How to take study breaks

Do you study effectively? Today’s article will address the often underestimated element of the studying process, which is a break, and the effect on the quality of our learning it can have. This is useful knowledge for anyone who is studying, especially for students. After all, the exam session is just around the corner.

Isn’t it a coincidence that taking breaks is the most pleasant part of learning? I have great news for you: taking regular breaks will have a positive effect on your learning! In this article you will learn why these breaks are so important and how to use them to make your studying even more efficient.

For starters, I have a little task for you. This is a short memory test that I found in Tony Buzan's book "Use Your Memory". There’s a list of words below. They are quite random. Your task is to read this list word by word and remember as many words as possible, without using any memory techniques. When you’re done reading, turn off the computer screen for a moment or minimize your browser and write down all the words you’ve remembered. Read them from top to bottom, from the left column to the right.

was when scope
far where where
left below what
two Leonardo da Vinci what
his which still
and when where
when must walk
aside what room
where where finger
to could small
that when change

Now write down the words you’ve remembered.

What does this exercise show? The vast majority of people would memorize mostly those words that are at the beginning and at the end of the list. Check if it was the same in your case. In addition to the words from the skirts of the columns, the words "what", "where" and "when" are often remembered because they pop up more than once. You may have also remembered "Leonardo da Vinci", because the artist’s name does not fit the rest of the words at all. Apart from the words mentioned above, people tend to remember only the words that have particular meaning for them.

For us, however, the most important information is that the brain always remembers best what’s at the beginning of the study material and at its end. Therefore, when you study continuously for 2 hours, you will only remember the first and the last 20 minutes (this time may vary for each person). The whole material in the middle that you study for 1 hour and 20 minutes will be probably forgotten by you very quickly. It seems that the brain needs more frequent breaks to take in and organize on the subconscious level all the knowledge it has just acquired.

If we do not give it enough opportunity to do so, it does not cope with remembering such a huge chunk of material. Moreover, during breaks we give our brain time to rest, so we can get back to studying with new energy. You see, I’ve been there, too. I would keep on going after an hour of continuous studying. I’ve always felt that I was doing so well that stopping at this point wouldn’t do me any good.

Nevertheless, it appears that learning in blocks of time lasting 1 hour would significantly increase the amount of information I can memorize. According to what was shown in the task from the beginning of this article, from an hour of studying we can remember well the material from the first 15-20 minutes and the last 15-20 minutes. After reading Tony Buzan's book, I decided that I would even go one step further: try studying in half-hour blocks of time. Such change allowed me to memorize most of the material I read. When I added some mnemotechnics and repeating, my learning became more effective than ever before.

Time for pleasure

Remember that breaks you take should not exceed 10 minutes. 5 minutes is absolutely enough. The schedule of 30 minutes (studying) - 5 minutes (break) - 30 - 5 - 30 is a very good way to learn a vast amount of material. What can you do during such a break? You can go outside and breathe some fresh air, call someone or talk over the Internet, turn on your favorite music, lie down and relax, do a short revision of the material you have just gone through or anything else you feel like doing. The break should be pleasant and relaxing.

Give your mind a chance to rest, let him focus on something else. Repeating the material during the break is a great idea, but don’t let it take up its whole time. You can try applying the variant of 10-minute break consisting of 5 minutes for revision and 5 minutes for relaxing. Revision can simply mean writing down the most important issues and thoughts from the book you are reading. Take a break now and get down to studying :)

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