Mastering the "All-Nighter"
Just remembered about the exam tomorrow? Collect yourself. Walk to Starbucks and
purchase a doppio espresso. Only after your caffeine fix is in hand, are you prepared
to begin your nightlong memorization marathon. Don’t eat too much sugar while you’re
studying and drink plenty of water—no one processes information efficiently when
they’re dehydrated. In college I kept a secret stash of double shot espressos in
the back of the fridge—they’re a little expensive but the convenience of emergency
caffeine reserves is worth the cost.
Here are some study strategies that helped me succeed on exams:
Let your syllabus outline a study guide for you
Before you begin reviewing your course materials, pull out your syllabus. A good
course syllabus should create a natural study outline for you. Consider how much
time was spent on the topics included on your syllabus and which parts of the information
you recall feeling less than confident about. I would consider making a list of
all topics, books, and information that you would like to review in the next few
hours on a separate sheet of paper.
Organize your materials
Regardless of whether I planned on reviewing them, I found that gathering all of
the books, handouts, and old papers written for the class is helpful. Not only do
you save yourself the time and hassle of searching your dorm for them later, but
actually seeing these materials will help you focus and remind you about some of
the topics that you may have forgotten. Arrange these materials so that you can
access the ones that you will rely on the most during your study session.
Re-read critical text.
If you have actually read all of the chapters, books, and packets assigned throughout
the semester you’ll probably just have to skim the text to refresh your memory.
If not, I would suggest reading the introduction of all uncovered texts and at least
a couple chapters of each. Don’t spend all of your time reading however, save plenty
of time to gather essay material and/or practice any problems that you cannot consistently
solve. In addition to reading through this material, also read through any essays
or quizzes that you completed throughout the semester. This will help
you identify the focus of the course and hopefully give you insight into what topics
will appear on the exam.
Take notes on the topics that you are reviewing. Writing down this information will
help you remember it. It is always easier to recall an answer or information that
you have written down, it will help you recall it later. Before taking new notes,
however, I would suggest writing down all of the information pertinent to the exam
that is already stored in your memory. This will help you integrate anything new
that you learn as you study and also make it easier to recall the information quickly
on test day.
Sleep three hours.
If you feel that you have made enough headway to pry yourself away from your books
for a couple of hours to nap, it’s a good idea to do so. Just make sure that you
leave yourself a few hours before the exam to recollect your thoughts and review
the notes that you were taking before your break. Don’t go to sleep a couple hours
before the exam. This will only leave you feeling rushed and unprepared when you
wake up and it won’t allow you enough time to take another look at your notes.