There was a time when I really embraced binge studying.
Yes, people typically describe that kind of studying as a “cram session.”
I feel like that’s the wrong metaphor to be using for the situation.
Sure, cramming has a bit of a negative connotation but the practice of studying for hours and hours the single night before the test should have a much more negative connotation than that.
That’s why I refer to that study strategy as a binge.
A binge study session does absolutely nothing positive for you except help you hide your emotions.
People cram because they feel guilty for having horrible study habits (or they have another emotional problem like no self-confidence.)
People get emotional and they try to solve those emotions by throwing a ton of studying into the mix.
(It’s the same reason many people drink in excess, to avoid certain emotions.) That’s why I call it a binge. Well, most of the reason…
After a long night of binge studying, how crappy do you feel?
If you’re like most people staying up all night is kind of like a hangover with less throwing up.
You become lethargic and virtually useless for anything productive the next day.
As much as I embraced this form of studying in the past, I eventually had to learn my lesson to improve my grades.
Binge Studying Doesn’t Work
Studying is not something that should be rushed.
Many studies have shown that after 45 minutes of studying, most students study efficiency drops to just about nothing.
Sure, you may be reading the words off of a textbook page but they won’t stick easily.
To learn anything during a binge study session requires you to spend at least 3 times the energy when compared to a regular short study session.
So, you may be studying 10 hours straight but in reality you’re getting the value of studying under 4 hours.
More importantly, after that study session, you need to find a way to not feel completely miserable during the test.
If you pulled an all-nighter then you’re virtually screwed.
Sure, coffee or energy drinks may help you a little but they’re not magic.
If you’ve reduced your sleep at all, you’re still at risk of not being in your peak state of mind to try and remember what you just studied.
The worst part about binge studying is that it limits your ability to learn from your mistakes.
If you fail to study for a test, you may end up failing that test but at least, next time, you have an incentive to learn to actually study for your tests.
When you binge study, if you’re the average student, you can usually pull a subpar grade out of it.
Sure, you won’t feel wonderful about your grade but you’re going to have a much harder time getting yourself into good study habits than if you just accepted your screwup.
Next time, you’re again, going to be debating, should I study, or put it off?
That subpar grade is going to encourage you to put it off.
There is some scientific backing for what I’m going to be going over but part of the way I’m going to explain it is speculation.
While most of what I try to focus on his hard factual study advice, this is mostly from experience.
Study like you need time for study digestion.
Treat your brain like you’d treat your stomach.
You want to study enough information to keep you surviving in your classes (probably a little more.)
After studying enough, stop studying and let your body digest the information.
What do I mean by digest?
Whether you realize it or not, your brain processes the information you study multiple times.
Sometimes, you’ll consciously think, “wow… that reminds of this thing I studied.”
Other times, (this is the speculation with only fragments of evidence backing it up,) your brain is going to randomly process the information you studied.
While you’re sleeping at night, (this is out of speculation and backed up again,) your brain processes the information you studied again.
Studies have consistently shown people remember things better after a good night sleep.
So, information may not have an actual digestion process but the metaphor can help you get the most out of your brain.
Your brain is limited similar to your stomach. (I’d argue many of those limitations are more emotional than physical but that’s a point for a different day.)
Your brain isn’t designed to learn like a computer.
Its ability to learn is highly dependent on survival requirements.
(That’s why people use strategies like mind maps to link information to landmarks in space.)
Throughout history, human’s survival has never depended on a person’s ability to remember the names of presidents or random bits of information.
That means you need to invest emotional capital into forcing that information to feel important.
(Instead of, remember this or die, you’re stuck with, I need to remember this or I may abstractly suffer in the future.)
The Truth About Study Time
There is no way to make a binge study session work great.
Sure, I’ve gone over some ways to improve the efficiency a bit but that will never be as good as a consistent study routine designed right.
What is the right way to design a study routine?
Your brain is capable of studying in short bursts at high levels of efficiency.
In general, around 30 minutes into a study session, you might as well quit studying.
At the very least, that far into a study session you should take a break.
(Taking breaks can return you to similar levels of efficiency as starting from scratch.)
More importantly, in my opinion, you need to make your study session consistent.
A consistent study routine helps in more ways than most people understand.
First of all, it simplifies studying. Sure, it may suck for a week or two but after a study session becomes a daily habit, you’re giving your brain significantly more emphasis on the importance of studying.
You will be remembering information better.
You’ll also maximize your study digestion because every night when you’re going to bed you’ll remember more of the information.
By using consistent short study sessions you make sure you’re studying efficiently.
By studying efficiently, you can ensure that you spend less time studying and more time doing the things you really care about.
You may not believe you could spend less time studying this way at first glance but think about this.
I currently recommend 15 minutes of studying everyday (excluding school work.)
Most students that aren’t already behind can keep up their grades with this amount of studying (after getting used to the routine.)
That is less than 2 hours of studying a week.
One cram session can add up to 10-12 hours of studying in a day (or two if it’s an all-nighter.)
If someone crams more than once a month then they’re studying more than someone with a short consistent study routine.
(And they’re learning less if you remember the information from earlier in this post.)
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9 thoughts on “The Unfortunate Truth About Study Time”
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I agree 100% with everything you said. I myself noticed that I’m only able to read or study for 30 minutes, and than I get so tired I’m unable to comprehend anything. That’s why I think that it’s important to start studying early, so that you won’t have to binge and force yourself.
I can’t say I agree with everything you said but the “binge” study session not working thing is so right. That always bit me in the butt.