Inborn skills, gifts, and talents become mediocre myths with school finals and college or uni entrance sampling. You either have the talent, gift, and inborn skill to ‘cram’ or you end up doomed to an unfulfilled dream of youth and prospect.
What I have done, out of my fancy, has been to work at least a little every day. The brain gets a habit. Holiday or vacation, fancy is fancy, working a little every day could not do harm. Right, before you think about going higher education, you think what you really, really like. I would have had a sense of deprivation not having my language fancy. A ‘holiday’ from language activity would be the definition of hell. It’s no holiday without language, I mean. My learning during school summer or winter breaks was never taken for anything weird.
Well, those exam things. You have to cover long chapters and you often don’t have your fancies there strictly. I tell you from my experience. You make yourself a herbal tea. Camomile, melissa, mint. They don’t put to sleep, unless in amounts definitely bigger than a cup or two over a few hours’ intervals. You can feel like your entire future depends on the exam; the tea helps you calm.
Now, the ‘cramming’ itself. You need to try to see things for yourself. Don’t try to memorize. Schoolbooks and courses were written by people to put things in words their ways. Try cursory notes. Use your words, try to think how you’d say it, and try to put what you need to know on paper or a computer screen in a cursory way. No entire sentences, use a verb or two, from time to time. See if you ‘get yourself’ after a while.
Recording yourself is another good trick. You tell a mic what you need to know and take a walk with earphones.
You can prepare questions for yourself, again, brief, just to hint at a possible exam or test question. For example, you learn about the Constitution. ‘First?’ could do it for the article and the amendment. I mean, you make your questions open-ended.
And never take any ‘happy pills’. I happened to be offered dope a few times; never went into it, never wanted to risk. The fact is, that even if someone says it’s ‘the good stuff’, chemicals may only compete against that natural chemistry your brain needs to make memory. You could end up with state-dependent memory problems, that is, brain impeded and not knowledgeable.
Remember to have some sleep. Good luck (!)