Cramming doesn’t work

Cramming doesn’t work

Cramming is one of the most popular study strategies among students, but it is not very effective for remembering information over the long run. Cramming (or massed practice) can be effective for the very short term (e.g., if you want to memorize a phone number so that you can call it in a couple minutes), but this is not real learning because the information is not going to stay with you. A relevant finding in the memory literature is the spacing effect – it refers to the finding that we retain information better over the long run when we space out repeated study sessions.

Essentially, it is the opposite of cramming, where the same information is studied repeatedly within a very narrow or short time window. Here is a concrete example – if you had 20 hours to prepare for a test over the span of three weeks, past research tells us that you would be better off breaking up those 20 hours into multiple study sessions that are spread out throughout the three weeks (e.g., about an hour each day) as opposed to cramming all 20 hours of studying within the last two days before the test.

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