Last Updated on August 28, 2023
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How To Study For A Test At The Last minute
7 LAST MINUTE STUDY TIPS THAT ACTUALLY WORK
HOW TO STUDY LAST MINUTE
- Manage your workflow
- Optimize your study area
- Focus on your weak spots
- Explain your answers to others
- Be healthy
- Plan plan plan
- Take a break
#1 MANAGE YOUR WORKFLOW
To get the most out of last-minute study, you need to manage your time effectively and prioritize revision. It sounds simple but studies show that over 70 percent of students regularly procrastinate and find it hard to concentrate.
If this sounds familiar, what you need is a framework to help you manage your workflow. One of the most popular frameworks is called ‘Getting Things Done’ or ‘GTD’ for short. GTD is a simple, five-step framework created by legendary time-management guru David Allen. It helps you prioritize things like emails, assignments, and revision tasks, and helps you focus on your most important tasks.
The GTD framework is used by many time management training courses and is also included in our Start Smart program. We even put together a handy guide to starting with GTD, so check it out and start getting shit done!
#2 OPTIMIZE YOUR STUDY AREA (AND CUT OUT DISTRACTIONS)
To study last minute, you need to optimize your study area and cut out distractions. Your study area could be your bedroom, living room or even a public library, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is learning how to focus on your study notes instead of social media.
- If you prefer studying in silence, try using noise-canceling headphones to cut out distracting sounds while you study. We can highly recommend the Bose QuietComfort but if you’re on a budget, cheap earplugs can do the job as well.
- If you work better with music, you can try using an app like Brain.fm to listen to focus-boosting soundtracks while you study. Spotify also has some great deep focus tunes!
- For ultimate concentration, we recommend turning off your Wi-Fi or even turning off your phone altogether. But if this sounds like a step too far, you can try using a productivity app such as Forest that can help you to stay off your phone.
#3 FOCUS ON YOUR WEAK SPOTS
The key to getting the most out of last-minute study is focusing on your weak spots. You can’t revise all of your class material and study notes, so don’t. Instead, focus on the stuff you don’t know (yet).
Not sure where to begin? Try taking a practice exam or answering a few sample questions and see how you score. Find the weakest areas and study up. Brushing up on your weak spots will have the biggest impact on your overall grades. Trust us!
#4 EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWERS TO OTHERS
Being able to explain something to someone else is the gold-standard test for true understanding. If you’re looking to get the most out of your last-minute study, this is one of the best exercises to do.
Find a friend or family member and try to explain your notes, mind maps or revision flashcards to them. Explaining your answers aloud to others will help you identify weak areas and spot any gaps in your knowledge.
#5 (TRY TO) BE HEALTHY
Staying healthy is one of the best things you can do when studying last minute. We recommend drinking water, eating nutritious food and exercising.
If you’re like us, then just the thought of last-minute study can have you reaching for another cup of coffee or a can of Red Bull. But don’t! Energy drinks can give you a short-term boost but often leave you feeling tired and irritable on the long-term. The best advice is boring, but it works – drink some water! It will keep you hydrated and helps you concentrate.
And if you really need a caffeine fix, make sure to use a cool mug, like this one for example…
We also know time is of the essence but try to go easy on your local Deliveroo or Uber Eats cyclists. Eat healthy and try to exercise during your breaks. But don’t use it as an excuse to procrastinate. Exams are coming, remember?
#6 PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Most people sleep easier knowing that their bags are packed for the following day. Make sure your pens, pencils and other supplies are in good working order so you can go to bed with a clear mind. Packing your bag the night before and planning your exam day can have a great effect on your performance. You’ll sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever’s in front of you.
#7 TAKE A BREAK
Sleep has an important effect on exam performance. Researchers from UGent & KU Leuven actually found a link between getting a good night’s sleep and achieving higher test scores. Students who get a full night’s sleep outperform their sleepier peers. This shows the dangers of pulling an all-nighter before your exams. Instead, focus on getting proper rest and having at least eight hours sleep on the night before your exam.
how to study last night before exam
How to Study the Night Before a Test
There’s no need to feel completely frightened if you’ve procrastinated until the night before a test to study. Although you won’t be able to commit much to long-term memory in a one-night cram session, you can learn enough to pass the test using these techniques.
