big event? Of course not.”
If a cram session becomes inevitable, Hiscock recommends students practice efficient cramming techniques. Testtakingtips.com recommends taking a small break every hour and getting at least three hours of sleep before the exam.
Psychology professor Leigh Leasure, who believes most if not all of her students cram before exams, echoed the anti-all-nighter sentiment.
“It’s human nature; we leave everything until the last minute,” Leasure said. “If you find yourself in a situation where you’re going to cram, don’t stay up all night. Make sure you sleep.
“Studies show that brain cramming will do no good unless you give yourself downtime to consolidate information.”