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The 7 Dumbest Things Students Do When Cramming for Exams

Each year before the holidays, college students find themselves staring down the barrel of exam week. Fortunately, they're totally serious about learning the information and they aren't getting up from this desk until they do! Unfortunately, desperation can only be directly converted into high scores on reality TV. But this crawling panic and insane workload is a great learning experience. College is all about preparing for the real world, and this is one of life's favorite lessons to teach: You've screwed up badly and there will soon be a reckoning. How do you deal with that?

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Plan A

The first and most important thing is to actually deal with it, because running away from college only dumps you in the real world faster. And make no mistake: In the game of life college isn't even easy mode, it's the bonus level. You want to enjoy it all the way to the end. Here are seven ways your brain can trick you into studying without actually learning anything.

#7. Osmosis Doesn't Work

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Listen, students, this might sound crazy but it's important: You are not squirrels. You may be hyperactive mammals frantically running around trying to mate, hibernate and look hilariously retarded in online photographs, but there's an important difference: Hoarding things doesn't help you. Students spend the days leading up to exams stockpiling handouts, photocopies, printouts and textbooks by the video game logic that simply owning books makes you smarter.

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My INT score is higher than my IQ.

Your head won't absorb knowledge because you built a library on your table. If you find yourself doing this, simply take a deep breath, and tell yourself it's not your fault. You're trying to cram three months worth of information into a brain that stress has tricked into thinking it's being chased be a bear. Hell, you're lucky you're not wearing your socks on your hands right now.

But that doesn't mean you should let yourself off the hook when you notice yourself doing this. In my time working at universities, one thing I noticed without fail was that the terrible students would "study" by piling up work all around them, then sit there wasting time and being miserable until the clock said they were finished. Which is actually brilliant preparation because that's exactly the type of job they'll get.

Instead, try starting with something manageable like reading one book you were supposed to have read. And when you do, keep in mind that ...

#6. Highlighters Aren't Magic

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If you've ever been to college, or a coffee shop within two miles of one, you've seen a student painting their notes like a My Little Pony in drag. In Thailand. We shouldn't have to explain that highlighter pens aren't like supermarket scanners -- they might drag bright lights over things but they don't instantly upload data.

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If fluorescent pink burned information into brains no one would be against gay marriage.

Again, this is just your brain flipping out. People having nervous breakdowns revert back to infancy and start flinging their poop around. You're having 40 percent of a nervous breakdown, and reverting to preschool logic. "I'll take the most essential parts of my course and COLOR THEM IN! Yay!"

It's understandable, but it's profoundly stupid. If you notice yourself lighting a textbook up like TRON fanfic, drop the highlighter. Instead, try writing out the key points of your reading material on a separate page you can study easily and anywhere. If that sounds like too much work, well done, you've just found out why people highlight instead.

#5. Stop Nest Building

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In times of stress, the Examinated Student (Stressus Procrastinatus) can spend over an hour crafting the perfect study nest to defend itself from guilt. It all has to be just right, from lighting to coffee, because every single thing that needs to be fixed is another reason not to actually study yet. Some students spend longer trying to reach the perfect setup than Buddhist Monks spend trying to reach Nirvana, and with less tangible results.

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I simply can't study without at least one photogenic minority in shot.

#4. If You're Re-Reading, You're Probably Not Really Studying

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Re-reading your notes does not count as studying, even if it is the easiest way to technically study while watching Mad Men. Also, you're ruining Mad Men. Watch Mad Men, and then set aside time to actually engage with the material. If you're in science or engineering, do problems. If you're in history, write out key elements of a period in a paragraph, or try to teach the chapters you've read to your lazy roommate who didn't read them, and have him try to teach you the ones he read.

If you're in English lit, put down the play you already read, and write a one page essay discussing how Hamlet was the greatest pussy of all time. Do something, anything, which tests your knowledge or makes you actually think, then use your notes to find out what you'd forgotten. Then do the problem again. Instead of sitting and reconfirming, "Yep, I sure can read this language all right!"


You've surely earned a B.A. in Cracked Appreciation by now.

Fake studying is the worst waste of time since the American pilot of Doctor Who. If you don't want to study, there are bars full of other people having more fun than you while not studying. And while they're screwing themselves, they figure they might as well screw each other. You'll always find the best college parties just before the exams. You're missing that by studying, so make sure it's worth it.

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