Do you have an important test coming up with little time to prepare? Maybe you’ve been focusing your time and energy on another exam. Maybe your exam covers more topics than you initially thought. Or maybe you simply waited a little too long to start studying — we’ve all been there. Whatever the reason, we’re here to help you cram quickly and effectively. At 240 Tutoring, we have over 60 years of collective experience teaching students in the classroom and developing curriculum for educators. We know what to expect on teacher certification exams, giving you a jump start on your studying.
Cramming for a test gets a bad reputation, but sometimes it’s necessary. And while it’s not the most ideal studying technique, we’re here to help you make the most of a stressful situation and get you on your way to passing your exam. Whether your exam is several days from now or even tomorrow, we have tips to cram as effectively as possible.
Now, let’s also be clear. There are huge benefits to having an effective study plan, especially on major ones like teacher certification exams. For these, giving yourself at least a few weeks to study will set yourself up for success. (And if you want guided preparation on teacher certification exams, we offer study guides that come with a pass a guarantee.)
How to Effectively Cram the WEEK Before a Test
With limited time, it can be tempting to dive right into studying. However, you do still have time to make a study plan and outline. While it may feel time-consuming, making a study plan will actually save time and prevent stress in the long run. Use the following steps to create a plan that will help you make the most of your cramming:
Find out what you already know
Start by finding a reputable source that offers a practice test aligned with your exam. If you’re cramming for a teacher certification exam, you’ve already found the right place! We offer free practice tests for nearly every teacher certification exam and many paraprofessional exams as well. Select your state, then your exam for a free practice test.
After taking our practice test, you’ll get a detailed score report that shows how well you did in different areas of the exam. This will let you know which topics you need to focus on the most when studying. Are there parts of the exam that you scored above 70 percent on? Great! Mark those off your list of what study – that’s one less thing to worry about.
Consider how the exam is weighted
After identifying your strengths and weaknesses with a practice test, find out how much each topic of your exam will contribute to your overall score. This information can be found on our test-series resource pages or on the exam blueprint published by the creators of your exam, such as Praxis or NES.
Once you know the content you need to work on and how that content is weighted on your exam, you can combine this information to decide where to dedicate most of your study time. For example, you may have missed most of the probability and statistics questions on your practice test. However, if this skill only accounts for five percent of your overall exam score, you’ll probably want to spend your time studying other topics instead. On the other hand, if you missed half of the algebra questions and algebra accounts for 60% of your overall score, you’ll definitely want to spend some time improving your score in this area.
For a more detailed, step-by-step guide on how to cross-reference your diagnostic test results with your exam framework, check out Dr. Kristy Mulkey’s video on effective cramming.
Make an outline and plan
We know you’re ready to start studying. But there’s one more quick step before you dive in: Make an outline of the topics you need to cover. Your outline does not need to be elaborate — a simple list of topics and when you plan to study them will work. Use the results of your practice test and your knowledge about how the exam is weighted to create a plan that fits your needs. Remember, you’re short on time, so don’t put too much effort into studying topics that you already know or topics that only contribute a small amount to your overall score.
Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to start studying. Regardless of how much time you have, you can still use smart studying strategies. Don’t get too caught up in memorizing anything and everything that might be on the exam – you’ll just get overwhelmed and frustrated. Instead, focus your energy on “big picture” concepts. The subheadings of our study guides are a great place to look for these major topics. Start by skimming through the study guide, looking for subheadings that match the concepts you need to work on. Next, go back to each of these topics to study them in more depth.
If you think you can get by with just a brief review of certain exam topics, try our free practice test and overview pages. Simply scroll down and select your test series. (Note: these do not cover every exam topic, so you may still need to purchase a study guide!)
Most importantly, stick to a schedule and be sure to study every day. The next week will fly by, and your exam will be here before you know it!
How to Effectively Cram the NIGHT Before a Test
So your exam snuck up on you and you’re not sure where to even begin. This happens to the best of us, but it’s still a frustrating and discouraging spot to be in. Fortunately at 240 Tutoring, we’re here to help! Follow our tips below to get on the right path toward passing your exam. We know you have a lot of studying to do, so we won’t take too much of your time.
Take a practice test
You probably want to jump right into studying, but taking a practice test can help you identify your areas of weakness and show you what you already know. If you’re cramming for a teacher certification exam, we’ve got you covered. We offer free practice tests for nearly every teacher certification exam and many paraprofessional exams as well. To get to the free practice test, click on your state, then your exam.
After taking our practice test, you’ll get a detailed score report that shows how you performed in different areas of the exam. If you scored higher than 70 percent in some areas, that’s great! Go ahead and mark those off of your list of what to study. Focus instead on your areas of weakness.
Find out how your exam is weighted
It’s important to consider how much each topic on your exam will contribute to your overall score. This information can be found on our test-series resources pages or on the exam blueprint published by the creators of your exam.
Once you know how various concepts are weighted on your exam, you can cross-reference this with the results from your diagnostic test. This will help you decide where to dedicate most of your time. Don’t spend much time studying concepts that only account for a small portion of the exam, even if you scored poorly on them. Studying highly weighted concepts that you scored about 45-65% on will be a much more productive and rewarding use of your study time.
