📷 McMaster Faculty of Science Journalist: Omer Choudhry
Interviewer: Welcome back everyone to this week segment of Sci Section I am here joined today by two very special guests would you mind introducing yourselves.
Dr. Kim: My name is doctor Joe Kim and I teach introductory psychology here at McMaster University.
Monica Kim: My name is Monica Kim.
Dr. Kim: and Monica also helps teach through some demonstrations and videos in the introductory psychology class.
Interviewer: That's amazing! Well thank you so much for being on the show how I wanted to start off you know we're leading into exam season now many people are always asking the question of what's the most effective way to study? Doctor Kim just to start I wanted to ask you about your opinion what do you believe are some effective ways of studying?
Dr. Kim: So the most important thing is to 1st consider your overall mind and body health I think what happens in this exam period. Is that students are understandably stressed and worried about their performance on the exams so they might engage in study behaviors at the expense of everything else in their life and there are things that you really have to do to keep in mind if you want to perform at your best you have to take care of your mind and body and So what are some of the things that people should be doing?
Monica Kim: Getting lots of sleep, so get some rest and make sure you get lots of exercise and study hard but you can also take some breaks.
Dr. Kim: and I think that's really great advice I think people get into this sort of hero mode where they got they think I'm not going to even get up from this desk for the next 12 hours but what I would tell you is that you're far better off putting in plan study breaks and during those breaks.
Monica Kim: Exercise.
Dr. Kim: Do some actual exercise do some socializing get a nutritious snack that's not going to weigh you down.
Monica Kim: Jogging.
Dr. Kim: These are all really important things that are part of the study process that people think well that's taking time away from my studying and what I'm going to argue to you is that it'll make the rest of your studying time that much better it's the quality of your studying that's just as important as the quantity that you put in. Now when it comes to the actual studying the best thing that you could do is have a game plan. So you have to be really realistic come up with a schedule based on when your final exams are and then plan backwards how many hours can you actually devote and then one of the things that research for my lab and many others have shown is that the best thing you could do is to space out your study periods. What I mean by that is let's say you calculate that you can study 12 hours for a given course you could either invest all twelve of those hours the night before or you could take those same 12 hours and spread it across three or four sessions across the week and what research demonstrates is that that spaced out study leads to significantly better learning not just for the exam but for the long term for durable learning.
Interviewer: Perfect and so that leads me into my next question so for those people who you know choose to study you know the 12 hours non stop as opposed to the other method that you mentioned of taking breaks and for those people who claim that you know the last minute studying has allowed them to get better grades all-nighters etc. can you speak to any studies that you may have been done about you know comparing someone who always studies last minute or pulls an all-nighter and ends up performing above average and how that takes a toll on maybe their mental health as well leading into future examinations.
Dr. Kim: So, there's two costs one is you may get yourself ready for that exam by pulling that all-nighter but you have to consider you have other exams to study for and the physical and mental and emotional toll of that all-nighter carries forward to the next several days so let's say you do get away with it that one night it's going to impact your future study behaviors your motivation your attention your energy levels for the next exams that you have to take. The second cost is that your performance will actually be better, significantly better if you space out the same study period. Let me give you 1 example by study by Cornell so here in this study there are students who are motivated to learn new vocabulary words for an entrance exam to graduate school and in one group they studied 8 sessions in one day and the second group studied two sessions a day across four days so in the end both groups had the same total time on task then when you actually look at the performance the group that spaced out their study performs significantly better on the day of the test interesting so I'm not even arguing for people to study more I'm telling people take the same amount of study time that you would and spread it out across several days.
Interviewer: Yeah for sure and sometimes like you mentioned it is you know tempting There are some people who you know why don't I pull that all-nighter but I mean that's perfect evidence of why it's not just the short term benefit you have to think long term like you mentioned your other exams looking into the future so that you can take care of yourself both physically and mentally.
Dr. Kim: What do you think Monica, do you think it's a good idea to stay up all night?
Monica Kim: Wow that would be exhausting.
Dr. Kim: It would be.
Monica Kim: and then you would like then you wouldn't get as good higher marks.
Dr. Kim: Let's say that you had a race the very next morning you're going to be in a race would you stay up all night practicing or go to sleep?
Monica Kim: Go to sleep.
Dr. Kim: Because in the morning you'd be too tired to run the race it's exact same thing with performing on the test
Monica Kim: Yeah exactly
Interviewer: That's a great example, okay so I read your article pertaining to the impact of exercise and studying and I just wanted to ask if you could explain the correlation between the two because often a question that many students ask is what about exercising allows us to be able to become more efficient studying when we're studying.
