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How to Study a Lot of Information in a Short Amount of Time - Best Cramming and Studying Tips For Finals or Any Test

Updated on July 22, 2015

So You Procrastinated, eh?

First off, don't stress. Stressing will only get in the way of being productive. If you've made it this far, whatever happens can't be that bad, right?

Ok. So you don't have much time and need to study a lot of information in a short amount of time. You need to calm down, gather all of your study materials, pen, and paper in one quiet and stress free place. You then need to follow these tips. I will give you some of the best tips for quick studying, cramming, and learning in a short amount of time.

Tip #1 - Study Guides

Study guides are what will be your saving grace when it comes down to the wire and you haven't been studying. However, some teachers give them out and some don't. Here's what to do with both scenarios

With a Study Guide

Find all of the information on the study guide and link it up with pages in your book, websites, other reference material used for your class and write it down on the guide. Next, think of a brief summary or important facts about that topic. If you can't think of anything, google will be your friend. Once you have a short bit of information to go along with it, if there is enough room on the study guide, write it next to the topic. If there isn't enough room write the topic in the notebook and write the summary underneath of it. Rinse and Repeat. Once you have done this for all topics on the study guide, simply begin to quiz yourself over them . Try to retain any important dates and facts about the topic first, then try to remember any other important summaries about the topic. One of the best ways to do this is to have someone help you. Have them read the topic title and you give all the information about it you can. If you get it right continue on. If you miss some things, correct it and move on. If you don't have a partner to help you. Write the topic on a note card and write all of the information on the back of it. Quiz yourself flash-card style until you can match one side with the other easily.

Without a Study Guide

This one can be more helpful or more stressful depending on the type of class you are in. Rather than being given a study guide, you will be creating a study guide. If you know what information will be on the test, try to think of broad topics to write down that will match the information on the test. If you don't know exactly what will be on the test, go back to your syllabus and see if there are topic headings or some sort of calendar system to show what you have gone over. If all else fails, just attempt to remember what you have gone over in class thus far. Write down all broad and important topics on a sheet of paper. This is your new blank study guide. Follow the rules just like you did as if you did have a study guide (above). With this method you can attempt to memorize as much broad information about the class while still being somewhat specific about what you are learning.

Review and Copy Notes

Review notes. Notes usually consist of pretty important information. If you don't have notes, attempt to get some from somebody in the class. People usually don't mind if you make copies or things like that. Just make sure to be respectful and thank anyone you borrow notes from.

One trick with notes is to just simply read through them and copy them onto other pieces of paper. The repetition will help you remember and also refresh your memory on what you have gone through earlier in the class.

The best way to review notes is to find broad topics that you think will be on the test. Then go over any specific information under that topic. If you wish, make flash cards similarly to how you studied with a study guide. The extra writing and copying for flashcards will help you remember, as well.

What to Do When You Have No Notes or Study Guides

So you have no notes or study guides, just a book or a bunch of articles and some page numbers. There is no way you can read what you were supposed to be reading over a long time in one night. There are a few things you can do to remedy this.

#1 Skim

Skimming is simply scanning the readings for anything that looks important. Bold type, italicized type, charts, diagrams, pictures, references, etc. Anything that will point you at some important information is good. While you skim, attempt to take some notes on another sheet of paper about the important information you are finding. It doesn't have to be much, but enough so you will remember what you skimmed over. You should review those notes once you have skimmed everything you need to.

#2 Find Summaries

This one might not be a viable option for some texts, but sometimes you can find summaries on certain texts. Google will be your best bet with this one. While you read the summary, it might not be a bad idea to take brief notes in a notebook over the important topics in the piece. This will help you retain the important information and you will have extra notes to study later.

#3 Talk to Someone Who Has Read it Already

This is a last resort. Usually the person isn't willing to sit down for hours and tell you every little detail that was in the reading. However, if they do give you a few nuggets of important information make sure to write them down. Once you figure out those important bits, go back to the text and find them. Make sure you can expand on those bits and take notes over them. This will help you find what other people found important and will help you pinpoint some tidbits of information.

When All Else Fails

Don't ever skip a test. If you know the teacher well, perhaps you can ask for an extension. If the teacher does that sort of thing, show them that you have been attempting to study, but you have been busy or otherwise unable to study. If you have no legitimate excuses, or you know the teacher won't grant an extension, pretend to be sick. If you absolutely have to "be sick" make sure it will grant you extra time to work on the test. Some teachers don't care if you are sick or not, if you miss a test it's a 0%. Make sure that isn't the case. If that is the case there is one last thing you can do. Study as best you can. Get a good night's sleep (at least 7-8 hours) and go in with a clear head. If you absolutely know you did what you could, there is no reason to stress about what you can't do. So calm down and prepare to make the best out of a bad situation.

Disclaimer

These methods are all making the best out of a bad situation. I do not recommend putting yourself in a situation where you will have to study last minute. It will more than likely end disappointingly and you will not do your best work. Ideally you should be studying throughout your time spent in the semester and should not be doing any extra cramming before a test. This allows for the best learning and will allow you to do your best work. You will never do your best work when you have to cram.

I hope these tips are useful and I wish any people using them the best of luck!

One Final Note

One piece of advice a professor gave me for taking in a lot of information while skimming is to study speed reading. It can boost reading times and help you glean relevant information at a much faster pace. If you have the time to put in the effort to learn speed reading, it may be worth it for you. I also highly recommend Quick Study guides that give you a basic study guide for nearly any subject.

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    • TimArends profile image

      Timothy Arends 

      4 years ago from Chicago Region

      One important thing I learned is that if you pull an all nighter, yes, you can make up that sleep later on! Your body and mind will let you pay back that sleep debt, but you may need to pay a little interest on it!

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