How to Study for an Exam in One Day

Updated on December 16, 2018

Whether you're cramming for a test or trying to write and essay quickly, the last few weeks of school can be scary for students of all ages. The situation becomes even more stressful when you've only got one day to study for an important exam. The good news is you that can prepare for a test in 24 hours, but you've got to be strategic about how you approach the material.

The tips in this article are designed to help you save time while you're studying you're whether you have a full day before the exam or just the night before. With some hard work and perseverance, you'll be able to confidently identify and memorize key concepts in the course even if you've fallen behind in class.

Before You Begin

Remain Calm

If you've left studying to the day before the test, it's likely that you're panicking about how you're going to get all of the work done in such a small amount of time. No matter what your circumstances are, it's absolutely important that you don't panic. Stress and anxiety will make it much harder to concentrate, memorize facts, and think critically about the exam material.

If you're feeling overly stressed, take 15 minutes before studying to clear your mind and relax. Try some yoga, listen to a favorite song, or make a quick call to a supportive friend. Just don't make it any longer than 15 minutes—set that timer and be prepared to get to work once relaxation time is over.

Gather Your Materials

Don't make the mistake of beginning a study session without the proper supplies. Take the time to find a blank notebook, some pens, the course syllabus and textbook, and your full class notes. Organize these materials neatly on a clean work surface, so that you have the freedom and space to access them when you need to.

Find a Quiet Spot

It's tempting to study with a large group of friends, especially if you're tackling a particularly hard subject. And while friends can provide some much-needed support, they're not always the best study buddies when you're pressed for time.

If you're serious about getting the work done, look for a quiet study spot away from friends, television, and other distractions. If you need to, turn your phone off, or at least set it to silent so you don't disturb other people around you. Having the peace and quiet you need to concentrate is key to studying effectively when you only have one day.

The blank page on your notebook is your invitation to plan your attack. Devise a list of the topics you need to review and how much time each will require.
The blank page on your notebook is your invitation to plan your attack. Devise a list of the topics you need to review and how much time each will require.

8 Steps to Successfully Cram for a Test

Once you've gathered your materials, taken some time to relax, and found a great study spot, it's time to get down to business. These six steps will help you study for an exam in 24 hours or less.

  1. Make a list of important terms, concepts, and ideas.
  2. Look for summaries in the textbook.
  3. Make more notes as you go.
  4. Make use of mind maps, charts, and graphs.
  5. Teach a friend.
  6. Review your important terms lists.
  7. Study out of order.
  8. Take practice tests.

1. Make a List of Important Terms/Concepts/Ideas

The first thing you need to realize is that you can't possibly study everything in the course in one day. That's simply impossible and would require way more time than you have.

Think of your study session as a type of "triage," where you only concentrate on the most important concepts, terms, and ideas in the course. The logic behind this strategy is that if a concept is very central to the course, then you will gain peripheral knowledge of other less important topics by focusing on it.

In general, you know something is important if:

  • The instructor has explicitly said it will be on the exam.
  • It has come up a lot in the textbook and/or lectures.
  • It is fundamental to understanding other topics in the course.
  • It is highlighted, underlined, or bolded in a course syllabus or textbook.

To begin looking for these terms, grab your course syllabus, a pen, and a blank notebook. Start making your way through the syllabus, jotting down any important terms in the blank notebook as you go. Another idea is to make flash cards for each key term.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you have a complete inventory of these key concepts for review. Keep this list handy so you can add more terms as you work. The idea is to make a kind of "cheat list" for you to review at the end of the studying session.

Study Tip

Set a timer that goes off every 30 minutes or every hour. This spaces out your study time so that you have breaks to look forward to. Scheduling dedicated time slots for studying also helps you stay committed to your task.

2. Look for Summaries in the Textbook

If your textbook is well-designed, it should have summaries of each section at either the beginning or the end of each chapter.

Find these summaries and study them—hard. Some professors will also provide summaries of important themes as handouts for the class.

Anything that's labeled Introduction, Conclusion, or Summary is what you want to focus on here, since these sections will synthesize information for you, making it easier to remember.

3. Make More Notes as You Go

Research shows that you learn much better if you write information down. As you study, jot down anything you want to commit to memory.

