Strategies to avoid “binge” studying before an exam


Often, when we approach a new course, we focus on the assessment model and the strategies to pass, leaving in the background what knowledge it will provide us. When we focus on the result, that is, on getting a pass or getting a good grade, we can deal with it in two different ways : study progressively, continuously, or study at the last moment.

Right from the start: the organized student

Studying continuously has a positive impact on academic performance and long-term learning. Obviously, it requires time and dedication, and allows you to apply some effective learning strategies that would not otherwise be possible.

Some of the effective strategies are interacting with the teacher or peers to facilitate the learning process, getting involved in gamified activities to increase interest in the content, writing the information in your own words, practicing with similar exercises, studying aloud or applying mnemonic techniques. .

Room for maneuver

In addition, studying continuously allows better monitoring by the teacher, or (if used) an artificial intelligence system to alert the student that the learning strategy is not correct and that they are at risk of dropping out to have a margin. maneuver to improve their behavior or strategy.

In this area, it is important to highlight the potential of artificial intelligence to strengthen student learning following the UNESCO recommendations in the 2019 Beijing Consensus on Artificial Intelligence and Education.

In the nick of time: the binge student

Students studying at the last minute often use strategies such as focus on studying, summarizing and simplifying, practicing past questions, studying in last-minute groups, and using online materials (although these strategies can also be used by organized students).

These types of students have the advantage that time pressure can make them concentrate more and focus on the essentials. However, there are also disadvantages, since it can generate stress and anxiety, and a lack of deep, consolidated and lasting understanding.

On the other hand, there are studies that affirm that there is a relationship between procrastination and academic performance.

The importance of sleep and the type of exam

So what is the best way to optimize performance for an exam? The key is planning, organizing and studying continuously, instead of binge studying.

Some studies suggest that sleep favors the consolidation of learning, which is popularly known as “lesson asleep, lesson learned.”

It must also be considered that study strategies vary depending on the type of exam: multiple choice, memory writing, problem solving, practical or oral. Study strategies also vary according to the type of student since some people find some techniques more effective than others.

Beyond the result

But in addition to performance on an exam, long-term learning is also important. A technique that favors long-term learning is spacing in time to avoid cognitive overload .

Cognitive overload occurs when we receive a lot of information in a very short time and our brain is overwhelmed. To avoid cognitive overload, techniques such as the pomodoro can be applied, created by Francesco Cirillo at the end of 1980. This technique consists of working during blocks of time separated by pauses.

Another technique to promote long-term learning is active learning. It involves carrying out a practical activity.

As the Chinese proverb recalls: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”, through listening, observation and action, students can build a fuller and deeper understanding of the concepts they are learning. Active learning implies experiential learning that allows the acquisition of useful skills that are difficult to forget.

Self appraisal

To discover which study techniques are most useful, you can resort to self-assessment (take personal preferences into account), experimentation (see which techniques are most effective), learning style tests or memory tests.

Some examples of learning style tests are those of Honey and Mumford (who identified four basic styles as activist, reflector, theorist, and pragmatist) and Felder–Silverman (learning styles are a balance between pairs of extremes such as active/reflexive, sensory/intuitive, verbal/visual, and sequential/global). Regarding memory tests, you can evaluate remembering words, numbers or images.

Dont leave for tomorrow…

Neither study binge nor sleep deprivation are recommended strategies; cognitive overload can have negative effects on memory and performance in the short and long term, and especially when applying knowledge in the future. Therefore, constant study is recommended, and maintain a balance between study and rest.

By experimenting with different strategies, students will increase their ability to retain and apply knowledge, improve their academic performance, and enjoy the joy of learning. As Confucius said:

Author Bios: Laia Subirats is an Adjunct associate and David Baneres is an Assistant Researcher both at UOC – Open University of Catalonia