Anyone can study the night before an exam. I’d hazard a safe bet that this is normal practice for the vast, vast majority of students. But doing this without setting yourself up for failure is a whole other subject.

Your success is going to depend on walking a fine line between making use of your short-term memory and not tiring out your prefrontal cortex for the actual exam.

Whether you’re studying in the last hours or even weeks before an exam what really matters is how good you are at learning (and retaining) information. Studying is not about how long you spend looking at a book or a computer screen.

What you get done is far more important than how long you study for. If you’re efficient with your studying techniques you can get more done in 2 hours than in 20. So before anything else take an hour or two to improve your studying ability and you’ll avoid wasting a lot of time. Better studying results in less work? Too good to pass up.

One of the easiest ways to do this is brushing up on your memory and improving your ability to learn faster. You know who’s a master at this kind of thing? Chess players. I’m not suggesting you go and learn chess at the level of a grandmaster (unless you have a spare decade) but, luckily, a grandmaster has an audiobook ‘Unlimited Memory’ — which you can download for free with Amazon’s Audible.

It’s about 2.5 hours long but, since it’s an audiobook, you can listen when you go to bed or something. I guarantee it’ll change the way you study and even if you cancel Amazon lets you keep the entire audiobook. You can download it here.

But, even with the best studying techniques around, studying the night before an exam can still be tricky.

A lot of the same principles still apply. You want to be prepared, have set goals and know what areas you want to focus on. You’re a lot better to spend a little time preparing than just ad-libbing the whole study session.

Every student has different things which work for them and I’ve heard some crazy strategies like sleeping 24 hours straight before an exam. But I’d like to share one of the best pieces of advice:

First of all remove your fear of failure.
In order to do that, think what’s the worst that could happen if you flunk the test. And as soon as you think about worst case scenario, your mind will come up solutions for them, trust me.

How do I know that there’ll be some solution? Because if there wasn’t then you would have started your preparations earlier(I’m stating this as matter of fact).

So clear your mind and approach your subject.
Start with something that isn’t too difficult but at the same time, it should add another field in which you can write answers. If you start with unknown or difficult topic then it might be confusing and can derail you and you don’t want that! If you start with easy ones then what’s the point! They are easy because you know them, so leave them till last minute.

Go through solved examples only. Do them twice or thrice, to gain confidence.
I’m student of Mumbai University and our books contain questions asked in previous examinations. So after completing each topic go through such questions as they tend to get repeated. Moreover, if you want to skip the topic, just go through questions asked previously from that topic.

Focus on diagrams! Visuals help in getting a better understanding as well as in memorising. And if you draw diagrams in exam you will get better score. My professor told me that while checking and grading answers, they hardly take more than 10 minutes for each student. So if you draw diagram instead of writing big para, examiner will understand that you know your concepts well and you will get better marks. So last night or not, always make a point to understand and draw diagrams.

If you have a Whatsapp group for your class and someone is always posting something in it, then avoid it all cost! During my last semester examinations, every few seconds people were asking all sorts of doubts, not necessarily related to the exams and that was quite irritating and perplexing. So mute notifications.

In such situations, everyone should have 4 kinds of friends. They’re

1. Relaxed-Know-it-alls
You need them to solve your doubts and to help you understand concepts in trivial ways.
Why did I write relaxed, that’s because I have seen people who have read everything but still they are in panic mode. These should be avoided because they would have studied everything and in last hours will come up with questions from unknown, out of syllabus topics and that can shake your confidence.

2. I-didn’t-study-anything or very few topics ones
They might be telling the truth but in any cases it helps you in lowering panic when you know someone is in a worse situation than yours. (Human nature, I guess)

3. Chilled-out ones
These are the friends who say stuff like “sab moh maya hai” (everything is an illusion), “ lite le lo, bas passing marks hi toh chahiye” (relax, you only need to cross pass cutoff) etc.. They mostly study by prioritising chapters on basis of marks/hours allotted to each. Again, we have this in MU, don’t know about others. So they figure out what all chapters are to their strengths and which of them are necessary to pass the exam. When in doubt regarding importance of a topic consult them.

4. The ones like you
These are friends who to started out late like you and they provide the necessary support.

It is necessary that you sleep, even if its only for few hours. You don’t want to fall asleep during exam, do you?

Make notes highlighting keywords, so it comes in handy for last glance revision.

Try to relax or meditate or take deep breaths or whatever you feel like doing, 10 minutes before the exam. During this time, you may visualize your notes or book.

Whatever you do, attempt all questions. Write anything you know about it but don’t leave any question.

First attempt all the questions you know or the ones which will take lesser time. This will give you time to think about difficult ones. And try to attempt questions with higher marks first. And again attempt all questions!