- Eat a nutritious meal and prepare a few healthy snacks so you won’t need to get up later
- Set up in a comfortable spot with your study materials (pencils, note cards, highlighters) and class materials (notes, quizzes, tests, handouts, study guides)
- Focus for 30 to 45 minutes, then break for 5
- Take notes and use mnemonic devices to improve recall
- Aim for comprehension over memorization
- Explain concepts and ideas to a third party
- Get a good night’s sleep
The brain and the body are linked, so before you sit down to start a study session, it’s a good idea to take care of your body: go to the bathroom, get some water or tea, and be sure you’re dressed in a way that won’t distract you (nothing scratchy or stiff). Focus and calm are crucial to studying seriously; to get your body on the same page, try doing some deep breathing and yoga stretches to help you get your mind off any other concerns. Essentially, this prep is meant to get your body to help you, not distract you, so you have no excuses to break your study focus.https://89a5628c8f1adc8fdda15e1464e77c3c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Snacking during or before studying can be helpful, but choose wisely. The ideal meal is something without a lot of sugar or heavy carbs that can lead to an energy crash. Instead, grab some high-protein grilled chicken or scramble some eggs for dinner, drink green tea with acai, and follow it all with a few bites of dark chocolate. It’s always easier to stay on task and process information when your brain has been given what it needs to function properly.
The other upside is that by eating something before you begin studying, you’ll be less tempted to get hungry (and distracted) and quit studying early. To further head off any distracting snack attacks, be prepared ahead of time. When you go to your study area, bring a snack with you. This should be something high in nutrients and mess-free, like mixed nuts, dried fruit, or a protein bar. Avoid highly processed foods like chips, and beware of sneaky foods like granola bars that are full of hidden sugar that will leave you stranded in an hour or s
One Step at a Time
Start by getting organized. Get all the materials that relate to the test you’re taking—notes, handouts, quizzes, book, projects—and lay them out neatly in a way that makes sense to you. You might organize them by topic, in chronological order, or in some other way that works. Perhaps you like to use color-coded high lighters or stacks of notecards. The point is that there’s no one way to organize: You have to find the best system that helps you make connections with the material.
By the night before a test, you should already have a good baseline of knowledge on the test topics. That means your goal here is to review and refresh. If your teacher gave you a study guide, start with that, quizzing yourself as you go along. Refer to your other materials if you can’t remember an item on the guide, and then write it down. Use mnemonic devices to help you remember bits of information that you wouldn’t otherwise, but try to avoid just memorizing everything: it’s harder to recall straight facts than it is to have a network of connected ideas that you can rely on.
If you don’t have a study guide or if you’ve finished going over it, prioritize notes and handouts. Things like dates, names, and vocabulary words are likely to show up on tests, so study those first. After that, review the bigger-picture stuff: material that covers cause-and-effect relationships within the topic area and other ideas that could show up on an essay question. For these, memorization is less important than having a solid enough understanding to explain it back on a written answer.
It can seem overwhelming, especially if you have a lot of material to review, so take it slowly. A good rule of thumb is to focus for 30- to 45-minute increments followed by 5-minute breaks. If you try to cram in all the information the night before the test, your brain will overload and you’ll have to work to regain your focus on studying. This is why it’s also useful to review for a few days before the test, not just the night before so you can spread out the material and review everything multiple times over of a few separate sessions.
If you really want to test your understanding of the material, try explaining it to someone who isn’t in the class. Get a family member or friend and “teach” them as much as you can remember. This will let you see how well you understand the concepts and how well you can make connections (to prepare for short-answer or essay questions).
If you have a partner or a family member to help you, have them quiz you on the material. As you go, make a list of anything you get stuck on or can’t remember. Once you’ve been quizzed, take your list and study that material repeatedly until you’ve got it.
