The World of Cramming: Should You Enter It?

Reader, it’s the rapid-fire time! How many glasses of water can you have in 1 hour? How many days can you go without junk food? What’s your maximum time to binge on Netflix? (Uh, wrong question)

As humans, we’ve our respective capabilities and limitations. In this lifetime, we try to push those limitations to get our potential to its best use. But when we exert ourselves or even get tired of trying, we immediately go towards the shortcut lane. And most of the time, ‘shortcuts don’t help in the long run’ just like Cramming.

‘Cram‘ what?

Cramming also known as maintenance rehearsal in the psychological world is swallowing large amounts of information in a short period. The thing which shouldn’t be, done but we’ve made it doable. Cramming is generally performed by students for an upcoming semester exam or maybe even for a class test. That’s the initial acquisition stage of this virus. And with time, it infects the learning technique of a student’s mind.   

Have you ever eaten something even though you were full? Consider cramming like that; pleasant in the beginning but sufferable towards the end.

Let me create a scenario for you. You have 10 days until your exams begin. But your mind, polluted with laziness, has convinced you that it’s not ‘just 10 days’ but ‘I HAVE 10 DAYS.’ Each day passes because, well, time waits for no one, and now it’s the 9th day. You haven’t studied anything but you still have 24 hours. And finally, you set up your books at night time and plan to chew a bunch of information like Nobita did (by imprinting notes on a piece of bread; you need to watch that episode). Now ask yourself, is it a logical picture? 

Cramming (trust me) is not the need of any hour; failing might be more logical than cramming. It is nothing but a byproduct of our laziness.

But cramming works for me *-*?

Sometimes we perceive things as not what they actually are (example- a rope for a snake). This is what’s happening if you think cramming is working for you. You’re being driven by nothing other than illusions. Let’s understand the how.

There are two types of rehearsals we engage into:

  • Maintenance rehearsal is repeating the exact same thing until our working memory or short-term memory (STM) registers it.                                 and,
  • Elaborative rehearsal, meaning, understanding the material from its core, which automatically opens the gate leading towards long-term memory (LTM).            

Now, take your time and decide which one of the two is better. It’s absolutely upon you; either to go with 2-3 weeks of the warranty card (sounds like a tagline for cramming) or a warranty card that lasts for a lifetime.

Why not do it?

Cramming is not an advisable option because of the following:

  • The brain is like a train; just as a train changes engines, different parts of it work shift-wise. If you won’t let the parts work as per their cycle, it will disturb your cycle naturally.
  • As per Miller’s theory, our short-term memory can only hold 5-9 (seven plus minus two) chunks of information, where a chunk means any meaningful information. While cramming, the doer is just memorizing information so some of it doesn’t get registered even for a short period because the ‘meaningful’ part is absent.
  • As I mentioned earlier, as well, pulling an all-nighter is not healthy plus not so helpful.
  • Why choose a platter full of extra worries and stress when you can opt to not have unnecessary stress?

UCLA psychologist Robert Bjork has conducted a thorough study on learning, which includes cramming or maintenance rehearsal. A quick perusal can help you further understand why cramming is not a lifesaver.

What to do?

Let’s go down the nostalgia lane. We used to get up early; go to school; come back and have lunch; a little afternoon sleep; hitting the grounds and then the books in the evening; and finally by 10 or 11, entering the dreamland. 

I’m not painting a picture for you; this is the answer to the question ‘what to do instead’. It is time to adopt the old fashion way. Things in one’s life are not that complicated as we make them just by thinking. Designing and adapting the old-fashioned way in this crazy and busy time is something that only you can do.


Learning in the last minute
Image by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Isn’t it a little sad that all of us have this one thing in common? We all used this shortcut of cramming at some point in our lives. But for what, really—Good grades, good reputation, the title of intelligence, acquiring badges? Do you think, professionally, this is worth even 1% of the effort we put in it? 

The other name for cramming is maintenance rehearsal. Its name is literal, not metaphorical, please get the hint. It’s decision time!

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