This Viral Hack For Memorizing Info In 1 Day Is Taking Over TikTok

The Kay Chung study method is an effective way to help you cram, but at what cost?
Above, Kay Chung documents her all-nighter test prep for TikToks. "Pulling a Kay Chung" has become a new shorthand for students who need to cram before an exam.
Above, Kay Chung documents her all-nighter test prep for TikToks. "Pulling a Kay Chung" has become a new shorthand for students who need to cram before an exam.

Pulling an all-nighter for a test used to be a private agony between you and your body. But on TikTok, Kay Chung is making it public entertainment.

Chung, dubbed the “Patron Saint of Cramming Students” by a fan, is a second-year dental student at University of California, Los Angeles. Since June, she has posted 22 videos of her all-nighters before exams, and they regularly rack up more than a million views on the social media platform.

From chugging coffee while reviewing 784 slides to the 3:20 a.m. realization of her “dire situation,” Chung uses humor and honesty to show what it actually takes to power through a night of studying:


the caffeine hit me during the exam so bad i had to submit my test early and rented a scooter to go home asap #allnighter #dentalstudent #dentalschool #ucladentalstudent #ucla #studytok #studywithme #finalsweek

♬ Clown-Song - Electronic Radio Mix - P-Control

Her all-nighter method has taken over TikTok. “Pulling a Kay Chung” has now become a new shorthand for students who need to study intensely the night before an exam.

Christina Bonaparte, a 23-year-old first-year medical student who is based in Los Angeles, admires Chung’s work ethic and finds her videos to be relatable.

“She’s bringing awareness to the struggles of being in medical school or dental school,” Bonaparte said.

What sets Chung’s videos apart from the rest of “StudyTok” is how she is willing to show the less glamorous side of prepping for an exam. While some people on StudyTok share tips about the aesthetics of studying ― the fun pens, notebooks and highlighting techniques ― Chung shows the sacrifice.

“People like watching the suffering of it,” Chung told HuffPost. “I tried to show every aspect of it. A lot of times, I’m on the verge of tears.”

Or as Chung quips in one of her TikToks: “10:38 am preemptively cry because I clearly won’t have time later.

Chung believes her videos are so popular because it’s “one minute of gratification. You see the process and the results.” The videos end with the sun rising and Chung passing the exam.

The fast-paced clown music and zippy editing make Chung’s videos entertaining, but there’s a real fear that is fueling them. Earlier in dental school, Chung failed a practical portion of an exam. She said the experience of getting a failing score due to two minutes of her life “completely changed [her] perspective on how much one day matters.”

She does all-nighters before exams to cope with the pressure of having 30 questions determine her whole grade and “if you’re competent enough to go on.”

“The videos are fun, but there’s definitely a lot of anxiety behind it now,” she said about why she does all-nighters.

Why Kay Chung’s study method for cramming is so effective

Chung is not just staying up all night memorizing –– she has a step-by-step process that make her cramming effective:

1. During her all-nighter, Chung first reviews the lecture notes two to three times. Sometimes it is the first time she is reviewing the material, but Chung said that she does study at least three days in advance when she can. When Chung has more time, she’ll use the first day to review the first half of the lecture, the second day to review the rest, and the all-nighter to review everything.

2. Whatever Chung cannot remember from the lecture, she then copies down in a notebook. “I went over this two to three times, so if I don’t remember it, it’s something I struggle with memorizing,” Chung explained in a TikTok. She will then highlight notes she wrote down to see if she can actively remember the rest of the sentence.

3. Chung will then test her recall by going to a new blank page of her notebook and writing down what she remembers from her notes.

Chung has passed every written exam in dental school with this method. “It forces you to pass...because you’re constantly looking at the material for 10-12 hours before literally the start of the exam. So it’s fresh on my mind,” Chung told HuffPost.

Williams College psychology professor Nate Kornell, who researches human learning and memory, said Chung’s study technique method was “sophisticated and effective.”

Beyond her “wise” choice to study the material first, Kornell said that her “active recall” is one of the most effective parts of her technique. That’s because it goes beyond rote memorization. You can just rewrite your notes, or you can actively try to recall the information from memory and write it down.

“Research shows that active recall is a lot more effective,” Kornell said.

