Cramming hard for your exams the night before, but feeling like you don’t remember anything? Feeling stressed and anxious about schoolwork? You’re not alone – according to one study, 99% of students admit to pulling an all-nighter before an exam.
The amount of work that needs to be done can feel overwhelming. You may find yourself putting off studying so you have no choice but stay up all night before a test or exam.
Why all-nighters don’t work
Cramming isn’t effective, because your brain needs time to digest information. After six hours of studying (and a packet of chips and several energy drinks) you might feel as though the material is familiar.
Your brain needs to go over material multiple times across days in order to give your frontal cortex and temporal lobe (aka your brain) time to process it and construct memories. You may remember some facts from your cram-session because they’re still part of your short-term memory, but you’ll remember far more if you start studying earlier to engage your long-term memory.
Not to mention, staying up all night and eating sugar and caffeine to stay awake and stressing out aren’t helping your exam performance.
Here are some simple tips for effective studying.
Make a study schedule
I know, I know, boring, right? But making a schedule and keeping it will help improve your chances at recalling the right information.
You don’t need to block out hours every day and put your life on hold. Your brain absorbs information better if you study in short 20-30 minute bursts. Set a timer, and go for it!
Change it up
Try studying in different rooms, in the library, or quizzing with a friend. Changing your location can help your brain remember facts faster.
Take regular breaks
Remember what we said above about using a timer? Set it to go off after 20-30 minutes, then take a 10-15 minute break. Stretch your legs, have a snack, or do something fun.
Your brain remembers bite-sized pieces of information better than just re-reading long paragraphs. Writing out your notes onto flash cards also helps you remember them!
Make time for review
At the end of every week, schedule a small block of time to review everything you learned in class. Just this one thing alone will help you grasp concepts and recall more when it comes to exam time.
Study with your friends
Talking through problems and quizzing each other will help you retain information. Just make sure you actually get some work done!
Instead of cramming, the night before an exam you should:
Think positive: Imagine yourself acing the exam and how good you feel.
Change your mindset: Instead of seeing the exam as a threat or something to worry about, think of it as a challenge, like beating your personal best in your favourite sport or getting to another level in your video game.
Review your notes one more time: This can help to remind yourself how prepared you are and how much you know.
Do something relaxing: Watch a great movie, read a book, or hang with a friend.
Get a good night’s sleep: The better you sleep, the more you improve your creativity, problem solving, concentration, and memory for the next day.
Relax, you got this!