Whether you are in high school or college, you are sure to be overwhelmed with several different educational subjects on your plate at once. When studying, it can be hard to determine whether or not you should study one topic per day or multiple. Do you focus on one subject so you can master its content or give yourself some variety, so your brain doesn’t explode?
There are scientific studies to help you find the answer to the question of whether you should study one subject a day. According to experts, it is more beneficial to study multiple subjects each day rather than immerse yourself in just one per day.
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Study Multiple Subjects Per Day
It might sound more beneficial to deep dive into one subject and focus all of your day’s attention on just that one subject, but it’s not. Why? Think about it. You are more likely to confuse similar information if you study the same subject consistently all day. For example, if you are focusing solely on Spanish vocab all day and you start with vocab about food topics and then focus on vocab about school topics and then vocab about traveling, you are bound to get some of those words confused. If you focus on just food topics, you are less likely to confuse mantequilla with maleta (butter vs. suitcase.)
Studying multiple subjects a day will also keep you on a better track when it comes to your schedule. If you have history class and chemistry on the same day, you need to focus on both while studying, not just one. You can better balance your workload when you change things up every so often. Your brain is going to burn out faster if you spend all day memorizing the periodic table. Throw in a bit of the history of Watergate in there as well.
When you spread out your learning, your brain has more time to process the information. You need to consolidate your learning, not overload yourself with it. Our minds need time to soak in all the information it is receiving, so give it the time it needs without pushing it.
Have you ever heard of cognitive load? This load occurs when it becomes difficult to manage and learn new material due to the amount of mental effort used. It’s the workload that your brain is taking on. You have to be conscious of your cognitive load when you study. To manage your cognitive capacity, experts suggest splitting your studying into multiple subjects per day. Learning small bits of the matter per day and later integrating them into that subject in your mind as a whole is the most useful for you in the end.
Have you ever heard of the interleaving effect? Acquiring knowledge takes both time and effort, and mixing things up is how you do this. New research has found that interleaving produces dramatic and long-lasting benefits for essential educational skills. Studying multiple subjects per day will boost your learning.
Spaced learning is better for you than massed learning (Source). When studying is spread out over a time frame, the retention and capacity for using the knowledge are better than when it’s locked together.
One suggested method for studying multiple subjects per day is to start/warm-up with something like vocab or a topic that you find comes more easily to you. Then secondly, move onto a technical matter that you find to be a bit more complicated. Lastly, focus on the subject that you find to be lengthy or tedious. This technique will help you truly know when your brain is done for the day. You never want to start with the subject that feels like it never ends, you’ll be burnt out before you even get the chance to move onto another topic. Leave the falling asleep for the end of your study session.
Any time you have free is valuable study time. If you have 20 minutes in-between classes, take out your Spanish vocab and go over it before your next class starts. Then you don’t have to do this once you get home. Instead of messing around on Twitter during that time, use it to your advantage. You could use that 20 minutes you just freed up for a nice bubble bath when you get home to help unwind and relax after a long day at school. It may be tempting to take your lunch break to go on a shopping spree in the bookstore or have a social hour with your friends at Starbucks, but it can be much more valuable to you and your education to use that precious free time as study time. You could even create flashcards to do in-between classes. Instead of texting as you walk to your next class across campus, look down at some flashcards. It may sound so simple, but that’s because it is. Something so simple indeed can be incredibly beneficial.
If you only study one subject per day, you may be more likely to forget what you reviewed a week ago. If you study math on Monday and then don’t study it again until next Monday, most of what you learned will be gone. Studying a bit of math each day will remind you every single day of what you previously taught yourself. Think about this: If a new song comes out on Friday and you listen to it once, every single day for a week, you are going to memorize the lyrics by next Friday. If you listen to it once on Friday, it comes out, and then not again until the next Friday, you aren’t going to remember the words to that song. Now apply that theory to math. See my point? Repetition can be repetitive, but there’s a reason for it, trust me. Study smarter, not harder.
Study One Subject Per Day
Of course, like with any type of studying, it’s all about personal preference when it really comes down to it. Although most of us would benefit most from studying multiple subjects per day, that doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the case for you. If you feel you learn better by focusing on one subject per day, then, by all means, do so. Remember: Just because experts say it’s true doesn’t mean it will work for you.
You need to analyze how well do you know each subject. If you are a pro at literature, then maybe you do only need to focus on studying that subject once per week. If you are taking a speech class that requires you to write one speech per week and then read it in front of the class, then don’t even bother studying.