Finally, write down all your mnemonic devices, important dates, and quick facts on one sheet of paper, so you can refer to it the morning before the big test.
Nothing will make you do worse on a test than pulling an all-nighter. You may be tempted to stay up all night and cram in as much as is possible, but by all means, get some sleep the night before. When testing time comes, you won’t be able to recall all the information you learned because your brain will be functioning in survival mode.
On the morning of the test, make sure to eat a healthy breakfast for plenty of energy. Throughout the morning, run through your review sheet: while you’re eating, at your locker, or on the way to class. When it comes time to put the review sheet away and sit down for the test, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done everything possible to help your brain get through the test with flying colors.
10 top study hacks for the night before the exam
It’s the night before your big exam. The hard work is done, your revision has met its end and now is the perfect time to calm down your nerves and make sure that you’re ready to enter into that exam hall well rested and confident in your ability to write an amazing exam essay.
We picked the brains of one of our top academics for their 10 ultimate tips and tricks to help ensure that you’re ready to ace your exam!…
1. Play it safe
One of the first rules for running a marathon is not to do it in new shoes. The logic of ‘nothing new’ in sporting events extends to food, clothes, routines, and so on. If you haven’t tried something in the past, now is not the time to experiment with a new memorisation technique, pharmaceuticals (legal or illegal), or work routines. Go with what has worked best in the past, no matter how much someone might try to convince you of a newer, better, or faster way. And this includes how much of the following advice you might want to take.
2. Ready yourself well in advance
There is an old adage that states, ‘Well begun is half done’. Even before you spend the night before an exam getting ready, you should also spend the days before the night before getting ready. The night before an exam is not the time to hunt up that book from the library your instructor insisted you look over. Everything you need to prepare for the exam should be available for your use the night before so you can make the best use of your time.
3. Sleep is your friend
Many people think that the best use of their study time is to sacrifice sleep so that they can study more. But study after study shows that getting sufficient rest is vital to the way we consolidate new information. We recommend this: come home and take a little nap before you start to study (20-30 minutes). Then start fresh. Get a regular night of sleep 6.5-8 hours, but go to bed early. Then start studying again first thing when you wake up until it is time to take the exam. This will give you two opportunities to come at the material revitalised. If you skimp on sleep, you will never really feel fresh, and will most likely just feel irritable, distracted, and burned out. Nevertheless, as always, see #1.
4. Eat right
You want to eat healthy, with a nice mix of good carbs, proteins and fats. It would probably be best to avoid a massive carb that is just going to make you sleep with a sugar crash, especially the morning of the exam. Probably best to avoid taking on too much caffeine as well. Drink plenty of water for optimal brain function. You want to get the most out of your food and drink, but not abuse it to the point of diminishing returns. Nevertheless, as always, see #1.
5. Be examiner
One of the most effective ways to prepare for an exam is by actually engineering an exam for yourself. Go through all of your materials (textbooks, notes, ancillary materials) and look for possible questions. Imagine that you are the cruellest and most sadistic examiner to have lived. Then take that test. It will certainly give you an idea of where your strengths and weaknesses lie.Revise the smart way with our model exam answers
With our model exam answer service, an expert academic specialised in your subject area will provide you with a model answer to the questions that keep coming up. You can take this answer away, study it and build on it so that come exam day, you’re prepared for the most likely questions.Find out more
6. Study groups and study buddies
The chances are very high that you are not the only one preparing for the same exam the night before. Find someone or a group of someones that you trust to stay on task and want to do well and study with them. It is best to arrange this ahead of time, but this can be a highly effective way of preparing for an exam. It makes the best sense, however, to keep the number small and to work with people who might be slightly higher performing than you are in class.
7. Go offline (scary but necessary)
Unless there is some vital, study-related reason you need to be connected to Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and so on, you should consider dropping off the face of the virtual world for a few days. It might start with the need to Google the name of something that might be on the exam and end two hours later with you laughing over a cat video and hating how you got sucked down yet another rabbit hole. For the 12-24 hours leading up to the exam, the only thing you should be focused on is the exam. Everything else can wait.
