We all have a limited amount of time in a day to prepare for our finance exams. Wouldn’t it be great if we all knew how to study more in less time?
Let’s imagine this: Two exam candidates of equal skill, Alice and Bob, planned to have 10 hours allocated for studying in a particular day, but with different approaches:
- Alice essentially sat down and studied for 10 hours non-stop, even having lunch at her study desk.
- Bob, on the other hand, studies intensely for 90 minute blocks, then takes 15 minutes break before resuming work and repeating the process. For his breaks, he either takes a brief walk, do some stretches, gets a drink or take a nap (social media is detrimental by the way). It’s always something different every time. He even has a 45 minute lunch break with a friend.
Guess who had a better quality study session? Let’s take a look!
The first approach: studying all in one go
Alice, knowing that she’s up for a long day ahead, started the first 3 hours at 80% of her capacity to pace herself.
She gets tired after lunch, averaging 60% her capacity from 12pm-4pm, before dragging herself over the last 3 hours at 40% of her capacity.
At the end of the day, her effective study hours are:
(3 hours x 80%) + (4 hours x 60%) + (3 hours x 40%) = 6 hours
Bob – studying with frequent breaks
Bob took 2 hours off studying throughout the day – 5 sessions of 15 minute breaks and longer 45 minute lunch break.
In that 8 hours of studying, he averaged 80% capacity since a break is never too far away, which gives him the opportunity to recharge for the next study sprint.
His effective study hours are:
8 hours x 80% = 6.4 hours
This is 24 minutes more than Alice, and he did it in less time, with way more fun, and less chance of long-term burnout. A 2011 Universiy of Illinois research has proven that taking short, disciplined breaks from tasks at hand helps improve long term focus.
The secret on how to study more in less time? Disciplined breaks
What’s the lesson here?
At some point in our studying life, we know how it felt like to be Alice – slogging the whole day without feeling like we got much studying done (or absorbed).
Doing “other stuff” than studying often invokes feeling guilty, stressed and unproductive, which is counterintuitive once you’ve seen the results above!
Just like anything, the law of diminishing returns applies to studying too. Your concentration and focus takes a nosedive if you’re sat there too long without the opportunity to renew that energy.
It’s not just about quantity, quality matters too – it’s not just the number of hours we sit at a desk that determines the value we generate. This is possibly why there’s such a huge variance of study hours needed to pass finance exams, the definitions are probably not the same!
We know that finance exams are tough, we’ve been through some of it ourselves. That’s why it’s crucial to work the way Bob does (be effective!), as you’ll get more done, in less time, at a higher level of quality, more sustainably.
What’s your study routine and schedule like? How do you you think your productivity varies across the study session? Share your experience with us in the comments below!
Meanwhile, here are some related articles which may be of interest:
- How to Study Effectively: Proven Techniques for CFA, FRM and CAIA Exams
- The Productivity Habit: A 7-Step Plan To Building Effective Routines
- 8 Simple Steps To Balance Studying And Work
- How To Focus When Studying, Even When You’re Tired
- How to Sleep Better, Be More Alert and Maintain Study Focus
- How to Use Coffee Productively for Your CFA Exam Studies