Unlike your list of key terms, this type of note-taking doesn't have to be neat. Just grab some scraps of paper and write down what you need to remember. Make sure you're writing and not typing, since typing isn't as effective for memorizing facts.

Computers and the internet can either be distractions or useful tools. Try turning the wifi off if you find yourself not being able to differentiate the two.
Computers and the internet can either be distractions or useful tools. Try turning the wifi off if you find yourself not being able to differentiate the two.

4. Make Use of Mind Maps, Charts, and Graphs

This isn't something you want to spend a lot of time doing if you're pressed for time, but taking fifteen minutes to make a quick mind map is a great way to synthesize the information you've learned.

One of the tricks to studying effectively is seeing the connections between various topics in the course. Don't make the mistake of assuming the material in Week One has no relevance to Week Seven. In fact, it's more than likely that Week Seven directly builds on concepts learned near the beginning of the course.

Try using a visual aid, like a chart, graph or mind map, to explicitly identify the connections between the course material. It'll give you a much better understanding of the concepts as a whole.

5. Teach a Friend

Another effective way of memorizing information is to pretend you're teaching it to someone else.

Once you feel reasonably comfortable with the material, meet up with a friend for an hour and present them with what you know. Encourage them to ask questions about the material so you'll be forced to re-explain concepts or think more critically about the subject.

It sounds hard, but teaching someone who knows less about a topic than you do is a great way to cement what you already know.

Remember

Having a good friend assist you with your studies is great, but you should consider hosting a session with a peer from class as well. They might be able to clarify concepts that you did not fully understand or present ideas in a new light.

6. Study Out of Order

It is easy to second-guess this tip, but it can be a effective technique for learning new material if done correctly. Our brains don't always work in a perfect, and we are no different. After thoroughly reviewing your notes in order, randomly go back and read them in no particular order. You will be training your brain to remember the information on its own, instead as a part of a series. If chronology is relevant to the subject, like history, then be mindful of noting chronology, but still change the order in which you study.

7. Review Your Important Terms List

Remember the list of terms you made at the beginning of the study session? It's now time to review it and make sure you understand everything on the list.

For each term, try saying a complete definition out loud. If you can't remember a term, put an asterisk next to it and move on to the next one.

By the end of this exercise, you should feel pretty confident about many of the terms, and not so confident about the ones with asterisks. Take 30 minutes or so to refresh your memory on the trickier terms, then quiz yourself again.

Index cards make great flash cards for important concepts and terms.
Index cards make great flash cards for important concepts and terms. | Source

8. Take Practice Tests

Although you can not always emulate the high-pressure test-taking environment outside of the classroom, practice exams are a great tools for building stamina, testing your knowledge, and putting everything you learned together. If you happen to encounter the unexpected during the course of your practice exam, you will be that much more prepared when the time comes to do the real thing.

Does Cramming for an Exam Work?

Cramming for the sake of passing a test in the short-term makes sense. However, when it comes to really learning a new subject, cramming is one of the most ineffective measures of doing so. At its core, cramming induces the stress responses of students rendering it even harder for them to gain a deeper understanding of the material. A UCLA research team performed a study that concluded that sacrificing sleep for an intense cramming study session is actually counter-productive.

Spaced Out Learning

It should go on record that the best way for you to make meaningful connections with the material is to engage with it over an extended period of time. Spaced out learning is the opposite of cramming. Instead of trying to learn in an intense period right before the exam, spread out your engagement with the material over a reasonable timeframe to give yourself the best chance to succeed. Do this by following these tips:

  • Start Planning Early
  • Set Aside Time Each Day to Study
  • Read Slowly
  • Get a Good Night's Sleep
  • Stay Organized
  • Study in Shorter Sessions

It pays to slow down and be efficient while getting to know the information. Your future learning endeavors will be anchored on what you are learning now. Cramming allows you to learn "quicker," but that usually means forgetting the information quickly as well. Learn to study smart, and not hard.

How Did You End Up on a Cramming Schedule?

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    • profile image

      Niko 

      3 weeks ago

      Veryyyyy good. But can u help us? I dont know maybe let us to write our problems and then u anwser?

