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Sleep vs. Cramming

  1. Sep 19, 2013 #1
    Suppose you had a test in 6 hours and you are not prepared for it in the least, it would take you 6 hours to make it through each topic in enough detail to learn the material under normal circumstances. Or it would take you ~4.5 hours to briefly review each topic enough to be familiar with it, leaving you ~1.5 hours to rest your brain and perhaps take a nap.

    I've heard, I can't remember where, that the you would likely do better on your test with the second strategy. Assuming this is true, which I tend to think it is, based on limited experience with long study sessions, what is going on biologically that makes you better able to recall the new information more effectively?

    First instinct would follow the same process of thought in this thread concerning "why we sleep": https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=710628
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2013 #2
  4. Sep 25, 2013 #3
    Learning and memory is often described in terms of three processes namely "Acquisition" the introduction of new info to the brain, "Consolidation" integration of info in the brain that makes a stable and accessible memory, and finally "Recall" ability to access memory consciously or sub-consciously.

    Imo, the second cramming strategy is more effective because of the short nap which gives opportunity for the brain to consolidate and also to get rid of the accumulated adenosine in the brain which slow down brain activity. Caffeine is antagonist of adenosine, drinking a cup of coffee when you woke up I think will take care of the remaining adenosine in the brain making you alert and ready for the exam.

    Imo, review would be easy if you facilitated the stages of the learning process. Being attentive during lectures facilitates Acquisition, paraphrased lecture notes with your own vocabulary facilitates Consolidation, and mnemonics facilitates Recall. And most of all curiosity facilitates learning.
  5. Sep 27, 2013 #4
    I also agree, the second session would be better than the first. Giving your brain that extra 1.5 hours of rest is a good thing, compared to 6 straight hours of cramming. Not to mention a nice break. ::tongue::

    Then again, who would cram the day of an exam? I think that's personally a bad habit people tend to have, I've done it multiple times, but I've come to learn otherwise. (Hint, hint.)

    I actually find it easier to study in little sessions a day. If I have an exam coming up in one week, then I'll spend a few hours working on problems, concepts, and going over previous homework per day. Then I'll spend the weekend skimming over stuff to make sure I got it down. When it comes the day of the exam, I usually just quickly skim my notes and then do other homework that day or something; then test time.

    I'm not sure why I posted all of that, but yeah the second option would be better, in my opinion anyway. I'm sure someone could back the first option up though.
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