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How to make The Ultimate Cheat Sheet – and why you’ll never need to use it after you make it.

It was rumored to be the hardest test in all of high school. The final exam for Advanced Chemistry had dozens of formulas, plus bizarre information about electron shells.

It was hard enough, the teacher allowed us to create a cheat sheet! Yes, that’s right, the teacher allowed us to cheat on this test!

There was just one catch – this cheat sheet could only be a 3” x 5” flash card – and the information had to be on one side!

There was so much information and the flash card was so small, I realized I needed a plan. I couldn’t just start writing things down on the card. The information needed to be organized so I could find it.

I spent about 2 hours making up a list of the information which would probably be on the test before I even started writing on the card. I figured out what I knew well and would easily remember for the test – and what I really didn’t know very well so I could write it down on the flash card. I used special codes which simplified the information so I could fit it all on the card.

I was really happy with the results. I was able to fit everything on the 3”x5” card.

I went into the test, sat down with my handy and legal cheat sheet – and realized I didn’t need it at all. I blew through the test – got a 97% on it – and never looked at the cheat sheet one time.

In fact, nearly everyone in the class got an A on this test – despite most people not even bothering to look at the sheet.

That’s because making a really good cheat sheet on a 3”x5” card is actually a fantastic way to study for a test. My teacher knew this and that’s why she let us make these cheat sheets.

Think about the steps required to make this cheat sheet:

  1. Figure out exactly what is going to be on the test
  2. Figure out what you know well and what you do not know well
  3. Figure out a way to summarize this crucial information with just a few short notes
  4. Write down everything important with intense concentration

This is an excellent way to study for any test! We were tricked by our teacher into putting in the amount of effort required to get a good grade.

The secret? Make the cheat sheet very, very small, and make it yourself. The ideal cheat sheet is extremely compact.

Why is this important? Keeping the sheet small forces you to decide what is going to be on the test. It forces you to decide which information is the most crucial information.

Then, keeping it small makes you consider what you know well enough to leave off the tiny sheet. There is not enough space to put something on this sheet which you already know well. If you need to put it on the sheet, you probably need to study it more!

So – if you want to find out how to make the ultimate cheat sheet, read on!

Step 1: Keep it Small

You’ll need to write very small to get all of this information to fit. 3 inches by 5 inches is not much room. You will need to figure out what is the important information you will need for the test, and then how to jamb this information into a very small space. Usually tests cover multiple important topics, so you will have to decide what is most likely to be on the test.

Use the blank side of the card, because the lines will get in your way when you are writing very small. In addition, we recommend sketching out the major topics on a separate sheet of paper first, so you know what you want to write on the card.

Step 2: Outline Cheat sheet on a separate, large piece of paper

First, you’ll need to figure out the major topics that are going to be covered on the test. Usually, it’s easy to figure out what the major topics are for the test. If you look back at the major sections of the chapter, or the chapter titles, these are the major topics.

Many times, the teacher will actually tell you what is going to be covered on the test. Great!

In either case, these major topics will all have important details. You will want these important details on the cheat sheet for the test. But how to decide what is important?

Write down what needs to go on the cheat sheet first, on another sheet of paper. Writing it down first does three things for you:

  1. You will find out what you know well enough to leave off or only have a tiny amount on the cheat sheet
  2. You will find out what you do not know well and need to really put on the cheat sheet
  3. You will see how much information you need to put on the cheat sheet, so you can figure out how to organize and how small you need to write.

The outline is a very important step in creating a good cheat sheet – do not skip it.

Step 3: If possible – shorten the important information

After you write down what will end up on the cheat sheet, it’s possible you can think of some ways to shorten the information so it becomes more compact. These little short cuts will really help you to put as much information on the 3”x5” card as possible.

For example, if you need to remember the colors of the rainbow, they are ROY G. BIV  instead of Red, Orange, Yellow,Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

This step is studying. Finding a way to mentally shorten something is called summarizing. Understanding something well enough to summarize it is usually good enough to get it correct on a test, which is known as studying.

Step 4: Write everything as small as possible on the flash card

Write as small as possible. Write as small as possible. Write as small as possible.

Did I tell you to write as small as possible?

The reason I say this so many times is because you need to make sure you can fit everything on this flash card. Unless you start out writing as small as you can, you’ll end up not fitting everything you want on the card.

Remember to keep related bits together.

What you’ll find is the concentration required to write as small as possible will burn this information into your mind. You’ll need to repeatedly look at the notes, and find a way to put the next little bit in a place where it takes up only a little bit of room.

Step 5: Don’t use the cheat sheet and Ace the test

All this work you’ve done creating a cheat sheet will pay off with a high grade. You won’t even need to use the cheat sheet!

You can leave it at home if you want, or take it with you to school and put it in your locker. It doesn’t really matter – you’ve done some intense work and the odds are high you’ll end up with a great grade.

Do you have any other tips for making a great cheat sheet? We’d love to hear about it.