Cramming for an exam is, let’s be honest, one of the least fun ways to spend your time. There’s the pressure to get a good grade, mixed with the fatigue and sheer boredom of reading, re-reading and highlighting text in the hope that it’ll sink in. And there’s always the risk that something will come up on the test that you didn’t prepare for.
In a new video, YouTuber and Cambridge University graduate Dr. Ali Abdaal outlines the system he used to prepare for essay-based exam questions while he was studying medicine, and which ended up winning him a first-place essay prize.
He explains that he was able to write entire essays on demand, by first creating detailed essay plans for every conceivable essay question that might arise in an exam, and then using active recall, spaced repetition, spider diagrams and flashcards to commit them to memory. The idea is to be able to essentially “upload” whole essays into your memory so that you can then regurgitate them at will.
The creation stage
First, Abdaal advises trying to come up with a range of essay titles which cover the breadth of the class. “The easiest way to do this is to look at what past papers are available, and see what essays have come up in the past,” he says. “Then you can put yourself in an examiner’s shoes and think ‘what is a good essay we’ve not yet asked about.'”
From there, you come up with an outline for each title, ensuring that you have a killer introduction which sets up a proper structure that fulfils the requirements of the essay (i.e. it actually answers the question) and stands out f