Brief Diversions Vastly Improve Focus, Researchers Find is the title of an article reporting on a new study.

It provides some good information that I plan to include in test-taking advice I give to my students before our state testing begins. It provides evidence to the common sense view that if you’re facing an extended task, it’s good to take a short break once in awhile. Those breaks can help you concentrate when you return to the task.

Here’s what one of the researchers says:

This study is consistent with the idea that the brain is built to detect and respond to change, Lleras said, and suggests that prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance.

“We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused,” he said. “From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”

I’ve always suggested that students should periodically take breaks of a minute or two throughout the test, and now I’ve got a study to back up that advice.

I’m adding this post to My Best Posts On How To Prepare For Standardized Tests (And Why They’re Bad).