How to Study Without Over-Studying
Let’s face it. Burnout is common throughout our field. Usually, when we are talking about burnout, it is in the context of clinical work or even academic work. However, burnout can sneak up when you are preparing for exams as well! Studying is vitally important to ensuring your success at your licensure exam, but did you know that over-studying can create burnout and in turn cause you to do slightly worse on your exam? To help prevent over-studying and study burnout, here are some tips on how to study just the right amount.
Do not cram for a licensure test! This one might seem obvious, but all too often students preparing for their exams leave the bulk of their studying for the last minute. This will only serve to add pressure and increase the stress load of an already daunting task. Make sure you lay out all the topics and material ahead of time that you will need to master in order to succeed on your exam. Then, lay out all those topics in a manageable and realistic schedule to get you prepared well in advance for the exam.
Study in short blocks or chunks (2-4 hours MAX). Two-to-four hours might seem like a long time, but let’s think back to how long each of your classes were. Chances are that your classes were between two to three hours each. If you can manage sitting in a lecture for that long, you can easily handle a couple of hours actively studying! Even though this is a doable amount of time, make sure you do not push yourself too much longer than four hours per day. Having several long study days in a row can really start to take its toll on you. While you are laying out your study times building up to your exam, make sure that you do not give yourself too high of expectations for each day. Only expect yourself to be able to get through a two-hour block per day with four hours at most! Plus, make sure to leave yourself some shorter days as well. Having a recovery day or two interspersed within your study plan can refresh you quite a bit!
Do not forget to take breaks! Sitting for two-to-four hours doing anything can be mentally taxing. Taking five to fifteen minutes per hour can help tremendously with your ability to focus. Just like you will need some lighter days sprinkled into your study plan, having lighter moments are also necessary. Especially when you have heavier days or blocks of information that you know will be more challenging for you, it is important to give yourself enough of a break. Your focus will improve if you can give yourself periodic cognitive breaks throughout your study sessions.
Schedule your study time. Rather than just saying to yourself “sometime today I’m going to get through my two-hour study session…” put it into your daily schedule. Make it a part of your daily habits. Motivation rarely strikes people out of the blue. Instead, motivation usually comes from discipline and routine. To ensure that you make time in your day to get through the material you need to, put it on your calendar. If you have a somewhat flexible schedule, it would be extremely beneficial to pay attention to yourself and find out when you are at your most productive. Even if there is just a little bit of flexibility to your routine, it will be best to schedule your study time when you feel your best and have the most focus. If you are a morning person, then try waking up an hour early to cover some of your material. If you are more of a night owl, then setting aside time in the evening would probably be better for you! Pay attention to yourself and your own routines. When you know what works best for you, schedule time (ideally during your most productive period) to get through your daily studying.
One thing at a time. It is already extremely clear; there is a lot of information that you are going to have study. There is just no getting away from that. In your daily study sessions, however, remember that you do not have to tackle every single topic that will be on your licensure exam. Make sure you are covering only one or two topics per day. When you take on too many major concepts in one day, you are much less likely to accurately retain that information. Covering several major concepts in one study session increases the chance that you might accidentally conflate some concepts with others. It is recommended to instead focus on one or two major concepts in a single study session.
Mental fatigue is real. Mental fatigue refers to that feeling of just being too “out of it” to study. That often comes from studying too much in a day, having to master a particularly difficult topic, or even just spending too many hours studying in a week. Just like when you are working out too much, or “overtraining,” you can actually be overtraining your brain too! If you find yourself cramming too much studying into a day or even into a week or month, you are much less likely to retain that information.
Self-care is just as important as studying. Make sure to engage in other activities you enjoy as well! When students and graduates are studying for their licensure exam, it is very common to want to use every spare moment for studying. Some individuals preparing for their exam even report feeling guilty when using their free time for something enjoyable. Do not fall into this trap! Taking time for yourself, taking part in activities and hobbies you enjoy, and spending time with people who care about you is just as important as studying!
For personalized help on how to better manage your studying, AATBS offers one-on-one coaching. Our coaches can talk you through some of your study techniques and help you create an individualized plan to better accomplish your studying goals!
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