• Ken Baeza

The Problem with Studying All Day

It's a stressful time.

IB finals are coming very soon, and I have started to notice that my peers are getting stressed, worried, and anxious. Many of them have started to isolate themselves inside their dorms, deciding to study all day so that they can be prepared for finals - especially those who have conditional offers from universities in Europe. While I certainly admire their tenacity and their impressive working habits, I must say that I truly believe such a way of studying is simply ineffective, and ultimately brings more negative consequences than positive ones.

Now you might be thinking... "Who are you to say these things with such level of confidence?" To that I must respond by clarifying that I, by no means, think I am 100% correct, I am just sharing my opinion based on my own experience and research done by scientists.

Back in 2014, I was obsessed with being the best of the best (academically). I'd study all day in order to get the highest grades of my class. Sadly, for two years in a row, I lost to the same guy - a guy who didn't study that hard, and who seemed to be enjoying life. Two years later, in 2016, I changed some studying techniques, which allowed me to raise to the 1st place of the rank... but I never understood how working less had allowed that one classmate to beat me for two years in a row...

In 2018, when I came to Tanzania, I would first kill myself studying. I would study right after school, and work until late at night. I got good grades, yes... but I was missing out on so many amazing activities. So, after being in lockdown for 5+ months, I decided to change my way of studying. In my second year at UWC East Africa, I decided I would add recreation time in my schedule. Right after school, instead of going straight to work, I would sit down with my friends and simply have fun. I think I reduced the amount of time I spent studying by at least 50%.

While I was nervous at first, after finishing the first set of exams, I noticed that my grades remained exactly the same. Sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? After all, I was spending more time having fun, and less time doing work. I thought I just got lucky, so I decided to give it another try - I implemented this technique even for my mock exams... and to my surprise, my grades did not remain the same... THEY IMPROVED.

Curious about how I was achieving this, I decided to do some research on the internet, and came across with one simple explanation: dopamine plays a bigger role in learning than we imagine.

I don't want to bore you with complex chemical and biological processes that I don't fully comprehend, so let me summarize my findings to you. Dopamine aids the learning process in two ways:

  1. Dopamine creates motivation - which includes motivation to study.

  2. But more importantly, dopamine is linked to memory, it allows the retention of information.

(The following link was helpful for me to better understand this process, so If you're curious, I'd encourage you to have a look at it: LINK)

Having had a look at this scientific explanation, I realized that it was not a coincidence... locking myself in the room to study all day was not going to help me to maximize my learning abilities, but having fun in a balanced and carefully planned way would.

So, if you are also revising for your final IB Exams, I'd heavily encourage you to not neglect the positive impact that taking some time off studying and distracting yourself can have on your grades. Get out of your room and have some fun!