    • profile image

      unknown 

      5 weeks ago

      well i have maths and ict exam on same day but believe me it helped me alot in just one day :)

    • profile image

      I follo 

      5 weeks ago

      I follow and see what happen after result...

    • profile image

      Eva 

      2 months ago

      Well! My exam starts tommorrow and i still half of the book to cover

    • profile image

      Nweze Ayinachiso 

      3 months ago

      Very calming and helpful

    • profile image

      Mkanya 

      4 months ago

      Delighted with point number5 well understood i think i will apply that

    • profile image

      Shiv 

      4 months ago

      Super o ranga

    • profile image

      @emmy 

      4 months ago

      thanks for the tips

    • profile image

      Natasha 

      4 months ago

      I normally panic when my exam days are near but now with these tips u have shared, i will not panic anymore

    • profile image

      Nishali Pathirana 

      4 months ago

      Thank you for providing such kind of tips for the students as well as for others who struggle to get a pass in the final moment........I'll try my best to do by making the fullest effort. Tomorrow is the day.

    • profile image

      Tarun bhagwani 

      4 months ago

      Can you give me sanskrit lesson because tomorrow is a exam

    • profile image

      quotera 

      4 months ago

      hey want to to stay motivated during your exam time

      then check out out

      https://quotera.in/

    • profile image

      manish mehta 

      4 months ago

      Studying is tough. Whether you’re a veteran student getting a Ph.D. or someone starting high school, figuring out how to stay focused while studying is a challenge that we all face. Whether your biggest challenge is social media, procrastination, time management, or a combination of all three, we’ve got a variety of tools and techniques that can help minimize the stress of studying and keep you focused on what matters.

      How to stay focused while studying, a guide:

      http://menwithquote.com/how-to-focus-on-studies-du...

    • profile image

      Shreya 

      5 months ago

      I have my exam day after tomorrow. I will try this technique. I think it will work. Hope so. Thank you for this....

    • profile image

      nyasha 

      5 months ago

      very helpful indeed we should try to avoid cramming when our exams are near

    • profile image

      Dipak Jha 

      5 months ago

      Thanks for sharing this article. i am a student of class 10. i was searching for home tuition classes like https://www.gurusiksha.com/ . then i found this blog. these tips will definitely help me in my math exam pureparation.

    • profile image

      Dipak Jha 

      5 months ago

      Thanks for sharing this article. i am a student of class 12. i was searching for home tuition classes like https://www.gurusiksha.com/. then i found this blog. these tips will definitely help me in my math exam pureparation.

    • profile image

      RUMBIE 

      5 months ago

      Perfect... Thank you

    • profile image

      malcom 

      5 months ago

      Cant wait to try it ,hope it works

    • profile image

      erial 

      5 months ago

      very helpful thanks

    • profile image

      Samantha 

      5 months ago

      My exam is not tomorrow but am so scared and l am hoping this will work since l never thought l can pass in one day

    • profile image

      Patience 

      5 months ago

      Very informative, thank you very much. My examinations are not tomorrow but I will definitely follow the steps.

    • profile image

      beki 

      5 months ago

      I'm very happy thank you.

    • profile image

      IAmMe 

      5 months ago

      i'm doomed

    • profile image

      wills 

      5 months ago

      am excited about cramming on the last day as it is my way of studying

    • profile image

      Natasha 

      5 months ago

      Great steps to follow, will also try using them

    • profile image

      Jeya 

      6 months ago

      Good concepts to follow. I will try my best ☺

    • profile image

      D€ß0 

      6 months ago

      Thank you!!... I hope it helps... :D

    • profile image

      Vinie issac 

      7 months ago

      Loved the 6 step

      Finally gonna start it from today

    • profile image

      TRAZ 

      7 months ago

      lol my exam is tomorrow and i haven't revised at all and i'm in deep shit rn bcos my parents and head of progress in my school are gonna skin me alive, love that for me

    • profile image

      Kate 

      7 months ago

      It helped a lot.

    • profile image

      Narley 

      8 months ago

      Well, my exam isn't tomorrow.....

      But thanks anyway!

