Has this happened to you? You have ambitious plans to study a ton of things this weekend. You get tired, but you are determined to push through, so you keep studying. You begin to get a bit anxious because you feel you are not learning well (and you are not!), so you study even more. You get even more tired, and that makes it even harder to learn. By the end of the weekend, you are exhausted, frustrated, and demoralized.
Time magazine published a fascinating little article back in 2012: “To Boost Memory, Shut Your Eyes and Relax.” Go take a look at it. Do not worry; I will wait.
In a nutshell: your brain makes better memories when it is not tired.
The Time article quotes Michaela Dewar, the lead author of a research study on this topic. She notes that we are “at a very early stage of memory formation” when we first start to study new information, and “further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time.”
The italics are mine. Note what Ms. Dewar has said: more “stuff” has to happen in our brains after we have studied this info for us to be able to recall that information later on. In the meantime, we have to go do something else that does not involve learning other new things. Eat lunch. Take a walk or exercise. Listen to some music while cleaning the house. Get a good night’s sleep.
How can we use this in our GMAT study?
There are many ways to study, but do not plan to study for more than about two hours at a stretch. Cut yourself off earlier if you realize that you are feeling significantly mentally fatigued. If you do hit that two-hour mark, stop. You can study more today, if you want, but first take at least a one-hour brain break.
Next, if you plan to study on days that you also have work or class, see whether you have the flexibility to study before or during the class/work day. You could get up a little earlier than normal (warning: do not try this if you are a night person) or possibly arrange to get into work a bit later than normal a couple of days a week. You could study on your lunch break. These sessions might only run 20 or 30 minutes, but that is fine—you are just trying to get some studying done earlier in the day, while your brain is more fresh!