Top Tips on Tackling Exams - Part 3

In the latest in our series of exam advice, our amazing GTA and student rep Ej discuss the Pomodoro technique. Give it a try!

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A huge amount of research has been conducted into ensuring effective teaching and learning practice within universities. For example, to hold the attention of students in lectures, traditional lecture delivery should be no more than 10-15 mins long before any other teaching intervention such as asking students questions, showing a video and so on (McKeackie, 2013). Even TED talks are no more than 18 mins long to ensure they grab the attention of the audience (Bradbury, 2016). Thus, it makes sense for us to think about the most effective time to focus on one period of study.

The Pomodoro Technique (Dilano, 2021) is a proven effective technique in which the only equipment required is a timer/alarm. So how does it work?


  1. Choose a topic you want to work on.
  2. Remove as many distractions as you can e.g., Twitter, emails and so on. Put headphones on if required to cancel out sound (don’t listen to music ideally, if you must then please listen to music with no lyrics).
  3. Set your timer for 25 mins.
  4. Work for those 25 mins and don’t stop until the timer/alarm goes off.
  5. When the alarm/timer goes off, stand up and walk around for 5 mins. Make yourself a drink, stand outside, go anywhere away from your work.
  6. Set the timer again and work for another 25 mins. Then a 5 min break.
  7. After the 3rd 25 min on the same topic, take a 30 min break.
  8. Then check what you have learnt. Reflect on what you may need to learn further and set targets for the next time you come to the same topic.
  9. Take a 10 min break.
  10. Move on to the next topic (think about previous topics of Spaced Repetition and Interleave Practice). Start Step 1 again.

N.B. 30 min break could extend to an hour to include lunch, need for a walk etc.

Why does it work?

  • Focusing hours on a topic can diminish our energy levels. As such, it is suggested that by breaking your studies into 25-minute chunks, you are more focused, attentive and motivated (Dilano, 2021).
  • By breaking revision into shorter sub-topics and completing them, you feel that you have accomplished learning.
  • Short breaks enable your brain to recharge and embrace a fresh perspective.
  • Also, such techniques help to reduce anxiety (Cirillo, 2018).


Bradbury, N.A. (2016) Attention span during lectures: 8 seconds to 10 mins or more? Advances in Physiology Education. 40:509-513.

Cirillo, F. (2018) The Pomodoro Technique: The life changing time-management system. London: Virgin Publishers.

Dilano (2021) ‘Why you should stay for 25 mins at a time’. Available here.

McKeackie, W.J. (2013) In Suinichi, MD & Mckeackie, W.J. McKeackie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research and Theory for College and University Teachers. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin.


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