No way around it: you’ve got to cram for some big exams. In an effort to quickly learn the material and not bomb the test, you’re pulling an all-nighter. Whether you’re studying solo or planning a cram-session with friends, follow these tips to get your apartment set for an effective all-nighter.

Stock the Fridge for an All-Nighter

You probably know all the food places within a few miles of your apartment, but heading out to grab food will sap precious study time. In a group setting, you also don’t want to derail your study time with a debate about what type of food to order.

Your best bet is to stock the fridge ahead of time with essentials. Make sure you have enough water to stay hydrated. Do yourself another favor: have healthy snacks on hand. The right brain-boosting foods will give your mind the fuel it needs to learn and retain information. (Ideally the same foods to eat right before the exam).

Head to your grocery’s dairy case for eggs, yogurt and cottage cheese (it mixes great with fruit).

Boil some of the eggs if you like that for a snack. Some other great choices on exam day would be nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruit and figs. Blueberries, apples, bananas or strawberries will satisfy a sweet tooth, as will dried fruits. Nuts and sunflower seeds are also great. Avoid carbs like chips, bread and fried foods, which can cause sluggishness and an energy crash.  

Can the Energy Drinks

Energy drinks aren’t as effective as you think. They give you a short boost of energy, but the high sugar content causes insulin and blood sugar spikes, which can lead to an energy crash. If you don’t think you can make it without some type of stimulant, stick with green tea or coffee. According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 400 MG of caffeine a day appears to be safe for healthy adults, but keep in mind this total includes the caffeine you consume earlier in the day.

Set Up Your Study Space

If you have a group of people coming over, decide on the best place to study and make sure you have space to accommodate everyone. Move some furniture around to create more space. Depending on what you’re studying (i.e. practice tests and note taking), you may need ample places for people to write. Alternatively, if you’ll be reading, sharing and quizzing each other, you want to create a place where you can all sit together and face one another.

If you’re studying on your own, your best bet is to have a dedicated study space. You should set this up at the beginning of the year so you have a quiet, distraction-free spot to do homework, assignments and studying. Sit at your desk instead of your bed, this will help you stay alert and focused. Keep your desk neat and clutter free. “When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus,” according to Erin Doland from unclutterer. “The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information.”

Eliminate Distractions

Keep the TV switched off; music with lyrics is also a distraction during study time. Keep instrumental music low.  If you have considerate neighbors, let them know ahead of time that you’ll be studying for a big exam.

Remember, people can be distractions, too. If you’re planning a group study session, be mindful of who you invite. The class clown may be entertaining, but he’ll distract the group from the task at hand. You only get one shot at finals.

Make Light of the Situation

No two ways about it, adequate lighting is important when studying, especially during an all-night cram session. Darkness sends a signal to the body that it’s time to rest, while exposure to light makes us alert.  

Have a Gameplan

Lack of preparation is how you got yourself into this situation. Don’t compound it by going into an all-nighter without a plan. Determine the material you have to study, decide which concepts are most challenging for you, then prioritize the most difficult, time-consuming topics. If you have a study guide, use that to help you determine what to focus on.  

Students tend to practice with more assistance than they’ll have access to during an actual test: not a good idea. Use practice tests strategically. If your exam will be an open-note test, complete your practice test the same way. If your exam will be timed and you can’t use study aids, take the practice test that same way.  This way, you’ll feel more prepared when it’s time to take your exam.

Hopefully, “cram” study sessions will be few and far between.  But in addition to what’s in the books, you have to know how to pull an all-nighter. These tips will make the most of your limited time.

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