Is studying for 3 hours continuously better than studying in 3 sets of 1 hour throughout the day?

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(For memory retention and productivity)

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It’s all about focus and intent. If it takes you time to get into a focused state then perhaps breaking up the study block is not for you. But if you need breaks to stay fresh and focused then taking breaks may work for you.

But either way, studying for 3 hours without focus isn’t as productive.

If say that studying in three sets of 1 hour with 15-minute breaks between them would be better for me because I wouldn’t be able to really focus for three hours straight. But that’s pretty subjective, so you’d probably have to try it and find out what works better for you.

Essentially, no. Your memory retention and productivity decline down as you study (based on averages of course). Taking frequent breaks allows your brain to essentially ‘reset’ and go back up nearly to as productive as you were at the start. The length of the break (and productivity decline) will vary per person, but a 5 minute break every half hour is generally recommended.

Many famous scientists and philosophers and other people used frequent breaks to do something entirely different (play a violin, do a crossword, meditate, or other playful activities). And that allowed their brain to process information.

A further interesting part as you mention memory retention in particular is that 1. you can learn the memory techniques memory champions use to remember thousands of numbers (or whatever you want, formulae, historical events, successions, etc). And 2. Sleep helps shift things from short term to long term memory. Studying, sleeping, exam, will perform better than studying, rest, exam.

In essence, 1 hour of *quality* study will be better than 3 hours of poor quality study.

If you’re talking purely memory then three sets of one hour. The first reason is primacy and recency effect. Basically in any session you’re most likely to remember the stuff at the beginning and the stuff at the end. The middle gets fuzzy. So three small sessions gives you multiple cracks at that. The second, which is less pronounced here, is spaced versus massed practice. Basically you’re better off studying 1 hour a day for five days than five hours in one day.

All that being said, the time studying is less important, beyond some bare minimum, than the kind of studying.

I can’t answer your exact question, but if you’re trying to retain knowledge from studying, I’ve seen/heard some pretty compelling scientific studies indicating that getting good sleep after studying is *extremely* important to retaining studied/learned information.