Shorter 5-8 week long accelerated courses are popping up more and more around college campuses and it can be hard to keep up when you’re getting the same amount of content, reading assignments and exams as you would in a 16 week semester.

Exams and quizzes in these courses are often scheduled daily or weekly, causing you to be in a constant cramming and purging content cycle.

If you don’t have a solid study plan. This kind of study environment can affect your retention and cause trouble if you’re in a class or program that builds class to class, semester to semester.

Which is the situation that college student Courtney has found herself in, listen to her describe what she’s going through in her accelerated nursing course.


What is Courtney Struggling With?

  • Courtney finds herself learning and forgetting information.  To keep up with the pace of the exams, she does something she calls “Data Dumping”. Data dumping is hurting her grades in subsequent courses because she’s having to takt time to relearn things that at this point should only be a review. 
  • Courtney can’t find enough time learn and retain the information.

What are Courtney’s Goals?

  1. Save time with reading and studying
  2. Study in a way where she retains all the info and truly understand it
  3. Wants to stop data dumping

Let’s help her create a plan that if she works and is consistent with will help her achieve these goals.

#1 The most important thing with these accelerated classes is making sure you allocate time in your schedule for reading and studying.

What will cause you to fail every time won’t be your IQ but your mismanagement of the material and your time.

Most students fall behind on their reading and studying by the second week, and it’s almost impossible to catch up in these fast-paced courses.

Because there isn’t much time outside of class to read every possible page and chapter, lecture time becomes extremely important.  Lecture is where most of your exposure and learning will happen. So it’s really important to show up prepared to receive the lesson from your professor.

Imagine if your professor on the first day of the class gave you a copy of the exam you’re having on Friday. Imagine if they gave you enough time to look over the questions but you weren’t allowed to write anything down or keep it.  

How would that sneak peek help you prepare for the test?

I can tell you, you’d listen differently.  Your ears would perk up every time your professor mentioned something that was related to a question you saw on the exam.

You’d know what to write down in your notes and what specifically to focus on when you study. You’d notice important concepts and distinction between concepts, and the way your professor thinks and uses the information.

While the likelihood of you getting a copy of the exam is unlikely, you can still create that same kind of lecture experience by creating your own pre-lecture cheat sheet.


#2 Create a Pre-Lecture Cheat Sheet.

A pre-lecture cheat sheet is a list of questions or topics that are tailored to the topic your professor will be covering that lecture day.

The goal of this pre-lecture cheat sheet questions is to prime your brain to pay attention to the things you will most likely see as questions on your exam.

The questions help you get all the important information in your notes so that you don’t have to spend another 4 hours reading the book on top of the 4 hours you spent in lecture.


Where do you pull these questions from? 

  • The objectives in your powerpoint slides. 
  • Textbook Chapter Headlines/Sub-headlines
  • End of chapter summary
  • Pre-Test/Post tests that come with a lot of the online resource from your book.


This same pre-lecture cheat sheet will then also function as a study tool or review sheet you can use when your studying. 

If you need an example of how to pull questions from the chapter, watch this video here. 


When you create a pre-lecture cheat sheet that can then serve as a study tool, you cut down the amount of time you spend reading and studying.

The only rule is that you can’t miss lecture and you have to prep and create that sheet before class.


Creating a study routine that helps you retain the information and stop data dumping:

I’m not going to go into the details of the neuroscience of it all but, many psychologists have proven through various studies that the best way to get information to stay in your long-term memory is by studying using something called spaced retrieval or quiz and recall to test yourself over several days rather than all in one day.


The first time you learn something is the first time you hear it but in order to truly remember it so you can bring it to the top of your mind at any point, you need to have several exposures to it spaced out.


If you want your retention of this material to stick you have to allow yourself some time to forget it.

It’s called the forget to learn theory. 

The Forget to Learn Theory holds that subconsciously when we allow for timing to forget we aid learning by:

  • Filtering out competing facts so our brain starts to create meaningful connections and gets rid of stuff that we don’t need and will confuse us.
  • Forgetting allows the next time you try to recall or review the information for your learning of it to deepen. Each time you try to recall a fact, talk about a topic without your notes and you can’t, so you re-read it in your notes or watch a video on it, or have a friend discuss it with you, you’re making the memory of it stronger in your brain.


Of course, our brain does all of this subconsciously so we aren’t aware of it. But believe me, this time in between is crucial to you getting A’s and B’s on your exams.

So what does this spaced quiz and recall study sessions look like if you have a test every week?

Here’s just an example of how this can be set up.

Monday (1st lecture of the week)

Wednesday (quiz and review on Monday’s lecture content)

Friday (Quiz and review on Wednesday’s lecture content)

Sunday (quiz and review on both Monday and Wednesday’s lecture content)

During your review, what you’re doing is asking yourself those pre-lecture cramsheet questions. Your goal is to try to see how much of the content you know and how much you don’t.  

Your next step is to review the things you didn’t know by reading the textbook on that topic, going to tutoring, chatting with your professor, looking over your notes or watching a video on the subject to re-learn it. 

A couple of days later you test yourself again on that topic and if you follow these steps, the second time you test yourself you should have been able to recall more of the lecture material.

Spaced quizzing and retrieval shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to 40 minutes to complete. The biggest portion of your study time is going to be spent in lecture and reviewing material you realized through quiz and recall that you didn’t know.

This concept of spaced repetition and allowing time to forget seems counterintuitive at first but I challenge you to give it a try. You will be blown away by the difference it makes in your grades.


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