It’s easy to see why trainers might be hesitant to add a strict time limit to practice exercises: A ticking clock ramps up the pressure and could throw learners off their games.

Well, it’s true that a deadline puts more pressure on learners. But that turns out to be a good thing.

In a recent meta-study, researchers reviewed a number of medical school studies and found that learners experience significant benefits from timed exercises.

They identified two behaviors that a time limit can inspire: overlearning, or learning more than the baseline content to ensure successful performance, and self-competition, where learners continually improve by trying to surpass their personal best.

Timing isn’t appropriate for every practice activity, of course, but if applied in the right situations, it can engage learners and push them toward a deeper understanding of the material.

Source: Pusic, M. V., et al. (2014). What’s your best time? Chronometry in the learning of medical procedures. Medical Education, 48(5), 479-488.

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