You might argue that when you are in the zone, no distraction - external or internal would derail your GMAT preparation. For such lengthy span of attention, taking breaks would be the last thing on your mind. But for other daily GMAT Study sessions, 20 minutes sessions would be helpful, and produce the best results.
A recent report by Josh Davis, Maite J. Balda, and David Rock summarizes the studies conducted on attention, and learning optimization. According to the report, two findings solidify the belief in short-chunks of attention:
1) Attention has limits of only 20 minutes
2) Multitasking is inefficient
The part of our brain that enables single-minded focus is energy hungry. It is fighting external stimuli – sound, light, smell, and human interruption, along with internal thoughts, and impulses. The maximum time limit on fighting a strong internal & external stimulus is 20 minutes.
Beyond that, we not fully engaged.
Psychological journals have documented the Cognitive cost of multitasking. Technology has a role to play in inhibiting our ability to concentrate long-hours. Computers have evolved from a time-sharing behemoth machines to pocket sized tools that fulfill multiple desires at the same time. The pocket device encourages distraction. It has conditioned us to do multiple tasks: check email, search a term, post your pics, and tweet someone.
With the good intention to break this habit, we switch off the phone, get into our room for long GMAT study session, and warn our family & friends not to interrupt us for 1 hour. Old habits die hard, and thoughts on daily chores: buying dinner, laundry, the favorite TV show on NetFlix, fill our forethoughts. Although we have controlled external stimuli, internal stimuli are awakened with the laptop. The machine is built for multitasking, and the taskbar is your worst enemy.
The programs running in the taskbar are distractions. Even the clock is encouraging you to complete the mandatory 1-hour GMAT study sessions without fully engaging in the process. Hide the taskbar, and let the GMAT Prep Software Screen, GMAT Prep Guides, pen, and a notepad be the only tools in your desk.
Disconnect. The question in front of you is the only thing that matters. Look closely; Write Down the key data; and start cracking the question. By controlling the study environment, you can concentrate on 8-10 questions in one attention span.
Going Beyond 20 Minutes
You don’t need elaborate breaks. A small walk around the room, a few weight lifts, 10 push-ups, and few gulps of water or a bathroom break is enough for starting the next 20-minutes session. 3-5 minute break would be sufficient.
Cramming Sessions (12 hours 1 day 1week 1 month)
The Golden rule of cramming formulas and concepts is the process of recollecting information in 12 hours, 1 day, 1 week, and 1 month. According to the 2010 study by Jeffrey Karpicke and Henry Roediger, participant’s recollection was better when their study sessions were interrupted with filler tasks. The filler tasks just took 1 or 2 minutes away from the session but the break improved recollection.
Other stimulants to sustain concentration beyond 20 minutes are tougher GMAT questions. Once you are able to crack 8-10 easy GMAT questions, an upgrade in the difficulty level will bring the focus back into the GMAT Study session. An interesting shortcut on solving the Clock Angle problem would push you to learn other interesting concepts.
Break every 20 Minutes or after 10 GMAT Questions. Monitor your performance, and customize your schedule, incorporating each topic or sub-topic into the 20 minute sessions.
Essential GMAT Reading Comprehension Guide
After reading F1GMAT’s Essential GMAT Reading Comprehension Guide, you will:
1. Complete GMAT RC Questions in less than 1 minute and 50 seconds
2. Read Faster
3. Take Notes Effectively
4. Collect and Interpret Facts
5. Speed up Summary Creation
6. Remember Information
7. Question the Author
8. Learn to Answer GMAT Reading Comprehension Title question
9. Learn to Answer GMAT Reading Comprehension Main Idea Question
Mastering GMAT Critical Reasoning
After you read F1GMAT’s Mastering GMAT Critical Reasoning Guide, you will learn:
How to overcome flawed thinking in GMAT Critical Reasoning?