    • profile image

      kunda 

      8 months ago

      tmol am sitting for a history test and am pretty sure that its gonna work

    • profile image

      Harley 

      8 months ago

      it worked

    • profile image

      nasrin sultana 

      8 months ago

      it's perfect

    • profile image

      James 

      8 months ago

      Thank you

    • profile image

      eela 

      9 months ago

      I'm a grade 10 CBSE student, and this isn't helpful in any way.

    • profile image

      nyarie 

      9 months ago

      Hmm i like step 5 .

    • profile image

      Avantika 

      10 months ago

      Thank u so much

    • profile image

      Unknown 

      10 months ago

      Tomorrow I have my final chemistry test and I dint learn a single word sooo will this work???

    • profile image

      BELLA 

      10 months ago

      NOT BAD

    • profile image

      wills katsvairo 

      10 months ago

      it boosted my confidence wills

    • profile image

      nyarie 

      10 months ago

      my exams are due october im going to use these 6 steps for my studies. thank u so much sir.

    • profile image

      florence 

      10 months ago

      good concepts to follow

    • profile image

      NITHRA 

      10 months ago

      better.

    • profile image

      kritika 

      10 months ago

      Thank u so much sir really Inspiring

    • profile image

      bezz 

      11 months ago

      wish it work,just a little more courage and more confident in my self.hope you past your test

      me:bezz

    • profile image

      nyarie 

      11 months ago

      this article is so educative

    • profile image

      Sivashsnmugam R 

      11 months ago

      Good ideas thank you

    • profile image

      Sai 

      11 months ago

      I will try my best.

    • profile image

      Sai 

      11 months ago

      I am sorry to say this that I is not going to work for me because I had not learned first properly and sat is very irritating subject and tomorrow is my sat exam and I will try my best.

      Thank you for such a long information.

    • profile image

      Sai 

      11 months ago

      I did not have that much time to prepare

    • profile image

      BRIGHT STARS 

      12 months ago

      I will be sitting for waec in less than ten months and am really curious what its like,so i want to start studying now.i pray it work.

    • profile image

      nokuthula 

      12 months ago

      I have an exam in 5 weeks time. thank you so much for this post.. i am pretty confident that it will help me.

    • profile image

      Deepak Sharma 

      13 months ago

      I don't know if it will work but i'll try them becoz I feel pretty confident about them

    • profile image

      Sofi 

      13 months ago

      My English exam will be tomorrow but I'm afraid of a bad result. Well, I can speak English well, but I don't understand how to do tests. That's my problem

    • profile image

      Tom 

      13 months ago

      My finals are tomorrow and the next two days after it so rip

    • profile image

      procrastinationstation 

      13 months ago

      I've set myself up for ultimate failure. I have an exam Tuesday evening and have not studied. I have 2 other exams coming up also; and have not studied for those either. I have definitely come to terms in accepting my failure - and have excused myself. lol. well... there's always next semester??? :P

    • profile image

      go for exams 

      14 months ago

      Good to know these things.

    • profile image

      tabish 

      14 months ago

      that s good

    • profile image

      Jayaram 

      14 months ago

      I want to study genetics in 11 hours

    • profile image

      Kud@ 

      14 months ago

      really helpful and I think you need to have read and study before

    • profile image

      Nyasha 

      14 months ago

      How do manage your study time guys when you preparing for an exam which will be in the next morning, am failing to keep up with time

    • profile image

      Mimi Marova 

      14 months ago

      I find it very helpful being alone in a quiet place coupled with teaching a friend it sticks.Thank you very much.

    • profile image

      neven 

      15 months ago

      I'm really scared but I'm afraid because they'll cut me off for my low marks

    • profile image

      tinashley 

      15 months ago

      True Noster when you do something acting or presenting it to someone else it easy to master and will never get out of your head

    • profile image

      maedelyn 

      15 months ago

      thank you its helping. really liked it

    • profile image

      Noster 

      15 months ago

      I am in love with step no. 5

    • profile image

      Noster 

      15 months ago

      I like the technique no. 5

    • profile image

      RIT Tiger 

      15 months ago

      Mechanics of programming exam and SQL exam 1.5 hours apart with philosophy in between. time to study for both for 9 hours and then skip philosophy ! RIT CS program is rough......

