How not to burn the midnight oil the night before a big examination


With matriculants and students in the final stages of their final exam prep, learners and teachers alike are hard at work in preparation. However, students learn in many various ways, and many of the traditional methods they follow are often ineffective as they do not help them retain the knowledge over a longer term.

Most students try to cram as much information as possible into their brains in the few hours prior to the exam. The knowledge is temporarily stored in their short-term memory where most of it can be recalled during the examination. This may work well with subjects where facts can be learned and recited on request. However, students should be encouraged to adapt their studying methods so that new knowledge learned can be stored in long-term memory instead – a long-term solution that will help in the future when it is exam time again, and they only must revise the information, instead of burning the midnight oil again the night before the examination in a desperate attempt to retain information that should have been stored in the memory earlier in the year.

Crammed learning vs spaced learning
Crammed learning is when students work hard to absorb large volumes of information over short periods of time – typically before an exam, for example. Spread learning, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. Various studies have shown that learning that goes beyond the classroom, that includes contextualised and real-world connections and is formed by using research and information sharing, remains with the learning for longer periods of time. The information is not stored in short-term memory as in the case of crammed learning but can be held indefinitely.

The use of flash cards
Over the course of an examination period, a student must remember a vast array of information over a variety of subjects. Crammed learning may be a short-term solution when a student must narrate certain facts learned, but to remember a lot of information over various subjects effectively, flashcards may be one learning tool that students can use.

Used in the classroom or during self-study, flashcards can be used to test facts over many different subjects. Questions, numbers or any facts can be written down on one side while the answer is displayed on the other side and this has been proven to increase long-term memory. The use of flashcards is not a new method of studying but is perhaps one of the most effective studying tools.

Further, the process of interleaving – where different facts and subjects are mixed together – has been shown to boost effective learning and long-term memory, as it trains the brain to retain
knowledge from many different subjects and ensures that students deviate from “parrot learning”.

To teach students facts or subjects is one thing. To teach them to study – and more important to study correctly – is crucial in today’s classroom.

You might also want to read this article on helping students see the bigger picture