How to Take a Study Break

Modified on by sruthi

how to take a study break

If you are anything like me, when studying for exams, you need to take breaks.

However in recent years, due to the increasing use and prevalence of the internet, on demand media, and with my cell phone by my side, taking a “study break” has come to mean checking Facebook, Twitter, celebrity blogs, Google Chat, and every other distracting website or app you can imagine.

This is how the study break morphs from a reprieve from studying into an unplanned detour that takes up just as much time (if not more) than the actual studying. A five minute break becomes half an hour, and pretty soon, instead of going to sleep by midnight as planned, you get to sleep at 4 AM instead.

Some study break that was. Here’s how to really get it done.

How to Take a Study Break

“Study break” has turned into a euphemism for procrastinating and distractions. That being said, a well-planned out study break does not have to lead to procrastination. Let’s get back to what a study break really is and then cover a few tips on how to maximize the effectiveness of these breaks.

The point of a study break is to get the mind rejuvenated so that you can refocus on the task at hand when it’s time to get back to work. A good study break consists of an activity that allows you to take your mind off studying and not use it for a little while. This period of disuse can reinvigorate your brain so that you are ready to come back to your work and attack it with renewed energy!

So, in this season of GRE, MCAT, GMAT, SAT prep, here are some tips to help you make good use of your time (instead of procrastinating):

When taking a study break, DO:

  • Periodically schedule breaks for short amounts of time in between your studying.
  • STICK to your schedule. Not a minute more!
  • Remember to EAT. Not junk food on which you’ll snack the whole time you study. But a take 20 minutes to cook yourself a real meal and sit down and eat it. Food for thought, anyone?
  • Take time to exercise! Exercising not only works out your body—it will also stimulate your brain, making your study session far more effective.
  • Read a book or an interesting article in a magazine unrelated to your test material.


  • Tell yourself that you will check your Facebook/e-mail for 15 minutes then take half an hour instead.
  • In fact, don’t check your email or Facebook at all while you’re studying!
  • Start a new TV show (especially the week before finals). TV provides an ENDLESS supply of material for procrastination. You will get sucked in to a new series and then you will have to watch all 6 seasons, and before you know it will have been a week since you left your apartment, and your boss is calling you every hour wondering where you are. Enough said.
  • Do not take a nap for more than 20 minutes. Otherwise, you might find yourself spending more time dreaming about doing well on exams than actually doing well on exams.

A study break is all about making a schedule and sticking to it, though there is obviously wiggle room. However, remember that when you need to get something done, leave enough time for it as well as for the down time you may need. That is the best solution!

If a study break isn’t cutting it, you may need a full blown vacation. And for more healthy procrastination tips, check out this article ftw!

Any more study tips of your own to share? Leave them in the comments below.

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Mohamed 2 years ago

Thanks for the info great stuff, however I would like to add that for exams like the mcat, sat etc .. You need to sty focused for a longer time at least 45 min at a time , because some of the sections area 60 min long, then 10 min break and then you move to the next section is another 60 min and 10 min break , so only if you are taking exams that require a long time , then it is not a bad a idea to get used to long time studying with 10 min breaks.

Amanda Moritz 2 years ago

Great point for those prepping for the exams! of course if you are preparing for a particular test and you know how long it will be, you can practice for it by staying focused for that amount of time. However, if you regular-ol'-studying, it might be wise to take more frequent study breaks.
good luck with the mcat!

aharries 5 months ago

What I have found useful is scheduling my day out in a google calender. 45 - 50 minutes of work, followed by 10 - 15 minutes break. Alerts are set up to keep me on track.

Michael Amos 5 months ago

Nothing beats push-ups. Period. Falling asleep? Push-ups. Loosing your focus? Push-ups. Sick and tired? Push-ups. ANYTHING that is wrong with you, can be cured or mitigated by... push-ups. Particularly the "4-second, forced-output" variety. How to do? Do push-ups (plank your body from knees if not toes), rotate your hips all the way forward (like you were "making a baby"), tighten your abs to the max, tuck your chin (to keep your spin neutrally aligned), hands a hand-width further than shoulder width apart, elbows lightly tucked at your sides (not flared out). Now do 'em til you know you've only got one left ("in the tank"), take 4 deep breaths, empty your tank. You can do this as many times as you like at the end of a normal set. Immediately turn on your back pull your knees up til your shins are straight up and down then lift your butt off the ground far as it will go and count to 20 or longer. This will balance the front and back of your body, therapeutically "countering" the seated position which study often mandates. Hey! Push-ups. Gimme 20!

Diego 1 year ago

I really appreciate this, thank you for writing this.

Mandela Dunamis 2 years ago

good stuff

Amanda Moritz 2 years ago

Hope you got some good info !

EmmSeven20 1 year ago

The television show thing is so true, but my own personal mistake was buying a new video game right before mid-terms. I thought I could handle it. Yeah, that was a very stupid idea. I ended up doing fine, but had to put in triple time in catching up, and caused undue stress and anxiety. Now I know better, and just save that must-have video game as a reward during winter/spring break.

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