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Mastering the "All-Nighter"

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.

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.

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