It’s 4 a.m. and junior Melissa Vazquez is five cups of coffee into her biology review session. She’s been cramming for the past five hours, a day before the test.
And her position isn’t unique, as 38 percent of Country Day’s high-school students say they cram for more than half their tests.
But Vazquez doesn’t just cram. She crams successfully for some tests, earning A’s on most of them.
Vazquez explained that she’s far more productive at night.
“At 11, people start going to sleep, and people stop texting me,” she said. “The stress motivates me to start working.”
However, despite her successes, Vazquez describes her cramming as “a problem.”
“If I had a choice, then I wouldn’t cram,” she said. “I don’t usually have the willpower or the time to study ahead.”
Senior Troy Hoddick said he, too, is more productive if he crams.
“I’m motivated by the deadline,” he said.
“If something is due in one day, then it forces me to do the work in a short burst of time.”
Hoddick crams even for finals. In some cases, he waits until the day before the exam.
“I studied for the biology final in one day, and I got an A,” he said. “For (AP U.S. History), I read about 200 pages a day and finished the book, and I got a 4 on the (AP exam).”
Hoddick said he learns best by cram-ming, and finds that studying ahead is a waste of time.
“(Cramming) is really straightforward,” Hoddick said. “My short-term memory is really good. If I (study early), then I’m afraid I’ll forget stuff along the way.”
[pullquote align=”left” speaker=”Melissa Vazquez, junior”] If I had a choice, then I wouldn’t cram. I don’t usually have the willpower or the time to study ahead.[/pullquote]
Junior Clare Fina also prefers cramming, as she finds it more efficient.
“Late at night, I feel like if I were to go to sleep and not cram, then I’d miss out on valuable study time,” she said.
Fina said she sacrifices sleep for tests often.
“For an (AP U.S. History) test, I made a conscious decision not to sleep and to study instead,” she said. “(Junior Isabella Tochterman and I) studied all night, and at 5 a.m. we decided to go for a four-mile run to wake us up.
“I had five cups of coffee, too,” Fina said. “My heart was going insane.”
And in the end, Fina said that she got the grade she wanted.
Fina also says that her lack of sleep doesn’t really affect her test scores.
But while Fina may not see the effects of sleep deprivation, studies conducted by Sigrid Veasey—a professor and a member of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology—indicate that lack of sleep may cause permanent damage.
“Some of the research in humans has shown that attention span and several other aspects of cognition may not normalize even with three days of recovery sleep, raising the question of lasting injury in the brain,” Veasey said in a University of Pennsylvania news release.
Furthermore, Andrew Fuligni, a UCLA professor, and Cari Gillen-O’Neel, a UCLA graduate student, found that cramming is detrimental to students’ grades.
“Although we expected that cramming might not be as effective as students think, our results showed that extra time spent studying cut into sleep,” Gillen-O’Neel said in a UCLA news release.
“And it’s this reduced sleep that accounts for the increase in academic problems that occur after days of increased studying.”
Despite the findings, Vazquez said that she doesn’t believe one late night will negatively affect her studies.
But sophomore Colby Conner avoids these issues by scheduling his studying ahead of time.
“Cramming usually stresses me out, and I often don’t get enough sleep, which can affect the grades on tests,” he said. Instead of cramming, Conner reviews his notes up to five days in advance so that he can recite most of the test material. “For the average test, I study three days in advance,” Conner said. “Cramming doesn’t work for me.”