    • profile image

      divyansh author of the problem 

      15 months ago

      I aced the exam. I had already prepared all the material. i was just asking so that i could revise one day before my exam.

    • profile image

      Ashley Marufu 

      16 months ago

      But you should have read the stuff,

    • profile image

      Unaninamous 

      16 months ago

      Fatima, if you can go to library, go there. Or you can lock up yourself in your room and put on headphones. Nevertheles don't suicide please. Even if you fail your exam, it doesn't mean you are finished or fail for the rest of your life. Maybe you have specialties not related to study. I sometimes feel the same like you but exam is not everything and exam is not your life. So don't

    • profile image

      Fatima 

      16 months ago

      It says that find a quiet place but there is no quiet place in my house ...what should i do .....i'm gonna sucide if i'm unable to pass the exam tomorrow

    • profile image

      gowtham 

      16 months ago

      i dont know hindi i cant prepare in 1 day. i hate it.

    • profile image

      Aarthi 

      16 months ago

      its good i like it

    • profile image

      d j 

      16 months ago

      Very nice and good

    • profile image

      Ushaarvind 

      16 months ago

      Now a days more than the kids, parents are panic about the exams. I wish to add some more points in this blog. First try to finish smaller chapter. Refer previous year question paper and try to solve 50% of it. Try to write down some important points to refer before the exam time. Have healthy food and enough sleep.

    • profile image

      unknown 

      16 months ago

      I hated it

    • profile image

      DJ Ari 

      16 months ago

      Its just that I'm scared. I have a Social Studies exam tomorrow and I'm studying really hard. Social is a lot so as I'm reading my brain is begging for a break but I'm saying no. Hope I pass, and so do y'all

    • profile image

      T. Y 

      16 months ago

      I want to write my first external exam and I have not tried it but i hope it will give me a positive results I will give u a comment on how it went thank u

    • profile image

      sfergr 

      16 months ago

      I have an exam tmmrw and im gonna study hard to succeed unlike some people i care about my grades

    • profile image

      non of your bezzwax 

      16 months ago

      I am lazy that's the problem

    • profile image

      nobody 

      16 months ago

      good one

    • profile image

      Nocturnal 

      16 months ago

      That moment when you have midterms this week

    • profile image

      jkl; 

      17 months ago

      i will pass

    • profile image

      Ag 

      17 months ago

      Today is my science exam; A little stress released

    • profile image

      divyansh shivashok 

      17 months ago

      day after tomorrow is my SST exam and i am feeling super confident right now. i am gonna CRACK the exam!!! wish me luck so that i can get good grades in my finals. thanks a lot.

    • profile image

      Mohi tripathi 

      17 months ago

      Very good i will surely try it

    • profile image

      Amaim 

      17 months ago

      This article really made me feel relaxed. Tommorow is my bio preboard paper and time is afternoon 3:35. I hope that my paper will be the best because I am going to try these tricks.

    • profile image

      anushka 

      17 months ago

      Cool idea

    • profile image

      Ananya 

      19 months ago

      Gosh!!yeah I have wasted a lot of time before and there is only one thing repenting.

      Thanks for the tip....hope it does work...I'm freaking out three days left for 9chapters..

    • profile image

      Boanerge Raj 

      19 months ago

      Thanks for helping to study .I will obay the points now on

    • profile image

      ann 

      19 months ago

      please change the topics

      we want to throw awy the exam stress when exam is tommorrow

    • profile image

      imfailing 

      19 months ago

      i have 9 finals beginning in 2 days and im a senior, which means im gonna cram a bunch of info in my brain. i havent studied that much but im hoping for the best. thanks for the tips

    • profile image

      jopie 

      20 months ago

      maths exam tomorrow but i got a lot of help from here.

    • profile image

      Joe 

      20 months ago

      THIS HELPED ALOT!

    • profile image

      claud 

      20 months ago

      English essay tomorrow, have not even studied.

      AHHHHHHH

      this was very helpful

    • profile image

      Eliza 

      20 months ago

      History exam tomorrow and haven't even started yet. Thanks for the help though...

    • profile image

      Soumya Das 

      20 months ago

      Very effective

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