Finals Guide: Overstudying detrimental to students, research suggests taking breaks


As yet another semester ends, finals week is upon us — another week of projects, readings, papers and exams. These requirements have been on the syllabus all semester, but, without fail, seem to sneak up on students and leave them stressed out and exhausted right before summer.

Although tests and projects are scattered throughout the semester, there is typically a massive increase in the amount people study for all of their classes during finals week. While being properly prepared for exams and projects is important, staying up all night before a test or cramming for hours can be more detrimental than helpful.

According to Academia International, symptoms of studying too much include an inability to concentrate, annoyance at silly mistakes, feelings of tiredness or being upset, and an inability to sleep at night because the brain is still active. The site notes that overstudying is not only mentally and physically unhealthy, but it also decreases efficiency and productivity and can make it more difficult to learn the material.

According to Learning Commons, the most effective chunk of time to spend studying is between 30 and 60 minutes. After this amount of time, researchers suggest taking a 5-10 minute break to let the mind rest. The site also suggests long-term repetition as the most effective form of studying.

According to a 2011 article from Psych Central by Rick Nauert, if you have ever found yourself fighting the urge to take a break, you should go ahead and take it.

New findings overturn traditional theory about the nature of attention and demonstrates that even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods,” the article states. The article examines research that concludes that when paying close attention to one thing for a long period of time, the body becomes “habituated” and “stimulus no longer registers in any meaningful way in the brain.” Research has also shown that vision significantly decreases in this type of situation.

Studying too much can come at a price, and it is not just academic. North Korea is currently leading the world in academic performance, but continues to struggle with mental and emotional health.

According to a 2000 article in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, “Korean adolescents spent more time in an emotionally aversive context, and we suspect that over time this repeated daily experience leads to the generation of depressive symptoms.”

When faced with a daunting exam, it may seem that studying for hours is the only way to get a passing grade. However, this may not be the best way to approach it, at least not according to officials in South Korea. According to a 2011 article from Time Magazine, South Korean officials want to curb the number of hours students spend studying, particularly due to hagwons — private academies that students attend to supplement their regular education.

As students prepare for finals week, it is important to remember that while studying can help students get the grades they want, excessive studying can be detrimental to academics and personal health. Relax, study for short periods of time, and recognize when things become overwhelming or too difficult. Do not let finals week take more out of you than necessary.