Learning Each Day Eliminates Necessity to Cram for Exams


Dear Dr. Fournier:

You continue to refer to a concept that puts my son and me at odds. He said he didn’t have to study for his final exams because you said so. I read the article and tried to explain to him that what you meant was that you need to learn the material as you go along, But my son hadn’t. I think you had better explain yourself further.

Heather M.

Brooklyn, NY

Dear Heather:

You are both correct. Your son is referring to my “studying is not allowed” policy. You are referring to the idea that learned material is only in need of a brief review if it has already been learned. You are both correct, but “studying is not allowed” is only effective as a policy if the learning has already taken place each day, and there are no major chunks (like missed learning from previous tests) that have not since been mastered. To clarity the message: There are only two moments to learn something: now or later.


The major reason I say “studying is not allowed,” because I choose to use the term “learn” and not “study.” Mastery of learning is the ultimate destination, and differing methods of studying are simply routes to that destination. Unfortunately, studying the night before the test has become the bitter medicine students must swallow to try and make up for the fact that:

e They have not been learning their daily work

e They have not gone back after tests and quizzes to ensure that they learned the information that they missed.

In either case, this leads to cramming – the path for short-term retention. While it may get them through tomorrow’s quiz, the information hastily memorized through rote repetition will not be retained for the long-term, and will be evident when their final exam grade is poor.

The question is: When do I begin the journey to learning? Every student faces that choice.

e NOW is the independent choice.

The student chooses to anticipate when the test will be, and learn the material as it is presented, or as quickly as possible. This student faces that choice.

e LATER is the robot choice.

The student waits for the teacher to say when the test will be and to suggest what material will be covered. This student waits until the last minute to start the journey – and heaven forbid there should be any obstacles!

Students may be able to get by as a “robot,” but that does not prepare them to make independent choices later in life or emerge as an independent adult who is able to succeed in a collaborative workforce.


Heather, NOW is the best time to become an independent student focused on long-term goals. You will need planning tools, such as a month-at-a-glance calendar, or one of my Strategizers that is congruent with your son’s grade level. If you are not familiar with the Strategizer, it is an all-in-one planning, organizing, and anticipating tool that I developed over the years to help children deal with questions such as the one you have, and to help them develop the responsibility, self-reliance, entrepreneurship and visioning skills necessary to take full control of their lives. That said, any planner, calendar or organizer could be used, provided your son understands how to use it properly. As he develops new patterns for learning, here are a few questions he needs to ask himself:

e “What will I need to learn this semester in each class?” If you have trouble taking this broad overview of learning requirements, make an appointment with your teacher and ask for help.

e “How long will it take me to complete each section and be tested?” On a calendar, write the day you believe you must be prepared, Once you have anticipated your “Due Dates for Success,” you can work backward to figure out when to learn sections of material.

e “Did I do all I could today to be ready for the day the learning is due?” Each day, assess your progress.

e “If I had a pop quiz tomorrow, could I make a grade I could live with?” Never finish an assignment without asking yourself this question!

For students who choose to learn now rather than later, last-minute studying is not only “not-allowed,” it is not necessary.