Cramming: Time and Long Term Memory

Universal Vice: Cramming “Whoops! It’s the night before the big exam, and you haven’t done a lick of studying all semester. Looking back on it, you know that you should have been hitting the books all those nights you were watching television, but there’s nothing you can do about it now. Don’t throw in the towel yet, though–it’s time to get cramming. ” How often do you do this? Most common among high school and college-aged students, cramming is often used as a means of memorizing and the practice of working intensively to absorb large volumes of informational material in short amounts of time.
It is a widely-used study skill performed in preparation of an examination or other performance-based assessment. Best stated by H. E. Gorst in his book, The Curse of Education, “as long as education is synonymous with cramming on an organized plan, it will continue to produce mediocrity. ” Students are often forced to cram after improper time utilization or in efforts to understand information shortly before being tested. Improper time management is usually the cause for last-minute cramming sessions, and many study techniques have been developed to help students succeed in lieu of cramming.
Generally considered as a negative study technique, cramming is becoming more and more common among students at the secondary and post-secondary level, not mentioning those who are as young as five years old. Pressure to perform well in the classroom and to engage in extracurricular activities in addition to other responsibilities often results in this kind of study habit, cramming. According to W. G. Sommer, “students in a university system often adapt to the time-constraints that are placed upon them in college, and often use cramming to perform well on tests”.

In his article, Procrastination and Cramming: How Adept Students Ace the System, he states, “Many students outwardly adapt to this system, however, engage in an intense and private ritual that comprises five aspects: calculated procrastination, preparatory anxiety, climactic cramming, nick-of-time deadline-making, and a secret, if often uncelebrated, victory. These adept students often find it difficult to admit others into their efficient program of academic survival. ” Students have crammed for decades. What most of us don’t know is how many use this study strategy.
The lit review in the article references a collection of studies that puts the percentage somewhere between 25 and 50. In this research sample, 45 percent were on the agree side of a scale that measured the extent of cramming. These are some of the very pragmatic questions explored empirically by the researchers: How widespread is cramming among students? Do students think cramming is an effective study strategy? Does cramming work, as in how does it affect course grades? And the really bottom line questions: How effective is cramming in the long run?
What’s the impact on learning and retention? Czarina Isabel F. de Leon, a freshman college student of University of the Philippines – Diliman states, “I believe that many students cram all the time. Maybe, this is due to lack of knowledge with regards to time management and discipline. But honestly speaking, I can say that cramming helps me in some way. I don’t know if it’s just me who feels that cramming stimulates my brain cells more. It seems like I am able to formulate more ideas and to absorb more information whenever I cram for some of my school works and tests.
In spite of this, I don’t think that cramming has affected my grades that much because there are so many factors that can influence class marks. If I were to choose from cramming and not cramming, I would definitely choose the latter. This is because I know for a fact that if I wouldn’t cram, I’m sure that my work is clearly done and not just scrapped from somewhere. I do believe that cramming produces risky works, in such a way that a person who crams is not sure whether he did his job well or not. Perhaps the question that most needs addressing is this one: How come some exams can be mastered so successfully by students who’ve prepared by cramming? You might think it’s just a problem with multiple-choice exams. Not so. In this study and others, the amount of cramming students reported was not a function of exam type. Are teachers testing too much recall on their exams? It might be interesting to go through an exam and see how many questions can be answered with material you could memorize but not understand at all or well.
Cramming is often discouraged by educators because the hurried coverage of material tends to result in poor long-term retention of material. In a 2007 study conducted by University of South Florida psychologist Doug Rohrer, it was determined that last minute studying reduces retention of material and may hinder the learning process in the long term. There is a biological reason for this. The problem is that cramming information places it into our brains in short term storage. This is where you put everyday information that is not really worth remembering.
In order to learn we have to transfer information into long term memory. Once there, you can retrieve it far easier over a longer period of time. All information are processed in the brain and stored in short term memory. The problem is that these information sort of overloads the brain and are not kept for very long. Can you remember every single event that happened to you in a given day? Think of the literal thousands of bits of information you are exposed to every day. It’s not necessary to remember it all, so the brain dumps it after a time.
Can you remember what you had for breakfast the day before yesterday? What shirt you wore? How much lunch cost? How many steps there are in preparing for exams? No. What makes you think you will remember some factoid from class that you never heard of before? Sure you may remember it for a day or two, but that’s it. Only when you make an effort to remember something repeatedly do you transfer that information into the other kind of memory, long term memory. Cramming fails because you’re relying on short term memory.
In spite of these facts, cramming will always be an option for those who need to accomplish a large amount of task in a short period of time. Like any other vices, cramming can be very addictive and may supply us what we need for now, but we may not benefit from it for a long period of time. Since it is continuously done by most of us nowadays, not only by students but also by some adults as well, avoiding it will be very difficult for all of us. It’s like a universal vice that most of us used to live with and it can be applicable for everyone.
Cramming is a vice that will forever be present in this world – it may be lessened but will never be eradicated, especially for students like me. “While cramming probably won’t get you an “A,” it can definitely save you from an “F. ” So suck it up and get ready for a long, hard night. And vow to be a better student from now on. ” Works Cited: “Cramming (education) -. ” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. . Pangilinan, Candy. “Candidly » Cramming and homecoming. ” PEP. ph: The Number One Site for Philippine Showbiz | Home. 2 Dec. 2007. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. . “How to Cram for a Test – wikiHow. ” WikiHow – The How-to Manual That You Can Edit. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. . Weimer, Maryellen. “Key Questions about Cramming «. ” Teaching Professor. 02 Dec. 2008. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. . “Cramming – Definition of cramming at YourDictionary. com. ” Dictionary Definitions, Sentence Examples, Synonyms and More. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. . “Cram – Definition of cram verb (LEARN) from Cambridge Dictionary Online: Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus. Cambridge Dictionary Online: Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus – Cambridge University Press – Cambridge Dictionaries Online – Cambridge University Press. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. . Handy, Edna Wells. “Why Students Fail. ” Autoredirect to main site. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. . “The dangers of cramming for exams. ” PSU BMB. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. . Weinberg, Tamar. “How to Cram for Exams – How To – Lifehacker. ” Lifehacker, tips and downloads for getting things done. 02 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. . de Leon, Czarina Isabel . Personal Interview. 14 October 2009.

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