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Sneaky Studying and the Pretend Cheat Sheet

Summer is coming, but first, EXAMS!
Summer is coming, but first, EXAMS!

Dear Friends,

Students, teachers and parents are all feeling the end-of-year time crunch; between sports, proms, plays, high stakes exams and piled-on schoolwork, it can be hard to imagine where to find those blocks of study time.

It’s time to resort to what I call Sneaky Studying. The key is to stop waiting and hoping for those big chunks of uninterrupted study time, because they ain’t gonna happen!

Instead, keep a constant lookout out for small scraps of minutes here and there throughout the day in between other activities, and then stuff a little dose of studying into each of them.

Even the busiest day is full of these little temporal nooks and crannies, and those stray moments can be put to good use and yield surprisingly powerful results. Despite what we believe, studying that is broken up is actually more effective than straight-shot cram sessions, because the brain needs time to digest the information it has taken in.

Consider your…

  • Travel Time. Carry flashcards or your Pretend Cheat Sheet (discussed below); you can glance at them and then ponder the answers while looking out the window so as to avoid motion sickness. (DO NOT do this while driving! This tip is for passengers only!!!)
  • In Between Classes. Use those minutes before class when everyone is settling down and the teacher is getting organized, and those after-class pack-up minutes to page through your textbook and read an example, review the chapter summary, or read the first few sentences of the homework assignment. (Getting started on an assignment helps defeat procrastination and primes the brain to learn the material, through a cool mental process called The Zeigarnik Effect).
  • Mealtime. Flip your flashcards, read your textbook, or watch a Khan Academy video.

Sneaky Studying works best if you are getting enough sleep. If you are fatigued you’ll be too tempted to use those stray minutes to zone out; besides, a well-rested brain learns much more efficiently than an exhausted one. 

And I love this idea I found on, of creating a Pretend Cheat Sheet: To get ready for any test or exam, page through your notes and write up the cheat sheet you wish you could bring on test day, then use it to study from.

The same website also has this printable “Quickie Sheet” for a good day-before-test review.

Warm Regards,

-Leigh  🙂

Sneaky Studying and the Pretend Cheat Sheet

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS is an educator, counselor, writer and speaker. She's been a tutor, test prep coach and home school teacher for over thirty years. Click HERE to visit Leigh's website and to subscribe to her newsletter, "Learning Something New."

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APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2014). Sneaky Studying and the Pretend Cheat Sheet. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 May 2014
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