What is better… Overstudying or Under Studying?

Some people don’t study at all. Others study just the perfect amount. However, some seem to study for test weeks in advance. Me, being one that only studies one to three days in advance, wonders if studying weeks before a test is really going to improve one’s performance that much. Can it possibly be too much studying? Or is it actually helping these people?

In my research to find an answer to this question, I came across a term called burning out. While studying, we need to take breaks and take time to ourselves or else we are going to burn ourselves out. Studying everyday for 24 hours a day is exhausting and can take a toll on the body. This may make one perform not as well on a test as they thought. We need to take study breaks, like going to exercise, have a snack, or hang out with friends. Taking breaks is going to make your brain cooperate while studying more. I think we all have felt we are going to go crazy or our brain is going to explode with information when studying for too long without taking a break. Taking breaks and getting enough sleep is only going to benefit your grade. In this aspect, overstudying can hurt us if we do not get the right amount of sleep or take breaks.

In my research I also came across a man named Nate Kornell. He argued that although late night studying will keep material fresh in your mind, and may be able to help you pass the test, if we are looking to keep the information in our minds for a while, this will not benefit us. Basically he thinks it is better to study weeks in advance, than the day before. Kornell also did research studies to prove this. Kornell states in the link above, “At some point, waiting too long [between sessions] could have a negative effect [on learning]. However, most of us space far too little. Practically speaking, too much spacing is not really a danger anyone should worry about.”

In one study, Kornell asked a group of college students to study a stack of twenty notecards that they would be tested on the next day. One half of the students studied the notecards in groups of four, with five notecards in each stack. The other half studied all twenty words at a time, giving them more spacing time in between each repeated word. The test showed that the group that kept the words in all one stack remembered the words better. It compared 49 to 36 percent. This supported Kornell’s theory that spacing out your studying can make all the difference in your grade. This was a experiment not a correlational study. He chose his two groups, however, it was not a bling procedure, because both groups knew what they were doing the whole time.

Kornell did another study to go with my other theory above, that talked about giving yourself a good amount of breaks and not just studying all the way through. This is continuing on my cited link under apa.com. Kornell worked with Robert Bjork when asking 120 people to participate in a study. They made each person study twelve artists by looking at six examples from each one of their works. Half of the participants saw all paintings in a row while the others saw them mixed up. After counting backwards from 547, which is used as a distracting task, the participants that had studied the paintings in a mixed up order remembered the paints better. Bjork says, “It could be that the mixing forces students to notice and process the similarities and differences among the things they’re trying to learn, giving them a better, deeper understanding of the material.”

Our correlation in these studies is that studying weeks in advance helps us get better grades. Third variables involved in this, though, could possibly be that mixing up the material or taking breaks in between studying can benefit us. In conclusion, from my research, I have come to believe that as long as your are taking a healthy amount of breaks and getting enough sleep, studying a week in advance is okay.

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4 thoughts on “What is better… Overstudying or Under Studying?

  1. Pingback: Eagle Talk | How to study efficiently

  2. kbd5161

    I also agree with the comment that questions whether or not the “initial experiment with the notecards was randomized and if they were told to study in a certain way” because that could effect the study significantly and its outcome. A good follow-up study would need to be done to see actually retained the information they studied or if they crammed it in for the time being and forget about it later. I think that would be an interesting thing to study because college students today and from years past have faced that problem; we only the information to regurgitate it on tests and after that it is gone from our memories. However in this study I also agree that there could be multiple third variables effecting the outcomes.

  3. Shannon G Mcclain

    I’m curious as to whether the initial experiment with the notecards was randomized and if they were told to study in a certain way. I feel as though some people in each group may always study that way and have become accustomed to it, therefore, are successful. However, that does not necessarily mean they will remember it for a longer amount of time. A follow-up study would need to be done to see if they remembered the information. I agree that taking breaks during our studying helps us relax and then refocus on the task at hand, but I think there are many other third variables that can influence the outcome of the study.

  4. Jack Landau

    I definitely agree with the results of this study. However, I believe there are third party variables that consequently affected the accuracy of the study. What about the intelligence of the children? Just because they are enrolled in the same college (or equivalent college) doesn’t guarantee that they are equally intelligent. Thus, meaning some had an advantage in remembering the index cards more/less efficiently. Following the subject of intellectual advantages, I heard one of my friends say he had a photographic memory. Curious if such a theory had scientific support, I looked it up.
    Barry Gordon, a professor neurology and cognitive science at John Hopkins University, determined that there is no such thing. A photograph memory insinuates immediate retrieval of an image, enabling the user to zoom in or out on specific parts. While some children can remember the majority of events, no one has the ability to so thoroughly retain material, without studying in excess. In order to support his argument, Gordon shared that memory Olympic winners even used post-its on their refrigerators. No one is able to efficiently save a photograph, cognitively speaking.
    sources: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/i-developed-what-appears-to-be-a-ph/

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