Too many students fall into the trap of waiting until the night before an exam to cram the material. Between ineffective revision methods, stress, and sleep deprivation, cramming often nets marginal results at best. When it comes to the science behind learning, spacing your revision time is far more effective.
What is Spacing?
Spaced practice is essentially the direct opposite of cramming for an exam. Instead of waiting until the night before and revising for long hours, students should engage in short periods of revision spread out of a longer period of time. Using spacing, students can achieve more progress and confidence in the same amount of study time compared to the typical results of cramming. Plus, spacing tends to store the information for longer periods, while cramming is more of a short-term solution.
Time Commitment Challenges of Spacing Revision
The problem that many students face when it comes to revision is that they fail to allocate time and plan appropriately. Spacing revision takes planning and dedication. There are dozens of activities that are more interesting to do, and it is easy to put off twenty minutes of revision. But skipping sessions hurts the overall goal and leads to developing poor behaviors. Students should practice diligence in their revision.
What to Revise and When
Since most students are in the habit of cramming before exams, it can feel completely foreign to spend time every single day revising. Many might not even know where to start. We recommend focusing on revising the material from class one to two days after the class and again one week after the class. This can help you set up a schedule to stay on top of your revisions. Spacing the revision by one or two days is more effective than reviewing the material immediately after class. In other words, give your brain some time to sit with new information before you try to test yourself on what you have learned.
But don’t stay narrowly focused on new material. If you spend twenty minutes each day, at least half of your time should be spent revising older material and continuously assessing your strengths and weaknesses. And remember, it is completely normal to forget some of the information that you learn each day. The way that our brains work with spaced learning is that you are constantly reorganizing the information in your brain. The more time you spend with specific content, the longer it sticks around.
Use the Right Study Resources
Reviewing notes, memorizing formulas, and working practice questions are a great place to start your revision. While you will be allowed to reference an official formula book during the exam, you will need to be very familiar with the formulas before test day. Use the practice questions to identify your weaknesses, and then seek out supplemental instruction videos and guided practices based on your learning needs.
Summing Up the Importance of Spacing Learning
Despite the commonality of cramming, it is a terrible way to prepare for your exams. Cramming is ineffective, time-consuming, and sleep-depriving. Good students will learn the discipline to space their revision throughout the semester, allocating smaller blocks of time to regular revision. These spacing habits will solidify learning and help students build solid foundations for future learning.