8

I know it means multiple somethings like:

  1. Du bist dran!: You're next!
  2. as a shortened version of "daran".

But I have encountered this sentence:

Meistens bin ich mit der Vorbereitung der Prüfung spät dran und kann mir dann nicht mehr alles merken.

I can't see any meaning for "dran" here. What is it doing in this sentence??

11

"dran" or "daran" usually references some subject, state or location which was mentioned in a previous sentence. For example:

"Michael hat seinen Termin verpasst. Daran bin nur ich schuld."
"Michael missed his appointment. That is completely my fault."

"Täglich wird es wärmer. Daran erkennt man, dass der Frühling kommt."
"It is getting warmer every day. This is how you can tell that spring is coming."

"Die Tür ist wackelig. Lehne dich bitte nicht daran an."
"The door is wobbly. Please don't lean against it."

Now, for the sentence "Du bist dran." there is no direct noun that is being referenced here. But since this is somewhat of a set phrase, "dran" implicitly refers to "die Reihe"/"the queue" or "the line" (either a physical or metaphorical one). So actually it means

"Du bist an der Reihe"
"You're next (in line)"

as you correctly translated.

Moving to your actual question, let's look at the problematic sentence again:

"Meistens bin ich mit der Vorbereitung der Prüfung spät dran und kann mir dann nicht mehr alles merken."
"Usually I am late for preparations for the exam and then I can no longer remember everything."

"mit etw. spät dran sein"/"to be late for smth." is a set phrase, but the "dran" always refers to the "etw."/"smth." that comes before it. In this case, the "dran" is connected to the thing you're doing, i.e. the "Vorbereitung der Prüfung".

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    Nice exposition! (+1) I remember one more use in a 1700 years in a rebellion-song "Drauf und dran, setzt auf's Klosterdach den roten Hahn". Here "dran" has one more, today surely forgotten, meaning. Mar 4 at 16:54
17

The phrase spät dran sein means to be running late. It is a fixed word combination.

Update:

As Arsak comments, spät dran sein has früh dran sein as a counterpart.

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    Might be worth to add that früh dran sein (to be early) is used as well.
    – Arsak
    Mar 4 at 0:12

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