Does cramming work?

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April 5, 2022
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Patrick J. Karol,

I felt really good about passing my ASP exam. I knew that I passed it before I even got up from the work station at the testing center. So, when the printer spewed the results out and I saw “Congratulations”, I wasn’t surprised. I was a bit relieved to get it over, but not surprised. When it came time to prepare for the CSP exam, life and work got in the way. I felt so good about passing the ASP, I thought I could rely on cramming a few days before the exam. After all, it worked in college. 

I was wrong! I failed the CSP exam and learned a valuable lesson.  Several studies show that cramming is ineffective. Students who do pass typically only pass with an average score. Additionally, the majority of the information gained through cramming ends up being forgotten not just over a period of time but during the actual exam itself. I also found that cramming fatigued me mentally and physically. The lack of sleep from being up late studying fatigues us, but affects our cognitive function and leads to a poor exam performance. It also caused a higher level of anxiety which I’m sure didn’t help either. 

A better approach is to study one hour per day until the day before the exam. The day before the exam should be used to rest both physically and mentally. If you are still up against the wall, reschedule the exam to a date that gives you time to adequately prepare. 

I eventually retook the exam a few weeks later and passed. I planned study time every day and took advantage of downtime moments. For example, while standing in line, I pulled out a flash card and studied a formula. I also scheduled the exam in the morning, a time of day when I’m more mentally alert. 

If you plan to take the ASP or CSP exam, or any exam, have a study plan. Identify what study techniques work for you. Consider the best time of day and location to study. Above all, don’t rely on cramming. It doesn’t work. 

Do you want to learn more about study techniques and exam-taking strategies? Consider taking one of our ASP or CSP workshops. See our schedule at nitosolutions@