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Playing Your ‘A’ Game: How to CRAM your Way to Academic Success
Professional athletes recognize the importance of being at their best. They understand that their individual performance has a direct impact on their team and the organization. If they are at their best or playing their “A” Game, competitors and observers will notice. It is in these times that they seem unstoppable. In addition to athletics, this peak performance area can also be experienced in other areas of life; in business, in relationships, in leadership, and especially in the field of academics.
All student leaders want to be on top; however, his work habits and level of discipline do not always support his scholastic desires. What is it that causes one student to do poorly, and another to play their “A” game all year? Today It’s my goal to show you how “CRAMMING” can lead you to play your “A” Game.
Now you’re probably wondering, “Wow, can I really cram my way to a 4.0?” “I thought cramming was unhealthy and unsuccessful?” Each of your thoughts is valid, however, I want to bring more value to your life as a student and leader by propelling you to a higher level of thinking.
Before we investigate this aspect of cramming, we know that students across America are getting too little sleep. Classes, social activities, leadership roles, and part-time or sometimes full-time jobs receive more attention than sleep. As the end of the semester or exams approaches, sleep deprivation becomes more apparent. This now puts students in a situation “Do or Die. Failing the exams could mean more years in university, or even flunking out – so the need for cramming.
There are a few good reasons to accompany the exams. The first is that it doesn’t work, and the second reason is that it doesn’t work at the last minute. However, if cramming is used at the right time, it can yield great results. Let me clarify this with an example from my college life.
As a Chemistry major at Norfolk State University, during my first year, I made some immature academic decisions. I was a PP – a Professional Procrastinator. I will wait until the last minute to do everything! I waited until the last minute to study notes, prepare tests, and work on assignments and reports. I procrastinated so much that I went to the cafeteria for dinner right before closing. This last-minute lifestyle has forced me to have many “cram sessions” and pull “all-nighters.”
As a new university student on a scholarship, I realized that in order to keep my scholarship and graduate with honors my (poor) study habits and (lack of) time management had to change. This became more apparent when I took my class exams with headaches and body aches. During most of the tests I felt sluggish and crappy. I also felt like I had a serious hangover, and I really did – a hangover from the previous night of cramming, drinking bottles of root beer, eating candy bars and greasy pizza all to try to stay awake to focus.
Studies and reports have shown that “cramming” or “last-minute cramming” (as I call it) will cause the under. If you are a consistent crammer, you may witness the following effects.
o Your anxiety level will increase tremendously
o You will lose sleep and eat badly because of it
o You get sick more easily because of it
o You miss the exam because of it
o You will take the most difficult essay exam make-up because of this
o You will fail the exam
o Seriously, at least you will do worse on the exam than you would otherwise. Guaranteed.
Last minute cramming doesn’t work for a few biological reasons. When cramming occurs, information is stored in the short-term memory side of the brain. This is where everyday information that is not worth remembering is stored. To learn we have to transfer information into the long memory side of the brain. Here the information can be found much easier and for a longer period of time. We also examine the difference between short- and long-term memory.
All information is processed in the brain and stored in short-term memory. The problem is that this information overloads the brain and is not stored for very long. Can you remember what you had for breakfast two days ago, or what outfit you wore this past weekend? What is the price of your lunch on Monday? No. So what makes you think you remember a class theory you’ve never heard of before? Yes, you can remember it for a day or two, but since it is not necessary to remember everything, the brain will throw it away after a while.
Long-term memory is the type of memory used when we want to store information in a more permanent way. This is either done by making the information especially memorable or by daily repetition. Have you ever tried to remember the lyrics of your favorite song? How many times did you hear this song or read the song before you finally remembered it? The same should be true for your class work. Once something is transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory, we say it has been learned (or at least remembered).
This is why last minute cramming is not beneficial for students. Last-minute cramming fails because you rely on short-term memory. But what would happen if you memorized it every day, or simply put large amounts of information into your memory consistently and on purpose. Cramming in itself is not wrong; it’s just useless if it’s not done right.
CRAM as I call it can be translated into a simple four word sentence – Coherent Reiteration for Advantageous Memorization. It is imperative that you study your class work (CRAM) every day, even if it is for a few minutes. College is your current occupation and career, so see school as your job from 9 to 5, and CRAM When it’s time to study, work as if it were your job. be sure to check in at a certain time and check at a certain time. If your semester or mid-semester exam is two weeks away, you should have had daily CRAM sessions throughout the semester because the information has already been transferred.
My main goal in addressing this cramming problem is to impress upon you to develop daily disciplines for academic success. The thing that gives you the most attention, will be the thing that controls your mind and memory bank.
You have what it takes to play your “A” game every school term. Just don’t wait until the last minute to cram, but CRAM intensively every day with a planned regimen. Many students fail because they don’t plan. To improve your grades, you must have a detailed plan of attack and mastery on your daily schedule. To avoid the last minute and play your “A” game at school, here are 12 practical things you should do when creating your daily schedule for school.
1. Schedule personal quiet time and motivational time. Use this time to encourage yourself and develop a mental picture of your day.
2. Assign the times you should be in class.
3. Define the time periods in which you study.
4. Plan breakfast and lunch, but do not eat more than 30 minutes; Use the other half hour designated to prepare for your next class.
5. Set aside time for part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and other necessary events.
6. Carry a detailed appointment book or organizer, so you always know what needs to be completed for the day and for a specific time.
7. Communicate your study times to friends and family so they are aware of your schedule and don’t interfere.
8. Go to your study periods as if they are an important appointment.
9. Designate a specific place outside your room to study each subject. The place of study may differ based on mood, surroundings and time of day.
10. Set your game time. Don’t be a workaholic.
11. Study for a designated class at a designated time, even if you don’t have a test or homework. Put this every day in your schedule
12. Do not allow planned activities to overlap; plan the activity on purpose and then do it on purpose. When it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to study, study; and when it’s time to have fun, have fun!
Finally, I want you to remember this. Only one game in life counts, and that’s your “A” game. So play every day!
Kantis A. Simmons © 2006
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