In case you missed it, this video from Dr. Kristy Mulkey elaborates on this process of cross-referencing the results of your practice test with your exam framework.
Skim the study material, but skim with a purpose
You probably already know that you don’t have time to read through an entire study guide. When you’re cramming the night before a test, you’ll undoubtedly be skimming over the material. However, skimming does not just mean randomly reading headings and bold words. Remember the concepts you struggled with on the practice test and the heavily weighted competencies on your exam framework? This is what you’re looking for while you skim through our study guides.
Start by finding as many of these topics as you can on your course page. Next, skim over the material, looking for headings or subheadings that align with your areas of weakness. Take note of the different topics and page numbers so that you can quickly find it again while you’re studying. Once you’ve located the topics you need to work on, go back and study each of these concepts in more detail.
Focus on major topics
With your exam only hours away, you won’t be able to study all of the content.
Yes, this means that there will be some topics you aren’t familiar with during your exam. However, if you try to hastily study everything, you’ll likely only retain a small fraction of it. It’s better to have a solid understanding of the major topics than a vague recollection of a few random concepts.
If you’re a 240 Tutoring subscriber, we include “test alerts” throughout our study guides. These alerts are easy to find if you’re skimming through the material and can be a great way to quickly find the information you’ll need to know for the exam.
For a brief overview of certain exam topics, check out our free test breakdowns and overviews. (Note: these do not cover every exam topic, so you may still need to purchase a study guide!)
Don’t forget to sleep
When it comes to cramming for a test, many people picture exhausting all-nighters that end with falling asleep on top of a pile of notes. But it shouldn’t be this way! Yes, you will be putting in a lot of hours in a short amount of time, but sleep is crucial for brain function and memory.
Research shows that getting enough sleep before an exam can lead to improved test scores. That’s because your brain is actually working while you sleep! Sleeping helps you retain newly learned information and helps improve problem-solving skills. Additionally, if you’re too tired on your test day, you won’t be able to perform well on the topics you do understand. Know when to call it a night and get some much needed sleep.
Top Cramming Tips
No matter how much time you have, these tips will help you productively cram for your test.
Find tips specific to your exam
Major exams, including certification exams, will often have general “rules” or tips that can clue you in to the best answer choice. For example, on a special education certification exam, noting whether the question asks for an accommodation or a modification may help you rule out incorrect answers on several questions throughout the exam. Smart test takers know to find hints that can be applied to questions throughout the entire test.
240 Tutoring’s study guides are an excellent source for these exam-specific testing tips. Our study guides are developed by current and former educators who are well-versed in certification exams, so we know what type of answers the test makers are looking for!
Use mnemonic devices when needed
While you shouldn’t focus too much on memorization, there may still be a few things you need to commit to memory. When this happens, use mnemonic devices to help you recall information. This can mean using a short rhyme, an acronym, or even a familiar tune to retain information. For example, many people use the acronym “HOMES” to remember the names of the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior).
(Tip: Creating your own mnemonic device often helps even more than using one that’s already been written by someone else.)
Don’t spend too much time focused on one concept
Remember, you have a lot of material to work through. You don’t want to find out on exam day that you have a solid understanding of one or two topics, but know little about the rest of the exam. Stick with a schedule to ensure you have time to cover each concept. You can always go back and review if you have extra time.
(Tip: It may help to set a timer to remind yourself of when to move on to the next topic on your list.)
It’s tempting to just keep powering through without breaks when you know you have limited time. However, well-timed breaks can actually lead to more productive studying. A good rule of thumb is to study for 50 minutes, then take a 10-minute break. Make adjustments to this as needed. If you are in a good groove and making progress, great – keep studying! When you get to a point where you’re frustrated, tired, or having to reread a sentence over and over again for it to make sense, then it’s time to take a break.
Why cramming for exams is not recommended
We’ve given you some tips to use if you absolutely have to cram for your upcoming exam. However, keep in mind that cramming is not the most ideal studying technique. If you are still weeks or months away from your exam, start studying now!
Cramming for exams has been shown to increase stress, reduce concentration skills, and hinder your ability to recall information. This combination of factors can ultimately lead to lower test scores. So while you might be cramming for this exam, take steps to avoid it for future tests.
Keep in mind that most teachers have to take more than one certification exam, so if you have another test around the corner, go ahead and start studying! Most people find that they need to spend at least several weeks preparing for their teacher certification exam. When you subscribe to 240 Tutoring, you get access to all of the study guides for your state or exam series. This means you can go ahead and subscribe now for the exam you’re cramming for, then continue using your subscription for future certification exams!
With such limited time to prepare, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and think that there’s no way you’ll pass your exam. However, with the right resources and a good plan of attack, you can still pass your exam! Even if you do fail, most teacher certification tests are able to be retaken after a specified time frame. Of course, the best outcome is to pass your exam the first time around – so head on over to our practice tests and study guides to start prepping for your exam right away!