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7 Tips for Pulling an All-Nighter

Updated on April 16, 2015
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So you’ve waited until the last minute in order to study.

It happens to the best of us. Sometimes something unexpected came up, forcing you not to study. Other times, playing video games feels much more important. Even staring at a blank wall feels better than cracking open a textbook at times.

No matter what it was, you need to cram now. Don’t worry. There are ways to help.

Here are 7 tips to help you cram, without losing your sanity:

1. Decide Whether To Stay Up, Or Wake Up Early.

Staying up is much easier to do for most people. As Isaac Newton said, "an object in motion stays in motion." It is much easier to build momentum studying when we are already awake. But, staying up late is harder on the sleeping schedule, and may make you feel groggy for the next couple of days.

Waking up early is much harder to do, especially if you want to study for many hours. It still leaves you groggy, but will keep your sleeping schedule mostly intact, because you've had at least some time to rest.

The best option is to stay up a little later than usual studying, then wake up a little earlier to review. It maximizes the benefits both options have. But, if time doesn't permit, choose the option that works best for you.

2. Write Out Your Notes

I find this works with vocabulary tests, or tests that need memorization only. If you have a set of notes that you can copy, take a pencil and a sheet of paper and write them out again.

Handwriting your notes is one of the most effective ways to memorize your notes. It engages several parts of the brain, which is believed to improve memorization. But,his effect does not translate to typing. Typing is one of the worst methods of taking notes, as the brain isn't engaged in the same ways. Even though you can type more information, the lack of brain engagement seems to cancel any benefits.

If you think writing out your notes is right for you, try it. If you don't have the time, or if hand cramps aren't your thing, then move right along.

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3. Use Flash Cards

Flash cards are one of the best methods to use if you need to memorize key concepts or specific terms.

If you are starting earlier in the evening, hand-write your flashcards. Write a key word or phrase on one side of the note card, and the essential information on the other side of the note card. Read your note cards over and over again.

If you don’t have time, type your flashcards out and study those. Sites like Quizlet allow you to create and study your own flashcards. It only requires you to sign up to create these cards. If you have a test over required reading, you may find some luck searching for the flashcards on that website and it might come up.

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Will Caffeine Help?

When it comes to staying awake, caffeine seems like the perfect thing to use. After all, it takes only 15 minutes for you to feel the effects of caffeine, and then it remains in your system for up to six hours after ingestion. This is powerful for those who want to stay awake.

To maximize the effects of caffeine, try these things:

  • Drink small amounts of coffee throughout the day to maximize the effects. A study conducted by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School found ingesting small amounts of caffeine throughout the day is the best strategy for staying awake.
  • If coffee is not your thing, taking 100 mg or 200 mg caffeine pills produces the same effects.
  • Eat no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine, or two cups of coffee. Too much caffeine can upset your stomach, cause heart tremors, and leave you feeling irritable.

4. When in Doubt, Use YouTube

Watch YouTube videos of the content you have to learn. It gives you both an auditory and a visual element your studying. For example, if you need to learn content through a book, check to see if there are content summaries of the chapter on YouTube. Or, if there is a particular topic you need to know, search for it on YouTube. The key here is finding engaging content for you to listen to.

When you do find a YouTube video, avoid passive listening. This wastes time that you don't have. Instead, actively watch the video and take a few notes from them. This increases your engagement with the material, which improves your ability to memorize information.

5. Practice Strategically

If your test requires practice to get familiar with a process, like Calculus, you need strategic practice. This strategy gets you as familiar with the process as possible.

  • First, find as many practice problems with step-by-step solutions as possible. You only need a few Google searches to find them. If these are not available, find questions with the answers instead.
  • Then, have the methods to solving these problems at hand. This includes formulas and main concepts you need to know.
  • Now, look at process of solving the process. Pinpoint the main methods of solving these problems and make notes of them.
  • Afterwards, write the problems you want to learn out on a sheet of paper, and close the solutions. Now, solve the problem, working through the process. Get a feel for how the formulas work, and where the application of the concepts are.
  • Check your answers. If they are wrong, the step-by-step process can show you why. Continue to work through step-by-step processes until you receive correct answers. If they are right, you can move on to problems that only have the solution, and no step-by-step process.

By looking not only at the answers, but at the process, you learn both how and why things work in a short period of time.

6. Take a Break

Taking breaks boosts productivity and brain effectiveness. When cramming for your tests, make sure you take breaks, or else you won't be productive in the long-term.

A study conducted by the Draugiem Group finds the ideal work-break time to be 52 minutes and 17 minutes. To simplify things, try to study for 55 minutes and then take a 20 minute break. This relieves the stress you may feel, and help you feel refreshed.

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Recover

You will be tired the next day, regardless of whether you stay up late or wake up early. According to David Dinges, PhD, chief of the division of sleep and chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, “you’re actually at the worst 24 hours after your habitual wake-up time." To buffer the effects of tiredness, sleep.

Take a nap. Even if the nap is only 10 minutes long, it can benefit you, says Dinges. You'll feel refreshed and energized afterwards. Be warned, naps over 40 minutes may leave you feeling tired, but after you shake off the feeling, you'll feel just fine.

The secret to studying the day before a test is to be as quick and efficient as possible. Avoid distractions, try different methods of studying, and see what works best for you. If everything goes well, you should do just fine for your assessment the next day.

How often do you stay up to study?

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    • Nicole Grizzle profile image
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      Nicole Grizzle 2 years ago from Georgia

      @Amanda6868 Neither do I. But, when I do, this is the typical routine I follow. Thanks for the comment!

    • Amanda6868 profile image

      Amanda M 2 years ago from Unknown

      Interesting hub. I don't stay up very often, but if I do, I will remember this.