A Study Respite?

I just had a great question from somebody regarding taking a break from studying. The student was feeling burned out from staring endlessly at the Barron’s 3500 word list. So is it harmful to take time off or would a little break give your brain?

A brief respite can be a great way to let your brain soak in and process all the information you’ve been taking in during your prep time. What I recommend my students do is to take a break from prep work, but not a break from thinking. A great way to strengthen the connections between the words floating around your head (and if you’ve been prepping intensely there are probably a lot of them) is to read and listen.

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Pick up a Newsweek or Time magazine (The New Yorker if you’re feeling plucky) and read something that interests you. What you’ll notice is a lot of the words you’ve been studying keep popping up. Now you get to see the words in a fresh context and your brain will jolt from the recognition (at least much more than it would from looking at Barron’s), and the word will have a greater chance of sticking in your long-term memory. If you encounter a word you don’t know, then look it up.

Then there is listening. Both The New Yorker and National Public Radio (NPR) have free podcasts. The commentators are erudite and highly eloquent. They pepper their conversations with GRE vocab with the same offhand aplomb that we would pepper a steak. At the end of the day, learning GRE vocab is much like learning a new language. You wouldn’t want to be memorizing endless vocabulary lists hoping to understand the contexts in which those words are used.

Of course, you don’t want to take too much time off from prepping, especially if your test date is imminent. But if you still have three weeks or a month, a few days spent reading and listening can help you immensely.

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