By Kelly Roell
Test Prep Expert
The Problem: Long Study Sessions
Marathon study sessions. Beginning test-takers, and even mature testers who have been coloring in ovals and practicing short answer questions for years, often utilize these hours-long study sessions. They pile up all the books, barricade themselves in a great study place, and spend hour after hour trying to cram information into their heads.
Why would anyone do this?
Well, they believe that by putting in massive amounts of study time before their tests is the best way to get a major pay off in the score department. Everyone wants a great score, right?
Of course. But the problem with marathon study sessions is your focus. According to University of Illinois Psychology Professor, Dr. Alejandro Lleras, you'll experience a "vigilance decrement," or a drop in your attention resources, the longer you try to attend to a task.
In study terms, if you study for a long time with no breaks, you'll gradually lose your focus, learn less, and perform worse on the exam. However, if you take mental breaks from the task at hand, your performance stays steady throughout, giving you a much higher probability of getting the score you want on your assessment.
The Solution: Smart Study Breaks
Obviously, you need to take breaks while you're studying, but instead of just getting up and wandering around, use a few of the following suggestions to incorporate breaks into your study routine. You'll maximize your study time and get a much better results if you do.
- Set Up Your Breaks Ahead of Time. If you have two hours to study tonight before your test tomorrow, then give yourself 2-3 breaks in between that time frame at regular intervals. Decide when your breaks will occur ahead of time, set the timer on your phone, and take the break when it comes. Not before then and not after.
- Make Your Study Breaks Short. A study break is not the time to catch up on your latest Netflix obsession. If you're studying for a couple hours, then you only need to take a couple five-minute breaks. That's it. Any more and you may just lose focus on your studying altogether.
- Make Your Breaks Conditional If You Need Motivation. If you hate the thought of studying and really struggle to do it at all, then set up your breaks a bit more frequently with the condition that you must remain focused or you'll forfeit your break. If you can't monitor yourself, have someone else keep you in check!
- Make Your Study Break Rewarding. It isn't enough to just get a quick stretch. No! If you're putting in the effort, make sure that your study break rewards you in some way. Listen to your favorite songs for a bit. Take a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air if that moves you. Save your favorite snack for your break time instead of noshing while you're studying. Reward your hard work and you'll be more willing to focus for the duration.
- Make Your Study Break Active. Everyone studying can benefit from a brisk walk or a jumping jack or two, but kinesthetic learners should especially take this advice to heart. Get up and get your blood pumping during your study break. Get some blood flowing! Your accelerated heart rate will jazz some life into you if you're starting to lose focus because of sleepiness or other mind-numbing study distractions.
The End Goal
Whether you're looking to ace the LSAT, rock the SAT, or simply pass your final exam, utilizing breaks in your study session will help you accomplish that goal as long as you use them wisely.