Understanding Lag Time in Studies

By Wong Kin Leong.

In this article, I shall talk about the importance of lag time in performance management of students in the course of an academic year. This article talks about how students should manage their time when it comes to examination management. It is also a technology that parents can employ to improve their child’s performance if applied successfully. The studying technology prevalent is still time management and prioritising syllabus uptake but problems arise when we don’t factor in lag time and peak performance. It is a 2 dimensional approach in studying that does not factor in student’s lag time in skill mastery and fails to explain why students does not perform well in examinations.


Instead we shall now start thinking in the 3D form of logistical delivery of information to our brains and peak performance acquisition. Lag time, as defined in this case as the time between studying a new topic to the time when a student attains mastery of the topic, should be put into consideration for students to do well in their examinations. We know that a student learning a new topic will take some time to digest  the new material and eventually gain enough skills to score well. But this mastery requires the function of time and depending on students’ skills, the time required will be different as no two students are the same in attainment of skill mastery. It is a logistical task that needs to be tailored to individual students and one which requires us to know what is needed, when it is needed, and where it is needed.

Once we understand that lag time is important, we now need to introduce the mechanism of peak performance. Peak performance is  defined as the point in time when one reaches its peak in absolute performance. This also means that once the peak is reached, there will generally be followed by a reduction/degradation of the skill with the passing of time. The aim of a successful examination will be down to these factors.

  • knowledge of our lag time
  • when our peak performance occurs
  • time management factoring in the above
  • prioritising in accordance to achieve peak performance

So what have we learnt from our research:

1) Exams are a constant in the year. With the constant of examination time tables, lag time must be worked out and calculated to prevent a student from failing to attain the necessary skill set before the examination begins. Knowledge of oneself is the greatest liberty.  Students should know how much time is needed to attain mastery of skills. Also, this is when parents can step in and take this lag time into consideration. For a student who learns quick and have a good uptake of facts, this lag time will play a smaller role in the process of learning, but one who takes a fair amount of time to attain mastery, parents should play a bigger part in making sure their child manage their time well enough.

First, know when the exams and tests are in an academic year. Second, calculate how much time is needed to fully master, and commit to memory the skills acquired. Third, take this calculated time that you need, and work backwards from the dates of the exams to start planning revision of your topics according to when  you peak in your mastery. Factor in 2-3 extra weeks for delays in your schedule as a safety net. Also factor in the amount of subjects that is being attempted, time it to how the exams pan out. Study in accordance to what papers are chronologically arranged What you have will be a solid blue print to a successful examination.

2) Lag time decreases with a better memory Generally, students with better memory requires less lag time to master their syllabus. This is obvious as students who spends more effort memorising what they have learnt means that they do not have to spend so much time backtracking to relearn what they have forgotten.

3) Lag time decreases with better understanding There is studying by hard, or studying by smart. The latter being studying by understanding and comprehending, as opposed to the former of memorising questions and formulas. Studying by understanding generally gives clarity and a better fundamental grasp of the topic. And clarity in thought gives a better memory palace. Know how  the topic  works, digesting it and then memorizing and keeping it clear will usually means a recall of the topic will be easier.

4) Consistency wins. Mugging scares. Consistently studying and peaking will help a student learn how to reach peak performance. Do it, and do it again. Hone it till it becomes second nature and exams become a breeze. Mugging is scary because it leaves too little time to learn everything. It works, but there’s also a chance that it doesn’t. Why gamble when we can play it safe and buy insurance.

So there you go. Take into consideration lag time, and peak right on exam day. Success is just around the corner.

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