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 and app you can imagine.

Thus, a study break morphs from a reprieve into an unplanned detour into internet-land 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.

Don’t be like me. Here’s some tips on how to have a good study break, get refreshed, and prepare yourself to dive back into your books.

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):

Make sure your actual study time is used efficiently:

  • Use Brainscape‘s “smart flashcards” on the web or your mobile device, to meter your study sessions appropriately and manage your learning progress using solid metrics & goals
  • Set a goal for what you want to accomplish in your currently allocated study session (whether it’s 15 or 45 minutes), and don’t quit until you reach that goal!

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. Any more study tips of your own to share? Leave them in the comments below. And remember — if you need a aid to help with your studying itself, check out the Brainscape adaptive flashcards that can help you learn science, mathematics, foreign languages, and more!

Brainscape is a web & mobile education platform that helps you learn anything faster, using cognitive science. Join the millions of students, teachers, language learners, test-takers, and corporate trainees who are doubling their learning results. Visit or find us on the App Store .


Mohamed 3 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 3 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!

Electronic Whiteboard 5 months ago

Great article! Sound tips! Thank you!

Sepideh 4 months ago

Thanks for your great and mostly usefull informations.
I read somewhere that reading a book or sth would be a better resting activity than listening to a music. Is that true??!

Joysa@Brainscape 4 months ago

Hi Sepideh,

Hmmm.. I think it would really depend on the person. Some people say that listening to music is more relaxing while others find relaxation when they're reading. Others may just want to sit down, drink coffee and do nothing. I think it just depends on your personal preference.

Anyway, thank you for writing and we're pleased to know that you liked our article! :)


shreelekha d. 2 months ago

Thank you. Helps a lot.

Courtney@Brainscape 2 months ago

You're welcome!

Katie Nunley 8 months ago

Great article. I have semester exams coming up in the next few weeks and I always struggle staying on top of things. I find that when I indulge in the internet and random apps on my phone, that I actually get more stressed and anxious about my upcoming assignments and exams than I was before I made the bad choice. I obviously need to try out the advice this article offers. I appreciate the comments that others have made on this article. Perhaps I do need to try making a very specific schedule out for my finals and final projects. My worry is that I will spend more time scheduling my assignments than I will spend doing my assignments!

slashnburn 4 months ago

Quick question.. If I start a study session on my mobile (iPhone) app but wish to resume later on say my desktop browser or my friend's iPad, is this possible? I have ~7K flash cards made so this type of resumption in studying is necessary for me.

Courtney@Brainscape 4 months ago

Hi Slashnburn,

You can sync across multiple devices as along as you are using the same login credentials on each device. Hope this helps! If you have any other questions please let us know. Remember you can always email us Have a great day!

aharries 1 year 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.

Diego 2 years ago

I really appreciate this, thank you for writing this.

EmmSeven20 2 years 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.

Michael Amos 1 year 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!

Mandela Dunamis 3 years ago

good stuff

Amanda Moritz 3 years ago

Hope you got some good info !

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