Why “Cramming” Doesn’t Work for the SAT and ACT

If you have an SAT and ACT coming up, you might think it’s a good idea to just “cram” the few days and nights before, rather than studying the weeks prior. You may even believe you can just look over everything the evening before and be good to go. This isn’t a solid plan and cramming doesn’t actually work. In fact, it will probably cause you to do worse on either test. Here’s why:

High school student sitting at a desk with a laptop.

You’ll Be Exhausted During the Test Date

If you cram in study time the night before and lose sleep because of it, you won’t have the energy to take the SAT or ACT properly. Lack of sleep can cause problems with thinking as well as irritability. You most likely will have trouble focusing on the test and the score you receive will probably be lower than you expected.

It’s always best to have a good night’s sleep the night before your SAT or ACT as well as a healthy meal prior to heading to the test. Both will help ensure you’re awake and prepared to take the exam.

Your Brain Gets Tired

Have you ever noticed that after a few hours of studying, your brain just can’t make sense of what you’re reading anymore? That’s because your brain can only handle so much studying at a time. After a while, you simply won’t retain any more information and it will be wasted time. Breaks are essential to understanding what you’re reading and keeping what you read and study in your mind for long periods of time.

When preparing for the SAT or ACT, it’s a good idea to take breaks every 2 or 3 hours. This could involve exercise, a meal, or something else. But you want to treat yourself for a job well done as well as just give your brain a breather.

You Won’t Be Comfortable with the SAT and ACT Format

The SAT and ACT are not like other tests you’ve taken during high school. Preparing for them does not involve just going over your notes. You’ll have to study various subjects, focus on your weak areas, take practice tests, and understand the time limits of each test section. Cramming doesn’t really allow for that type of studying.

Instead of cramming the days leading up to the test (or, worse, the night before), create a study schedule. Plan out when you’ll take practice tests, when you’ll study your weak areas (and review your strong subjects), and how you’ll prepare in general.

Cramming, sadly, can have much more detrimental effects than benefits. It can cause students to score poorly on exams, including the SAT or ACT. Instead of falling into this bad habit, it’s a good idea to create a study schedule. Not only will this help you achieve a higher score on the SAT or ACT, but you will also create good habits for your college education and hopefully carry what you learned from this preparation to later years.

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