Most people who have taken tests have probably held a cram session or two in their lifetimes. They realize that they have a test a couple hours before it begins and frantically dig through notes, old quizzes, and worksheets to try to learn as much as is possible before the test.
But a test is supposed to be an assessment of real learning. Can cramming help you actually learn something? Since there isn't a class specifically designed for "how to study," most people can't answer that question. (The answer is no!)
Our short-term memory, or working memory, is what we use when we cram for a test. This type of memory is what you'd use for remembering your order number at the dry cleaner's or your friend's cell phone number, but it's a very poor tool for remembering things you'd like to know in a few years or a lifetime. In order for knowledge to be ingrained inside a person – truly stuck in his or her long-term memory – you will need the following: repetition, time, and application of the material.
1.Repetition for Real Learning
Repetition is absolutely necessary to learn anything long-term. Prepare yourself before you ever get wind of a test coming up by reviewing the material you learned in class that day. This could be a simple five-minute read-through of notes or browsing through the chapter you went over and choosing 2-3 facts that really struck home. Your homework should help you in that area, but even if you don't have homework, consider it your nightly mission to go back through what you learned in class that day.
And the more varied the repetition, the better it is for real learning. One night, read through your notes. The next night, sketch a picture of a major point from the lesson. The next night, create a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting two concepts. Bonus? You won't have to go crazy studying when a test comes up because you'll already know the material.
2.Time for Real Learning
Time is also necessary to encapsulate information inside the brain for life, which is why it's smart to stay on top of the content before the test day is ever announced. The shorter amount of time you have, the less repetition you will get. You'll also need to make sure that too much time doesn't elapse between review sessions, because information entrenched there can start to fade away if it isn't practiced daily. So, if you miss a review session, then make sure to pick it up as soon as is possible the next day. The best advice is to start reviewing the second you get any new information. Start as early as possible.
3.Application for Real Learning
Application is also incredibly important for long-term memory. If you can relate information to your lives in some way - really intersect the two - the likelihood that you'll remember the information beyond test day increases exponentially. You can do simple things to apply information you've learned in class into your daily life. Use a new vocabulary word in conversation. Bring up the story you're reading in class in your next Facebook post or Tweet and see the type of responses you get. Post math problems and see if any of your relatives can answer them.
Even better, write a story, draw a picture, or make a chart using the information you've learned. Linking your creative side with your academic side will create a mnemonic device, a memory aid you can use to summon the knowledge on test day and beyond.