College Entrance Exams: Why Cramming Doesn’t Work

Wherever there are high school students and exams to be taken, there will be high school students who are downing cup after cup of espresso to stay up all night and cram for the test at the last possible minute. Many will even be reviewing their notes up until the moment their professors start handing out the exams.

But cramming just doesn’t get the results that these students want. When you’re taking an exam that has stakes as high as a college entrance exam, you need to put in months of concerted study, as well as take reputable prep courses like those offered by the Kranse Institute. Doing so will help you get the scores you need to get into the college you want and maybe even qualify for some scholarships.

Here are a few reasons why cramming for these exams just doesn’t work:

Recognition is Not Recall

Cramming can make you feel like you’ve got all your facts down because it makes you more familiar with the material as you read over it again and again.

However, just because you can recognize that information in the short term does not mean that you will be able to recall it in a different context or that you will be able to synthesize it to make new connections. Recognizing a formula in the same place in your notes, for instance, is going to be easier than figuring out that is the formula you have to use to solve a word problem or to actually plug in information and solve the formula.

You need to study over a period of weeks or even months to promote long-term memorization and understanding.

Lack of Sleep Impairs Performance

Staying up all night to study is going to result in poor performance the next day because you didn’t get adequate sleep for your mind to function at optimal levels. You’ll have a hard time concentrating, and you’ll find it very hard to remember anything.

Even if you feel like you’re running on a caffeine high that will never come down, you will crash and it will happen when you least expect it. You won’t be able to keep it going by drinking more coffee or taking more caffeine pills. You get diminishing returns the more you abuse caffeine, and taking more will have less of an impact. Overdo it, and you can make yourself seriously sick.

Get a full eight to nine hours of sleep the night before the big test — and every night before that. It can take several days to bounce back from a night of sparse sleep. If you want to be at your very best for your test, you need to get the full amount of sleep each night.

Capacity to Learn Diminished After Hours of Study

Have you ever been engaged in an activity for many hours? For the first part, you may feel energized and motivated to finish the task at hand. But after an hour or so, you may start to feel your energy wane. After many hours, you may find it hard to retain any new information or to stay focused.

Studying for hours upon hours is not effective, whether you are doing it to cram for a college entrance test or you are just an overachiever who thinks you need to study that much to make top grades. You’ll lose the capacity to retain what you’re reading or practicing. You won’t have the motivation to stay focused, and you won’t be able to remember everything you’re taking in. Think of it like trying to mop up a floor with an already saturated sponge — it just won’t work.

Instead, space out your study sessions over each day for an hour or so at a time. You may find that even shorter periods of time work best for you. You need to figure out the right balance of time needed to read and process the information without doing so much that you feel overwhelmed.
Taking the time to truly learn the information is the best thing you can do to perform well on exams. It is particularly important for college entrance exams, which test general knowledge rather than specific concepts. For example, you may know that you need to answer questions about vocabulary on the SAT, but you just don’t know what words will show up. Instead, you need to work on expanding your vocabulary in general and improving your reading comprehension.

Taking a prep course can help you focus your study sessions and learn test-taking techniques that can improve your chances of success by enhancing what you already know. Just make sure that you find a reputable prep course with proven results. Otherwise, you could spend a lot of money on empty promises.