It also helps that Chung is writing notes down on paper, which is a better way to memorize and boost your understanding about a concept than typing it on a computer, according to studies.

Ideally, all-nighters are not a regular habit, but if you must do one, Chung’s cramming method can help. “A lot of people, once they’re in a bind of pulling that all-nighter, they feel kind of scattered and, ‘Oh, I don’t know what to do,’” Bonaparte said. “[Chung] shows you exactly how you can get through that all-nighter.”

The price your body pays for all-nighters

But cramming your studying into one sleepless night should be a last resort, because all-nighters have diminishing returns the more you do them.

“The only part I can’t recommend is staying up all night,” Kornell said about Chung’s tips. “I realize that can be a reality, especially in medical school. However, our cognitive abilities decline when we get tired, so all-nighters can be inefficient.”

Valentina Ramirez, a 21-year-old electrical engineering student in Puerto Rico who runs StemGirlTalk, tried out Chung’s method before an exam. It was her first time trying an energy drink. She found the “locking in” mentality of accepting that it was going to be an overwhelming night to be helpful. But she wouldn’t try it again.

“For me, it was not worth the cost. I got heart palpitations thanks to the energy drink and barely got sleep,” Ramirez said. “I don’t think it’s sustainable.”

Even Kay Chung does not recommend the Kay Chung method. “It’s the desperation that’s pushing me forward,” she said about her all-nighters. “I wish people wouldn’t do them personally. I feel like they should just watch me and stop there.”

Chung is particularly concerned about her high school and college fans who want to drink Red Bulls and 5-hour energy shots like she does to stay awake. Chung said she built up her caffeine tolerance from working as a barista and drinking coffee when she was young, but she wants younger people to prioritize sleep. “They shouldn’t be drinking that much caffeine,” Chung said.

The Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than two to four 8-ounce cups of coffee a day.

Research backs up that teenagers in particular should not be sacrificing sleep for studying. In a 2012 study for the journal Child Development, UCLA researchers followed 535 high school students as they journaled how long they studied and how much they slept before tests. The students who slept less to study more were more likely to do poorly on a test, quiz or homework than students who didn’t sacrifice sleep.

Instead of using her videos as inspiration to stay up all night, Chung wants her videos to be a cautionary tale to fellow students. “I hope it motivates them to study ahead,” Chung said. “That’s what I would like my videos to do.”

Effective study tips that don’t involve all-nighters

Chung’s method works for her, but you don’t have to sacrifice nights of sleep to study.

“Cramming will allow you to do well on the test tomorrow. But it also leads to forgetting, so your future self will not remember what you learned,” Kornell said. “Studying ahead of time, and studying multiple times with space in between, is far more effective.”

Space out your studying

Instead of cramming all your studying into one sleepless night, memory experts recommend spacing out your studying over the week before an exam.

“Ideally you would do the reading before class, attend class, then review your class notes the next day. That’s all background prep,” Kornell said as an example. “Then, as the test approaches, make a schedule and stick to it. Study everything, and anything you study gets studied on at least two different days. And then cram the night before.”

By studying the material on different days, you can quickly learn what parts are sticking, and what you need more clarification on.

Test yourself

Metacognitive judgments of deciding what to study can be “notoriously difficult to make accurately,” Kornell said. “Sometimes we think we have learned things when we really haven’t.”

To fight against that bias, you should take practice tests. Kornell said it is “probably the best way to find out what you know and what you don’t.”

Explain it to others

Bonaparte recommends finding a study group so you can test each other.

“I actually find that you know and understand material the best when you can teach it to someone else,” she said. “You can think you know it from reading it five times. But if you can’t explain what you just wrote, or if you can’t recall what you just read, you don’t really know it.”

As with all study tips, your mileage may vary. Decide what works for you, but be careful to not sacrifice your body for a grade.

As one TikToker who tried Chung’s all-nighter method put it: “That is for extreme, dire, desperate measures...Did it work? Yes. But at what cost?”

But as for Chung? When she is not busy in the lab practicing her clinical skills or creating drilling videos, she is often cramming for exams. For her, the method works. “My whole life, I feel the pressure is what really motivates me,” she said.

In the next few weeks, “I will be pulling all-nighters for sure.”

Popular in the Community


HuffPost Shopping’s Best Finds