3 ways to avoid a dreaded all-nighter

PhD student Jonathan Horlyck shares his tips to get a head start on your assessments.

Pulling an all-nighter is part and parcel of the university experience for many of us. Working through the night, whether it be to finish that essay on 19th century Marxism or cramming before a mid-sem calculus exam, is a dangerous beast. Research not only shows that sleepless nights spent with your nose stuck in a book or staring at a laptop results in poorer short and long term memory the next day; but also suggests that spending the night awake before an exam could actually be worse for your grades than getting some much needed shut-eye!

So, put away the Red Bull and sugary snacks and follow my three top tips for all-nighter avoidance: 

1. Start early

There’s no doubt that the major reason for working or studying into the wee hours of the morning is procrastination, an art form many students have mastered. So the first step to ensuring you get a good night’s rest on the eve of a big assessment is getting started early. Read through the assignment on the day it is given and jot down any ideas or strategies. This will make the larger chunks of work much easier later on.

My tip: Breaking the work up into parts can help make an assessment a little less daunting. 


2. Set a schedule

Instead of leaving things to the last minute (or night), why not aim to get that pesky essay finished a few days early? That way you’ll be safe when the inevitable cold or flu hits a day before the due date. Setting soft deadlines by planning out your time on an assessment will help you finish well in advance of a stricter deadline.

My tip: Setting schedules makes working on multiple assessments much more manageable.

3. Collaborate

The official UNSW program learning outcomes state that students should graduate capable of “collaborative inquiry and working effectively with others.” So don’t leave studying for a tough exam or writing an assessment on the backburner, relying on some late-night brilliance to get across the line. Ask your mates to see if anyone wants to get together and work on the topic.

My tip: Talk to other students to try and discuss the content or any problems you are having well ahead of time.

-     Jonathan Horlyck, UNSW Engineering Industrial Chemistry graduate

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