As you head towards those stressful final exams, you might feel compelled to lock yourself in your bedroom from 8 am to 10 pm and stare at your textbooks for 4 hours at a time.
That is not only a really torturous thing to do, but incredibly inefficient as well. Neurologists have found that our ability to concentrate and absorb information well continuously lasts only about half an hour on average (this research was mentioned by Dr Richard Palmer in his excellent book, Studying for Success). After half an hour, our ability to absorb falls precipitously and after an hour, most of us are essentially zombies pretending to study.
Thus the intelligent thing to do is to take a 5 to 15 minute break every half an hour or so. This will refresh your brain and reset your receptiveness to information, and when you restart, you will perform at a high level again.
So what should you do during that 5 to 15 minute break? Well, anything that helps you to recuperate and revive, from taking a walk to dancing to sipping your favourite drink. But I don’t recommend staring at your phone or even worse, lying down (that break is likely to last a lot longer than 15 minutes!).
Other research has also found that sitting for long periods increases your risk of an early death. Thus the approach of taking breaks and getting up while studying is crucial for your good health, too!
Of course, different students perform differently when studying. You might also find that your concentration lasts longer when you’re revising your favourite subject. Thus for myself, I have no fixed intervals whenever I study or read. Whenever I find my performance fading away, I take a break.
All the best for your exams!
Website owner Steven Ooi, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as an English and GP tutor in 2016. He continues to blog on issues of concern to GP and student life.
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