Cramming Or Understanding: Which is a Better Form of Learning?

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Cramming Or Understanding

Most of us must have heard certain claims during our school days which state that cramming is a bad learning practice, or that understanding a concept makes you better at it. It would not be unwise to assume that the cramming or understanding debate is roughly as long as formal schooling and education itself. With the help of a few inputs, this blog will aim at mitigating all the preconceived notions you have regarding cramming or understanding, and the significance of both the techniques of learning. So let’s begin!

About Learning Processes

To acquire a piece of information or knowledge, there are certain techniques that are generally used. These techniques facilitate learning, using certain actions and processes which ensure that given information is absorbed by the learner. Cramming and understanding are the two primary distinctions that every student is acquainted with, and uses both of these at varying degrees throughout his or her academic career. So, understand which one is better, cramming or understanding, let’s understand the meaning of these terms:

What is Cramming? 

Cramming refers to the process of repeatedly reading or listening to a given piece of information to memorize it in its original form. The students don’t need to understand the contents of the given information or relate it with anything in their knowledge pool to cram something. It is a natural process, which imbibes repeated information in the short term memory of the brain. If information is crammed for longer periods of time, it moves to long-term memory of an individual. 

When we consider the application of cramming, students usually employ cramming when they have to cover large chunks of the syllabus in a relatively smaller time frame. More often than not, such scenarios exist prior to exams, especially for students who are not regular with their studies. Let us look at some aspects of cramming:

Advantages of Cramming

Cramming is quite a handy technique in certain situations, making it relevant not just in education, but in daily life too. Here are some of the distinct advantages of cramming:

  • Cramming is highly time-efficient. In comparison to understanding an entire concept, it is much faster and convenient to just memorise certain information.  
  • Cramming can be applied to a variety of information, be it formulae, passwords, timelines, names or titles. This versatility is useful in real-life situations as 
  • Not every piece of information in the world has a deeper meaning attached to it. In the world of academics, Historical, Geographical and related concepts are better crammed than understood as they don’t essentially serve any deeper purpose.
  • Cramming may even lead to a better score in examinations as compared to understanding the contents. This happens especially where students are acquainted with atypical spellings and lengthy procedures. Memorising gives students a better chance at rewriting the entire content word-for-word.

Also Read: Tricks to Learn Periodic Table

 Disadvantages of Cramming

Having listed the advantages of cramming, it is also important to look at the downsides of cramming to evaluate the aspects related to cramming or understanding. Here are a few of them:

  • Cramming reduces the overall potential of students. While answering questions with crammed answers, a student is unable to employ his or her intelligence to the fullest, often leading to inferior results.
  • Cramming has a bad influence on the student’s discipline and habits. If a student is able to complete his or her syllabus by cramming it overnight, it creates a false sense of knowledge. While the information may retain itself in the short-term memory of the student, it will definitely fall short when it comes to the practical application of theoretical knowledge.
  • Trying to cram too much information in a little time period may lead to loss of substantial information. In application, students who try to cram up a lot of syllabi right before the exam may discover that they are unable to recall any of it when actually answering the questions. This can lead to further frustration and panic.

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What is Understanding?

As the name suggests, understanding is a learning technique where students read the educational content and try to capture its essence. Instead of learning the content word-for-word, students try to understand what the content wishes to convey. This is important when students are going through sophisticated or complex information, which must be carefully understood to ensure clarity in the discipline. Having a good understanding goes a long way in shaping an individual’s career, as well as overall personality. Here are some more attributes connected with understanding, to help you choose whether to prefer cramming or understanding:

Advantages of Understanding

Be it cramming or understanding, a certain degree of analysis is subconsciously used by the human brain. This shows the significance of understanding. Here are some more advantages of  using understanding as a learning technique:

  •  When we consider analytical and practical disciplines like Science and Applied Mathematics, understanding becomes critical to get a grasp on a subject. Cramming up study material hampers the long-term development of the student in the subject.
  • Understanding a particular subject can reap more rewards than cramming ever can, as not just the student would be able to score better, but also consistently. The knowledge will also compliment him or her in the upcoming years, giving a strong conceptual foundation to build a great career.
  • Understanding is not just confined to academics. Once an individual starts analysing his or her surroundings, it becomes much easier to make good decisions and evaluations in real life.

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Disadvantages of Understanding

While understanding a concept can seldom have downsides for the long run, it can be a rather lengthy process. Let us take a look at how it can hamper learning:

  • There are certain concepts which have virtually no concepts worth understanding, for example, dates in a History exam. While the chronology of events must be understood carefully, it would be a redundant process if students try to find anything worth understanding in them. Some information should be left to memorization, as it cannot offer any more learning. 
  • Understanding educational concepts is a time-consuming process, requiring students to go over the entire content and comprehend its core meaning. While it must be done to ensure good learning, in the long run, it is a non-viable practice if students have a strict time constraint.

Concluding this perennial debate about the better alternative between cramming and understanding, it is the best to understand the importance of both the concepts in education. To derive the best results, students should use a combination of both the techniques in a fair balance. While it is important to understand the underlying concepts of any discipline, cramming up can work as icing on the cake if employed correctly. 

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Is cramming better than studying?

Cramming can surely help you cover a large amount of syllabus in a shorter period of time as compared to understanding the entire concept in detail. But this may lead to substantial loss in your potential as well as you may end up missing the crucial gist while overlooking the entire part in one go.

Should I memorize or understand?

Memorizing and understanding a concept should go hand-in-hand. if you will memorize a concept without understanding it you will not be able to retain it whereas if you will understand a concept and will not memorize it you will not be able to present it in the right form. Just the ideal way is to first understand the concept and then thoroughly memorize it.

Is cramming good for exams?

Just a day before the exam, cramming can help you get familiar and remember the majority of concepts for the upcoming important day. But, in the longer run you will not be able to remember what all we have crammed.

Is cramming bad for your brain?

It is evidently stated that cramming puts too much stress on our brain by pushing it to memorize the particular stuff. Pushing the brain beyond its limits mainly causes fatigue or anxiety. 

How can I study smart?

Here are some prominent ways to study smart- 
-Study for short intervals
-Get in your right zone 
-Exercise and sleep well 
-Complete the important concepts at first 
-Set daily targets 
-Put aside all your distractions
-Prepare flashcards for important pointers

Is it good to cram the night before a test?

In place of cramming, it is advised that one shall devote the night before the exam in revision. In place of learning something new which can confuse you, it is better to strengthen the concepts that you already know. Avoiding cramming a night before exams is advised by a majority of experts and career counsellors. 

Hope this blog helped you gain an understanding of the two learning styles and whether to use cramming or understanding in a given situation. To get a deeper understanding of learning techniques and employ them in competitive exams like GMAT and GRE, connect with us at Leverage Edu. We offer standardised online classes which will help you understand the core contents of exam syllabus, while also helping you with simple tricks to cram trivia and basic formulae. Book a free e-meeting to avail these benefits today!

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