Taking Breaks While Studying

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Written by Abdullah Paracha

If you are like me, it is difficult for you to sit down and study for hours for difficult and cumbersome subjects. When I was studying for a graduate level entrance exam, I definitely felt the growing pains of inefficient studying! However, I quickly learned that the goal of studying is not to study for extremely long hours in a day.  Instead, the goal of studying is to effectively learn material throughout the day, where efficiency trumps everything else.

There is a lecture by Professor Marty Lobdell, who teaches a seminar in studying, in which he discusses the studying curve. The studying curve shows that on average, efficiency in studying decreases as time increases. What this means is that if you study for two hours straight, the most effective studying generally comes in the first half of an hour. The next half is less efficient and so on until your efficiency is almost at zero. This is inefficient studying.

On the alternative, there is an easy way to reset efficiency while studying for longer periods. Taking breaks! After approximately the first half hour of studying, a small break of 5-10 minutes can reset your efficiency to almost 100% again! It is even more beneficial when the small break involves getting up, walking around or having a snack, and staying off electronics! In my own personal experience, I have applied this concept of spaced studying by using a Pomodoro timer, easily found online. The Pomodoro method takes the idea of focused studying, and expands it by giving a five minute break after every 25 minutes of studying, with a longer break of 15 minutes after four studying sessions. 

By employing the Pomodoro method, you can easily build study habits that are maintainable in the long-term.  Every student is different, so feel free to change the amount of time you study to the ratio of break time. However, remember that it is better to spend two hours studying effectively, than four hours studying ineffectively. By taking valuable breaks while studying, you can help meet your academic goals while maintaining a personal life!

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