Listen to part of a conversation between a student and her biology professor.
Hi, Samantha. How did your track meet go?
Great, I placed first in one race and third in another!
Congratulations![Leading]You must practice a lot …
Three times a week preseason, but now that we’re competing every weekend, we practice six days a week from three-thirty ’til five.
[Sympathetically]Athletics place a heavy demand on your time, don’t they?
Yeah, but I really love competing, so…
[Leading and trying to prompt a turn in the conversation] Y’know, I played soccer in college and my biggest challenge-and I didn’t always succeed—was getting my studying in during soccer season.
Are you having a similar…?
No, I-I really do make time to study. And I actually study more for this class than I do for all my other classes.
But I didn’t see the grade I expected on my mid-term exam, which is why I came by.
Well you didn’t do badly on the exam, but I agree it did not reflect your potential. [Puzzled by her subpar performance]
I say this because your work on the lab project was exemplary.
I was so impressed with the way you handled the microscope and the samples of onion cells, and with how carefully you observed, and diagrammed, and interpreted each stage of cell division.
And I don’t think you could have done that if you hadn’t read and understood the chapter.
I mean, it seemed like you really had a good understanding of it.
I thought so, too, but I missed some questions about cell division on the exam.
[Baffled]So, what happened?
I just sorta blanked out, I guess. I had a hard time remembering details. It was so frustrating!
Alright, let’s back up. You say you studied. Where? At home?
At my kitchen table, actually.
And that’s supposed to be a quiet environment?
[Wryly]Not exactly. My brother and parents try to keep it down when I’m studying, but the phone pretty much rings off the hook, so…
[Pointing out the obvious]So, you might try a place with fewer distractions, [Starts to say “library”]like the library.
[Cutting in]But the library closes at midnight, and I like to study all night before a test, you know, so everything’s fresh in my mind.
I studied six straight hours the night before the mid-term exam.
That’s why I expected to do so much better!
Oh. OK.You know that studying six consecutive hours is not equivalent to studying one hour a day for six days.
No. There’s research that shows that after about an hour of intense focus, your brain needs a break.
It needs to, y’know, shift gears a little. Your brain’s ability to absorb information starts to decline after about the first hour.
So, if you’re dealing with a lot of new concepts and vocabulary… anyway, if you just reviewed your notes even twenty minutes a day, it’d be much better than waiting until the night before an exam to and try to absorb all those details.
Oh, I didn’t realize…
Think of your brain as a muscle.
If you didn’t practice regularly with your track team and then tried to squeeze in three weeks’ worth of running practice the day before a track meet, how well do you think you’d perform in your races?