Sometime back in University, I was in class one night and suddenly one guy started playing music from his phone. It was obvious all of us in the class were actually uncomfortable with the noise but we just tried to adapt. However, after a while I guess one of us who was also reading in the class couldn’t bear it any longer and he said to the uninvited DJ, “abeg off that thing make we cram”. It was very hilarious; we all couldn’t help but laugh. And then something struck me, that is what we actually do… cramming!
Encarta dictionary defines cramming thus: to study a subject intensively, e.g. for an imminent exam. Oxford dictionary says it means to learn a lot of things in a short time, in preparation for an exam. For the purpose of this discourse, I prefer that of Oxford because it best describes what I’m going to be talking about. I guess most of us have been in a situation where you have an impending test or exam and you realize that you have a lot to cover. We stay up all night trying to force all the information into our head only to pour them out for the examiner on demand and then forget it afterwards. Hence the popular slogan among students, “cram and pour”.
I had to ask the question, why do students cram? Below are some of the answers:
1) No time.
2) Some examiners want you to say it word for word.
3) The book is too voluminous.
4) That’s just my style.
5) I won’t need the information later so what’s the point going in-depth.
6) Lecturers don’t teach yet they expect you to pass, etc.
All the reasons outlined above are actually valid and though most of us have been guilty of cramming, we can all attest that cramming isn’t just the best method. Personally, most of the things I have done very well in are things I took time to learn in-depth. I have remembered mostly things I gave attention to and learnt repeatedly. As I read Thing Big by the renowned neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, it dawned on me that the reason we don’t have many maverick and outstanding scholars is because we rarely ever take time to go in-depth in study. Flipping through handouts and cramming things is easy but rigorous and laborious study require commitment, consistency, discipline, hard work, and courage.
The essence of this piece is not to outline study techniques because they abound in books. The real essence of this piece is to correct an anomaly, to encourage and to inspire. Most times, the major reason why we end up cramming is because we don’t have a purpose that is pushing us to go the extra mile and learn in-depth. As a Computer Engineering student, I used to wonder why I had to do courses in Civil, Chemical, Production and Mechanical Engineering Departments in my 200 level until a lecturer explained why. The lecturer explained that to obtain a BENG degree, you ought to be grounded in general Engineering. He went further to say that by taking courses in other engineering fields, your scope is widened and you can fit into any branch of Engineering if the need arises. It’s a popular cliché that when purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable; the veracity of this statement is undiluted and cannot be overemphasized.
You might be reading this and you are thinking to yourself, “this doesn’t apply to me, it’s for students”. For starters, I think everyone should be a student for life but that notwithstanding, the point I’m trying to make is studying with a purpose or goal in view helps for better understanding. Most things I crammed in school, I can barely remember but the things I took time to study, I can still explain. Dr. Bankole Olushina said, “You cannot remember what you don’t understand and what you don’t understand, you cannot explain”. Maybe you crammed your way through school, now you’ve graduated, gone for National Service and working, you’ll agree with me things are different in the real world. You can’t pretend to know; you have to know stuff. In the real world, it will pay you more to seek knowledge with the goal of understanding and applying that knowledge in solving a problem.
I know friends who graduated from school with no skill or technical know-how to show for it except a paper that shows they went to school. Some of these guys have passionately studied something more meaningful and today they are problem solvers, service providers and consultants in their chosen areas. It didn’t come by cramming. It came by diligent study.
What’s that area you want to be a force to reckon with? What’s that area you don’t just want to vomit words but
demonstrate technical know-how? Maybe it’s time to quit cramming to pass a test or exam and just simply study to
understand and to know.