Last year we shared the results of a surprising study which found that it really is possible to spend too much time studying for the EPPP.
Researchers discovered that those studying to pass the EPPP stopped improving after 200 hours of study.
What about those who spent beyond 400 hours on their EPPP study materials? This group of people not only failed to improve, but were less likely to pass the exam.
More Is Not Always Better
If this seems counter-intuitive, it’s probably because we’ve imbibed the assumption so prevalent in Western culture that if a little bit is good, a lot must be better.
Now don’t get me wrong. When it comes to studying, the value of hard work and intensive concentration should not be undervalued. You won’t pass your EPPP without putting in lots of uninterrupted hours of study. However, it can reach a point where, as the Japanese say, “less is more.” It is possible to study so much for the EPPP that you drive yourself to exhaustion, fatigue and, worst of all, failure.
Too Much of a Good Thing
The phenomenon of diminishing returns among those who put in more than 200 hours of EPPP test prep, follows the pattern of an inverted U-shaped curve that Brian Arner has described in an article about Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book:
Humans intuitively visualize a linear-shaped model, where the more we input toward a desired outcome, the better. In some cases, the slope may flatten the further you go (diminishing marginal returns), but it’s still going upward.
But with an inverted U-shaped curve, there is a point where the slope starts pointing downward. In other words, allocating more resources toward a problem not only ceases to be helpful, it actually makes outcomes worse. …often there can be too much of a good thing. We need to systematically monitor outcomes to ensure resources are being used efficiently.
Avoid the Danger of Over-Study
Having recognized the dangers of over-studying, at TSM we have built tools into our program that allow you to custom design your study schedule around the amount of time you want to spend studying each day and each week. This enables you to be proactive in finding a study pattern that works best for you and meets your needs.
Moreover, because our EPPP study materials incorporate the latest discoveries about memory and learning, our program is able to work with the natural wiring of the brain, with the result that those who use our program do not need to study to the point of exhaustion. We are thus able to avoid the deteriorating effects of the inverted U-shaped curve as well as something that is called Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s law is the idea that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. If you give yourself more time than you need to complete a task, you will likely take that much time. David Cain explains that the law “is often used in reference to time usage: the more time you’ve been given to do something, the more time it will take you to do it. It’s amazing how much you can get done in twenty minutes if twenty minutes is all you have. But if you have all afternoon, it would probably take way longer.”
Apply this to your EPPP studies. If you give yourself an entire year to work on your EPPP study materials, then it will probably take you an entire year. But if you give yourself three months, and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve that, then you will stand just as good of a chance – perhaps even better – of passing the EPPP the first time you sit it.
The Cult of Overwork
When we take longer than we need to at a task, it isn’t just that we waste time. We actually end up doing a bad job, as James Surowieck recently explained in The New Yorker. Mr Surowieck drew on the work of Alexandra Michel, a former Goldman associate turned researcher, who published a nine-year study on overwork. Michel found that employees of investment bankers who spend up to a hundred and twenty hours a week on the job start to break down after four years. Surowieck writes that
The perplexing thing about the cult of overwork is that, as we’ve known for a while, long hours diminish both productivity and quality. Among industrial workers, overtime raises the rate of mistakes and safety mishaps; likewise, for knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level. As Solomon put it, past a certain point overworked people become “less efficient and less effective.” And the effects are cumulative. The bankers Michel studied started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgment declined.
Don’t Give Yourself Too Much Time
How does this translate into practice? Simple. Don’t give yourself too much time. Don’t go into your EPPP studies saying “I’ll study for the EPPP until I feel ready.” Instead give yourself a specific amount of time in which to complete your work. It might be anywhere from three months to two and a half weeks, but once you’ve determined your goal, you can use TSM’s online tools to customize your study program to this time-scale.