Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles This episode is supported by Great Courses Plus. Cramming isn't the ideal way to study for an exam, but you're here. You've come to this video likely with an exam tomorrow or...in a few hours. So, let's focus on what you can do to optimize your time. How do you effectively cram for your exam? You might not be able to learn a lot but you can store a bunch of information into your short-term memory. Try using the ancient technique of the Memory Palace. Dated back as far as 80 B.C., this technique involves associating ideas you want to memorize with memorable places like your home. One study had medical students create Memory Palaces to help them remember the actions of insulin. In this example, you might store glycosis in your living room and ketogenesis in the kitchen. Then you can mentally travel through your house to recall each room. Those who create memory palaces perform significantly better on tests than those who don't. And the reasons for this is that our visual and spatial memory is quite strong and connecting information to those already existing memories proves extremely effective. You should also use mnemonic devices wherever possible. Trying to memorize the Kreb's Cycle? Take the beginning of each product, and make a sentence out of it! "Can I keep singing songs for my Oscars?'' You can also create rhymes or songs. This method has been proven in several studies as a way of committing information to memory. And the weirder you make them, the better! Now, does your exam prep include rereading your notes and text book? You're not alone - but you should cut it out! A study had participants read an educational text. One group was then instructed to reread the text a second time where the other group only read it once. They were then tested through multiple choice, short-answer questions, and text summaries to gauge their ability to retain the information. The experimenters found no significant differences in performance between the two groups, suggesting that rereading provides no clear benefit. And while we know exams are stressful, put some energy into de-stressing while studying and during your exam. Stress causes your body to release adrenaline, increases your heart rate, and can make you sweat. And about 20 minutes after feeling stressed, your body undergoes a delayed stress response, releasing the hormone cortisol. Cortisol attaches to receptors on the hippocampus, which is a seahorse shaped region of your brain that is part of the limbic system. And it's the hippocampus that's responsible for turning short-term memories into long-term memories. But when cortisol binds to the hippocampus, it impairs retrieval of memory. Therefore if you are stressed, you will have a more difficult time recalling information during an exam. So take some deep breaths! But just "turning off" stress is easier said than done. That's why you need a study technique that is stress proof. Scientists recommend testing yourself! Practice tests are not only a scientifically-supported means of improving memory recall, but they stand up to stressful situations. Scientists found that when individuals used practice tests and were put into a stressful situation, they performed as well on tests as those who didn't have any stress stimulus. FMRI studies have also found that practice tests increased the hippocampus ability to connect to other regions of the brain. So even though cortisol may impair some pathways, studying with practice tests creates new paths to route around blockages. Feeling distracted? Try a mini workout! Studies show that those who've worked out for 15 minutes and then complete a memory task complete tasks significantly faster than those that haven't exercised. Even a simple walk can make a difference. But you also need to take a minute and think about the way that you personally study best! Metacognition is the analysis of one's own learning or thinking processes. Studies have found that students who have poor metacognitive skills, meaning they lack awareness of assessing their own strengths and weaknesses, perform worse on tests. So look inward on ways you have been effective before and implement those strategies. If you know that studying solo works best for you, skip out on the cramming session with your classmates. It is crunch time after all! There's also one other really important distinction to make: are you cramming late into the night because you know very very little about the topic for your upcoming exam? Or are you hoping to perfect an already strong base of knowledge? If you've already studied, GO TO SLEEP! There is more than a century's worth of research concluding that sleep is essential for memory retention. But if you really only can spare a few minutes to sleep, consider rocking. That's right. A recent study found that participants who slept on a bed engineered to gently rock were able to fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and perform better on memory tests the next morning. So rockabye baby really works! Of course, if you want to avoid cramming next time and get ahead, or even just learn something completely new, be sure check out our sponsor The Great Courses Plus, which is a subscription on-demand video learning service with lectures and courses from top professors from around the world! Looking for more tips to get the most out of your mind? We would recommend "Optimizing Brain Fitness" taught by Professor Richard Restak, which includes 12 lectures, including how to feed your brain, enhance your working memory and practice for peak performance. With a library of over 11,000 video lectures about anything that interests you... science, math, history, literature, or even how to cook, play chess, or become a better photographer, it's an amazing service. 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