Dr. Kim: So it's an it's an interesting question about when I say take scheduled breaks what should you actually do during the break well one of the things that we know for sure is that the last thing that you should do is just switch from one cognitive task to another cognitive task so if you're studying which is a complex cognitive task and then for your break you play video games or your answer email or you engage in some other cognitive task you're not really taking a break and what's different about exercise seems to be that it's a true break it's a context shift and so you have a chance to come back from that break somewhat restored you're never going to return to your initial attention motivation energy levels but if you could rebound somewhat to that level the rest of your study moving forward is going to be higher quality than just continuing on with engaging in cognitive tasks. So that's one reason why we think exercise make breaks an in our study we particularly looked at HIT (high intensity interval training) but we're also exploring different types of exercise yoga, meditation, any type of rate we think the common link might be the restorative nature of the break that you do and I think even taking a break getting up moving to a different area socializing having some sort of nutritional snack even that I think would have benefits as opposed to just switching from another cognitive test you think so?
Monica Kim: Yeah so like if you're studying and and you go to just like playing a video game playing a very high intense game where you like have to win your that's the vibe sending better and
Dr. Kim: It's not really a good break for you.
Monica Kim: Yeah then you're like stressed like get exercise socialize and maybe get some a nutritious snack.
Dr. Kim: Yeah.
Interviewer: That's a really great point Monica and on that basis, I wanted to ask you how do you like studying? What do you tend to do during your you know breaks? Any hobbies you may have.
Monica Kim: Probably doing crafts maybe maybe running a bit around the house.
Dr. Kim: You're training for a triathlon right now right.
Monica Kim: Yeah or maybe just lay down have a tiny break and then and eat a snack.
Dr. Kim: Yeah even just actually resting I think is good going on Facebook or social media is probably not an actual break
Monica Kim: Like YouTube.
Interviewer: Yeah for sure You Tube wouldn't be a break either. On that topic of resting just wanted to ask if there's a certain time that you should you know allocate to you know being able to take a certain nap during the day that may be able to influence your studying habits or you know promote more efficient studying or sorry head or about you know the what would be the recommended time that you would give for using resting as a break?
Dr. Kim: Well for most most people 8 hours of sleep is a good amount of time that be sleeping.
Monica Kim: But the best would probably be 12 like 12 is so good.
Interviewer: 12 if you can get them.
Monica Kim: I wish.
Dr. Kim: Well that's definitely true for grade school but for university students 8 hours is probably good.
Monica Kim: Yeah probably 8 hours or more.
Dr. Kim: But a lot of student don't do that.
Monica Kim: They usually get six hours 'cause they stay up all night doing their studying.
Dr. Kim: That definitely has a lot of harm if you continue to go through several nights with sleep deprivation it has similar levels of impairment as you know as being drunk according to some studies and so getting adequate amounts of rest what I like to do also is that I find that I often have like an afternoon dip in my energy levels and for me if I could do 20 minutes of meditation or even a quick nap or even just lying with my eyes closed I'm completely re-energized and the rest of my afternoon could be that much more productive.
Interviewer: Yeah that's amazing and for sure that's great advice as well now just a last
question for Monica, Monica do you like marshmallows?
Monica Kim: Love them.
Interviewer: Interesting and I also wanted to ask you do you like helping to teach students you know I see you've given a lot of great advice here today and thank you for coming on the show in doing that.
Monica Kim: No problem.
Interviewer: How do you find teaching students with your dad?
Monica Kim: I think it's like a treat it's like the more it's like a marshmallow you have to wait for it and then it'll be worth it the wait will be worth it.
Interviewer: That's a really great way to look at it and just to conclude again thank you guys for both coming on to the show.
Monica Kim: No problem.
Interviewer: We really appreciate having you guys and any last final comments you may have?
Dr. Kim: Last bit of advice I want to give is follow your own study plan when you arrive at the exam Hall don't listen to anyone people are going to jump at you at the last second did you study this did you do that did you look at that they're just going to introduce potential panic and anxiety trust that you had a plan you followed it through block out everyone else and just go and write the best exam possible I think that exam halls can be very stressful environments. I think the best idea I think that they should be playing inspirational music like the Superman theme song like something to really pump people up and get people excited instead of feeling all of this unnecessary anxiety so the best thing that you could do is trust yourself block out other people and just go do the best possible exam that you can.
Monica Kim: and don't cheat.
Interviewer: Yeah for sure work on your own effort exactly Monica and you know just like you mentioned that might be interesting you know seeing the effect of future study maybe about how playing certain types of music may affect exam performance before the exam is taken so maybe next time you're on the show we may be talking about that yeah thank you guys so much for coming and that concludes this week's episode of SciSection see you next week.