A levels are weird things. You think you are getting the hang of it and then you come to revise and it hits you all at once… imagine running into a brick wall at full speed. When this form of panic hits a few days before the exam, people like to pull the trick of cramming. Ah cramming, the skill that all students attempt but only a handful of students truly master. Unfortunately, I am not the pro of cramming and I have to properly revise to learn something. That being said, I do think cramming has its place and does help boost your grade the night before. So this post is kind of like cramming and also how best to utilise the night before an exam.
Recently I was having a conversation with a family member who truly believes that revision the night before doesn’t matter, as if you know it you know it. I do agree to a point with some subjects but with others I think the night before the exam is crucial to being successful, and that is how this blog post was born.
Before we begin, the photos in this post are from a little walk I had a few weeks back. I really liked them, and I wasn’t sure when to include them in my blog but I was lacking photo ideas for this post… I’m bored of traditional ‘study’ photos. So these photos have no link to this blog post but I hope you like them. Explaining over and now back to the post!
There are some subjects that you just can’t cram, because there is too much detailed content and processes (economics…. I’m looking at you here). If you did turn to cramming you would end up stressing yourself out over all the details that you didn’t know and get yourself into a spiral of stress… which is not what you need the night before your final exam. Cramming definitely has its downfall, you stay up late surrounded by mindmaps and end up getting little to no sleep. You are obviously going to do worse if you turn up to the exam a walking caffeine fuelled zombie!
However, the night before the exam I will dedicate to the subject revision for at least part of the night, to make sure that I am as confident as I think I am. I will go over my mind maps and read them through, maybe looking in the textbook at some things I didn’t know, but I will not go overboard. The furthest I will go is answering some multiple choice questions but I will never do a past paper, as I find that it stresses me out and makes me think about all the little things that I don’t know, when in fact I do know them in the exam. A good nights sleep is more important and the revision could have been done a week, two weeks or even a month ago (if you start now!). That being said, don’t get too confident and do nothing. Its best to remember something that you have forgotten the night before so that you can refresh your memory, as opposed to staring at a keyword in the exam and having no recollection of what it means.
So here I am, badmouthing cramming and telling you that you shouldn’t do it. And you shouldn’t, apart from these specific cases.
Sociology is something that I just couldn’t do if it wasn’t for cramming. Obviously beforehand I will know the main themes and make sure that I do revise so it is in my long term memory, but the night before is perfect for learning case studies. I have found that in sociology there are so many case studies, and it is practically impossible for them all to be in my long term memory… so thats where the night before comes in.
For subjects like these where you need to learn very specific details then the night before is the most useful time to cram these. after all, after the exam when are you going to need to know specific studies, names and dates? You can afford for them to be in your short term memory. Before my last revision session I will have written out the key points in my mindmaps, so that I am all set up to revise. There are three main methods that I use to ‘cram’ these pieces of information, that I am going to share with you because READING ALONE DOES NOT WORK. Plus these work as revision techniques in the long term, but they are equally quick and simple enough to cram with.
Blurting- I have spoken about this before but this is my favourite method for cramming. I have a look over my mindmap, turn it over and quickly write down everything that I can remember from it. Then I turn it back over and using a different colour add anything that I have missed off. Then I wait 20 minutes and repeat, this time without reading the mindmap beforehand. I will continue doing this until I barely miss anything off the mindmap, or I don’t make any mistakes. I love this method of revision, as you don’t need anyone to help you and it is very quick but still incredibly effective. If you are a visual learner then I am sure you will feel the same.
Testing- For some subjects (such as sociology), I will hand my mindmap to a friend or family member and get them to test me on what is on the mindmap. For example asking me questions such as ‘what did Durkheim believe?’ and then I will read what is on the mindmap to the person who is testing me. This is a really good way to actually see if you know something, as when you read it you think you know it but being testing is a whole different story. I usually get my gran to test me, and I think she quite enjoys it as well because she likes helping me when she can with my schoolwork that I do at hers.
Quizlet- If you get a bus to your exam, or even if you get a lift, you need this app. You will have heard so many people go on about it, but it is so worth downloading and completely free to use as well. A couple of weeks before the exam I put all the case studies into quizlet (which is also helpful as you are typing them out and therefore revising) and then I can just click through them when I have a spare few minutes on my phone. The morning before my exam I will always click through the flashcards whilst I am getting a lift and often speak them out to myself… you look crazy but formulating sentences based on information will help you!
So that is how I feel about cramming, I think that is is very useful but only if you have worked hard prior and the night before is the cherry on top of the cake. Do utilise the night before but don’t use it to just learn two years worth of content because it won’t happen. Start now, even if you haven’t revised before as a little bit each day will help to build up your academic stamina a little before exam season. By the time you read this post there is a month before A level exam season, and thats enough time to really help yourself before you walk into that exam.