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What Is The Least Effective Time To Study

Studying for an exam can be an arduous task, and it’s important to make sure that you study effectively and through the means necessary to insure absorbing the material necessary to pass the exam. Studying at the wrong times is one way to not only put yourself a disadvantage but make studying a more tedious and hard process. Here we will discuss the least effective times to study and why they are the least effective.

1. Late At Night

Late at night is generally one of the least effective time to study as it is when your body naturally wants to sleep. If you try and study at this time your mind will be foggy, and you will be operating at a less than optimal level. Studies have shown that fatigue impacts our ability to effectively absorb and remember information.

This will mean that you will have a hard time focusing on the topics at hand. Furthermore, fatigue has been linked to decreased cognitive functioning, making tasks like problem solving even harder.

In addition, studying late at night can further disrupt your normal sleep cycle. This can have long-lasting impact on both your physical and mental health.

Noted health professionals recommend that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep a night in order to function optimally. If you often study late at night then you may find that you become restless throughout the day, and this will make focusing in lectures hard. This can result in negative feedback loop where you feel the need to study late at night, yet this reduces the effectiveness of your studying efforts.

While it can be tough to resist the temptation to put off studying until late at night, in the long run you will benefit if you resist and instead study during the daytime. This is because during the daytime your body is naturally alert as it is aligned with its natural circadian rhythms. One way to motivate yourself, is to imagine how great you feel when you have finished your studying goals or have just finished an exam.

2. Right After a Meal

Another time that is least effective to study is right after a meal. Whenever we eat, our bodies naturally go into feed state and send signals to our organs to digest the food eaten.

This will reduce the amount of oxygen accessible to the brain, meaning that you won’t be as productive. In addition, the decrease in oxygen and increase in blood pressure to our organs also causes us to be more relaxed, less alert, and increases our chance of nodding off. Furthermore, if by chance you did manage to focus, the amount of energy that’s being used to digest food means that the energy that’s available to us is less.

This brings us back to the original point that you won’t be able to effectively process the material that you come across. Therefore, it’s important to only study after the digestion process is complete and your body is in a neutral and rested state.

For most people this period of not-feeling-tired nor-feeling-full is 2-3 hours after your last meal. Moreover, eating earlier rather than later can have an additional benefits. When eating earlier you will tend to have more energy throughout the day and late at night and have a better mood before studying.

This is because fats, carbs and proteins found in the food provide us with energy to the body and the brain. Therefore by eating earlier, your body and brain can get the energy throughout the day that it’s needs.

3. Around Friends

Another time when studying is least effective is when you are studying around friends. Whenever we study with a friend, and especially in a group setting, the main focus will naturally turn to social interactions rather than the content itself. Not only will this be damaging to our ability to learn and remember the material, but it can also end up de-motivating us and impede our productivity overall.

Group studies often turn into talking about the different topics, rather than focusing on the material and we tend to think of pretty insignificant thoughts too. If the studied material is considered hard then the conversations may quickly derail from the content and start connecting off topics.

Therefore, it’s always advised to study alone or with at most one other person. In addition, studying with friends can cause procrastination to seep in as if you are in a group nothing needs to seem to happen immediately as it has with one another.

Therefore, studying with others can lead to long gaps throughout the session where nothing of value happens instead of research and progress into the material. Finally, even if you are able to focus on the material, when studying with friends, it can often be the case that we think it’s okay to gloss over material that we think we understand since everyone else in the group is busy understanding the same material. Therefore, always try and make sure that if you want to learn you need to make sure to eliminate any distractions and external factors, like friends, when trying to study.

4. Too Far Forwards

Another time that is least effective for studying is when you are studying topics which are too far into the future. When you have a test or exam coming up, it’s important not to make the mistake of starting to study topics which will be explained later in the curriculum.

This is because the topics in between will make more sense and be more concrete when they are explained and when the topics you are studying are inter-connected. When topics are presented in the class, they are usually put in an orderly manner which make studying more manageable. In addition, when attempting to learn material that hasn’t been yet introduced you not only won’t understand it properly but you’ll may become demotivated as it’ll be harder to understand without any of the material in between it.

Not only that, when attempting to learn topics that are further ahead, there is always the risk of studying the wrong material. Furthermore, when studying topics that are too far ahead, your focus may become split between the topics you are set to be learning for the next test or exam and the further one.

This would result in you not studying the topics you are intended to focus on and thus have an unwanted repercussion in your exam results. Moreover, it can also be the case that some topics may be discarded or even revises in the time between your attempted studying and the actual exam. This can make your studying become redundant if the topic isn’t marked properly or isn’t included in the exam.

This can mean that you could end up feeling discouraged and demotivated to carry on your studying efforts and can further erode your confidence in your academic performance and ability to do well in exams. Therefore, it’s important to make sure to never study topics that are too far ahead and instead focus on what you are intended to be studying.

5. Absorbing Too Much Information at One Time

When studying, it’s important to make sure not to absorb more information that you can handle at one time. When you try and remember too much material in one sitting the chances of making mistakes or forgetting bits of the material are higher.

Not only does this mean that your study will be less effective, but it can also reduce your motivation, and make the remaining time of studying feel like a burden. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you don’t try and memorize too much information at one time, and instead break it up into smaller chunks, making sure to also take in rest periods throughout your studying. In addition, breaking up studying into smaller chunks can have the additional benefits of making each individual chunk more manageable and easier to understand, when compared to a single large one.

Moreover, there is also the benefit of being able to analyse the material better and in more detail. When concentrating of a specific portion you can view it from different angles allowing you to make further connections to the material.

In addition, a further benefit when breaking up studying material into multiple chunks, is that it supplies you with more freedom. This allows you to tailor your studying to your potentials and areas where you are strongest. In other words, it allows you to focus on areas and topics that require more attention and understanding as well as those which require less time.

Therefore, to ensure that you study effectively you need to make sure not to overload your brain and instead take in information in controlled chunks.


We discussed in-depth the times which are least effective for studying, and why these times cannot optimally host your studies. This includes times such as late-at-night, right after meals and around friends, as well as too far forwards into the material.

In addition, we discussed why studying too much material simultaneously is also an ineffective way of studying. The key takeaway is that it’s important to make sure that the times in which you study are optimised to allow you to learn the material in the most effective a manner as possible. There are times and situations where it can be hard to resist the temptation of not studying.

However, in the long-run not studying in the most effective manner may result in you not achieving your desired result, as well as reducing your motivation and potentially eroding your confidence in the process. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you study in a manner which is best tailored to your understanding of the topics and in tuning with your bodies natural rhythms.

In doing so, you will be able to optimise the effectiveness of your studying and help you further develop and progress your performance in all future exams.

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