Do you Have to Cram for an Exam?

time management

Post #18 When You Waited Too Long to Study

You have an engineering exam coming up shortly and you are anything but prepared.  Now is not the time to dwell on how you coulda, woulda, shoulda started studying sooner.  Time is running out; your exam is approaching and you’re in a state of panic.  An all-nighter is probably in your immediate future.  But even still, how to you cram for an exam in such a short amount of time?


Study Buddies

Who is willing to pull an all-nighter or even a partial-nighter with you?  Is there a classmate willing to answer some of your questions, either via phone, email, text, etc.?  Maybe you can email the teaching assistant with questions?  Better yet, you can attempt to round up a last minute, all-night group who is willing to study together.  Chances are there are others who are also going to cram for an exam; solicit everyone you know and try to get them together.


One sure thing to do is carefully review the syllabus for exam hints.  It is possible there is no exam information on the syllabus, and you were instead provided a specific study guide/list of exam topics.  Either way, create an outline.  List all major topics and list their subtopics.  Include specific theories and formulas that were obviously near and dear to the professor’s heart.  Also include homework-related topics.  After you create your one-page outline to see what you’re up against, you start reviewing what you already know.

Understand Problems with Known Solutions

Since there may not enough time to work through new problems, review the relevant ones that have solutions.  For example, your books, class notes and homework should offer problems with complete solutions.  Concentrate on the material that is already solved for you.  You may see very similar problems on the exam.  If you understand the problems with worked out solutions first, you can put those aside and continue through your outline.

Special Topics

Think back to your lectures in class.  Did the professor have a topic that was particularly beloved?  Were there any special notes, special videos on any special topics?  Did the professor get particularly excited or go out of the way to talk about a certain theory, scientist or experiment?  Familiarize yourself with this material.  For example, if they thoroughly discussed a topic that was not included in the textbook, that is a big clue.  If they assigned a special project based on one theory, that is another big clue.  Think about when the professor deviated from routine chapters/material.  Topics that engineering professors love to talk about will show up on exams.

don't panic


You do not have to panic if you must cram for an exam.  Your only task in the moment is to focus and use your time wisely.  Review as many topics as possible on your outline.  You can learn a surprising amount of material in the course of a night. Take some deep breaths.  And tell yourself it’ll all be just fine no matter what!  The worse case scenario is you fail.  Post #17 will help you out.

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