As you get further into your major in college, you may not really be able to study multiple subjects in one day. Sometimes you are forced to study one subject per day, and that’s okay. If you are used to studying multiple subjects per day, try to find the differences between your classes, even if they are on the same subject. Splitting up your learning within the same topic is also an excellent way to learn.
It is okay to study one main subject per day but also sprinkle in a couple of other subjects for less time. If you have two hours to study, maybe focus on math for one whole hour, history for 30 minutes, and vocab for the last 30 minutes. It is perfectly fine to put your focus on one subject, but don’t forget to at least review some information from other subject areas as well so you won’t forget that information. You don’t have to spend hours per day on each subject, but you should give yourself little reminders. You will thank yourself later for this when exam time rolls around.
It may be tempting to focus on the one subject that is the most interesting to you. This is where focusing on one subject per day can get very problematic. If you are like me and love programming, you may tend to want to focus on that topic all day rather than delve into the meaning of The Great Gatsby. Tinkering around in XCode might be more tempting than reading or vice versa, but you have to push yourself to study even those subjects that you dislike, actually especially those subjects you dislike.
How you study can also depend on the day. Some mornings you wake up feeling like The Flash and want to spend all day studying and learning as much as you possibly can. Other days you wake up feeling like Eeyore, ready to go back to bed before you even get out of it. When you’re feeling like The Flash, it can be easy to study multiple subjects per day, when you’re feeling like Eeyore, you’re lucky if you get one subject in. This is understandable; you’re only human.
Your studying can also depend on your priority. If you have an English exam tomorrow, you might want to focus on that subject rather than math, which you have a test for in a week. This, of course, is understandable as well. You never want to cram overnight like a mad man, but focusing more on a subject that you have a test for the next day is a completely obvious choice to make.
Some people find it less overwhelming to focus on just one subject per day. Some people can better retain information when learning it all at once, rather than breaking it up into sections. You may actually be able to master a subject better if you do all of its requirements in a straight 8 hours, but it is rare. It all depends on how your brain works and how you work as a person. There is nothing wrong with either way, as long as they truly work for you. If you struggle with multitasking or juggling many things at once, perhaps it would be better for you to focus on one subject per day. Maybe you need to study a subject for several hours to retain anything about it, and that is totally okay.
If I Study Multiple Subjects Per Day, what do I do the night before a test?
Here are the steps you should take the night before a test if you have studied multiple subjects per day (which is so much better than cramming on this night.)
- Review Your Notes
- Don’t Study too Late
- Eat a good protein-filled meal
- Prepare for the morning
- Get some Exercise
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep
If you are looking for some study tips, check out our article containing 25 essential study tips to improve your academic performance at the link below:
It can be difficult to decide where to start when it comes to studying the array of subjects on your plate. The method you choose all depends on how you learn and how your brain retains information. There is never a right way to learn, as long as you are truly learning.
Studying multiple subjects per day can be extremely beneficial for information retention. Spacing, interleaving, and managing your cognitive load will help you learn better than cramming will. Focusing on a topic for even 20 minutes can help remind you of information you may have forgotten if you didn’t recall it. Of course, you should focus on the subjects you struggle with most, but you don’t want to forget the other things you have learned.
You can even juggle studying multiple subjects per day while on-the-go. Create flashcards for in-between classes or while you are waiting for your Uber to pick you up. This helps free up more time for you to study or have some self-care time.
Your brain may simply work better when you focus on one subject per day. Some people find this method to be less overwhelming, while some find it to be more overwhelming.
Studying multiple subjects per day helps you to avoid cramming the night before a test. You will be able to have time for a good meal and a long night’s sleep. If you don’t have to stay up until 3 am making sure you’ve mastered the content of your physics textbook. If you do find yourself needing to cram, check out our guide on how to study at the last minute effectively at the link below:
All this talk about the correct way to study can sound great, but it can be hard actually to put into action. We all tend to procrastinate and leave all of our studying before the test. This is understandable; high school and college can be overwhelming. Just try to try one of these methods to see how they work for you. It may sound impossible to study every single day, but once you start, you probably won’t be able to stop once you see the results it can have. Cramming is not good for anyone; no one learns this way. When you start getting A’s on all your tests because you learn how to spread out your studying, then maybe you will understand why cramming is just not smart in any way.
The only way you can truly know if you should study one subject per day or multiple is to give them a try for yourself. Experts can say all they want and conduct as many experiments as they want, but the way you learn is the way you learn. Once you find a study method that works for you, your life and your grades will change for the better. You will be happier, and your grades will be higher. No matter how you study, put in the effort, and you will see results.
“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” – John Maxwell
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