8. Limit distractions and contacts
Going along with dropping out of the Internet, or simply turning off your computer, is limiting your distractions. These, sadly, can be several. Now certainly, there are people who actually think and work better with noise around them. But what we’re talking about is the distraction that will suck up needed time: your housemate who wants to recount last night’s antics, the friend who wants to hit the shops with you, your mum who won’t stop calling… As best you can, be unavailable until exams are over.
As far as structuring your time goes, you can’t do worse than the famous Pomodoro model of productivity. This method was developed by Francesco Cirillo and is based on those little red tomato kitchen timers. Essentially, work on one thing with the timer set for 20-25 minutes. Then take a short break (stretch the legs, get a drink). Then go another 25 minutes. After 4-5 sets of 20-25 minutes, take a long break for 15-30 minutes. Then begin again. The most important thing within this method is that for those 20-25 minutes you focus entirely on the task at hand. Nevertheless, as always, see #1.
10. Be ready to go
More than likely the closer you get to the next day, and certainly the next morning, the more anxious you will become, and probably the more focused on the exam. On the day before your exam, we recommend that you gather up everything that you will need in advance. Have the clothes you will wear ready (and best go with layers in the event that the room is too warm or too cold). Have what you will eat more or less ready to be eaten. It’s probably even best to shower the night before. This way you will not have to put too much effort into getting ready in the morning.
Target Select and Important Information
Accept immediately that you can’t cram in everything and make some informed decisions as to what you think will be the most valuable things to learn. This might mean learning a few things from lots of different areas or learning a couple of things in depth, depending on the subject you study and the module at hand.
Make a decision and stick with it. Don’t panic half way through the night and try and cram everything in; you might as well just go to sleep instead.
Leave the Caffeine Alone
All-nighter revision sessions and caffeine go hand in hand for most students, but you’ll have a much smoother ride if you resist the coffee and energy drinks, especially if you’re going into an exam the next day.
Too much caffeine can make you feel jittery and unpleasant or can lead to caffeine crashes, which is exactly what you don’t want. Plus, caffeine doesn’t really keep you awake in a useful way – you don’t exactly feel fresh and energised at four in the morning no matter how much Red Bull you’ve guzzled. It’s true that the caffeine will keep your brain awake, but it’s unlikely it will improve the standard of your work.
Instead, make sure you stay hydrated by drinking lots of water throughout the night. Proper hydration is far more likely to make you feel fresh and awake. You should have a glass of water on your desk at all times.
Leave the Sugar Alone
In this situation, food is fuel; make sure you eat the right kind of fuel. Sugar sweets and chocolate are like caffeine – they might seem like a great idea at the start but they will ultimately lead to a sugar crash.
Eat stuff that will keep you going at a steady pace: nuts, fruit, and raw veg with dips. These kinds of slow energy release snacks provide you with the habitual act of chewing, which can help keep you focused and awake but won’t flood your body with unhelpful stuff.
Nuts have protein in (which help build amino acids to keep you alert), and fruits will provide you with natural sugars to give you energy (without the downer that follows a chocolate overload).
Don’t Work in Bed, on the Floor or on a Sofa
If you start your all-nighter in bed, I’m going to wager that you’re not all that committed (which is fine, by the way). If you do actually want to stay up all night, make sure you work at a desk or in a position which won’t induce sleepiness.
Get a All-Night Study Buddy
There will be someone else on your course doing the same thing as you. One good way to get through the experience of pulling an all-nighter is to have someone share the pain with you. Find out who they are and keep in touch via social media to keep motivation going.
Make a Schedule – With Breaks
It might seem a little late to make a plan, but putting together a schedule for the night will calm you down, make you feel less panicked and give you focus. Make it at the start and commit to it entirely. Then all you need to do is go through the motions of what you’ve outlined.
Try and Get Some Sleep at Some Point
We all know that all-nighters don’t always last all night. When you hit a wall or you’ve only got a few hours to go try and get at least some sleep. Adrenaline will get you through the actual exam but your body will be very grateful if you’ve given it a helping hand by getting a few hours (much needed) kip