Cramming v. Studying

So one of the cool things about taking classes again is the chance to observe and rethink some of the ideas and words I’ve been subjected to in pop culture. One of those is the idea of “cramming for a test.” This is typically portrayed as the last resort of the irresponsible, those who have managed their time poorly and must “cram” as much study and knowledge as possible into a short time span immediately before the test.

I’m… not sure I agree with that. At least not in its entirety. In reality, balancing home life, work, classes, and hobbies like a blog require a fair amount of time management. I have to take an inventory of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and generally sort them by some product of priority and “effective due date.” This must be done at least once a day, sometimes more if things change.

What I have found in doing this is that proper study time for an exam, that is, the time between when all the reading and coursework has been completed and the exam itself, tends to be fairly brief. Best case scenario one week, typically only a couple of days. That’s assuming there isn’t some other coursework also requiring attention.

The end result being that most of the proper studying is in the 24 hours leading up to the exam itself. While it would appear similar to the idea of “cramming,” in reality it’s just effective time management. Arranging things differently would likely have caused another grade elsewhere to suffer.

There are also some direct disadvantages to studying ahead of time and at least not taking time for a review immediately prior. Knowledge tends to drift or decay over time, and for recently learned things this can be quite severe. Even studying ahead of time and taking the time for review, I come across instances where I remember a topic and remember reading about it and trying to commit it to memory, but recall just isn’t functioning. Sometimes I simply don’t have the opportunity to study that far in advance, though I do consider it the better technique of the two.

Yesterday, I had a geology exam, for which most of the studying was done earlier in the day after I turned in the final piece of work for that section. Now, I consider myself a responsible student. I did the reading and work faithfully and with intent to understand, but that is not sufficient to score well on the more technical sections like the current one. The only opportunity to study, intentionally and separately, was the 10-ish hour gap between then and the exam itself. Which I did, for what that’s worth, because it was the responsible thing to do. It’s also what inspired this post.

The point is, for all practical purposes what I did yesterday seems to qualify as “cramming,” but defied the usual trope by seeming like the most responsible thing to do.

There’s a lot of other things to be said about teaching to the test, instruction quality, and all that stuff too. I just thought it was an interesting observation.

Y’all take care, and seriously though, don’t wait till the last second to study if you can help it.


blapril-2020-200Hey, it’s Blapril time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

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