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I noticed that many spells can be charged, e.g. the Sparks spell I got in the beginning can be cast continuously until I'm either out of magicka or the target is dead.

As you level up your skills just by using them I wondered if it makes any difference whether you cast a spell without charging it repeatedly or if you just hold down the mouse button and lightning bolt the enemy until he's really dead?

Which way do I level up the skill faster, or is there even any difference at all?

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I have played a little and I think it is if you cast more spells, not casting for longer. – Toby Nov 12 '11 at 2:50

I could find no credible sources about this, so I performed a completely unscientific experiment to figure this out:

I loaded up a low-level saved game and used Flame continuously until my magicka was exhausted, then took a screenshot of the skill screen. I then reloaded the game and used Flame in ~1 second bursts until my magicka ran out, and took another screenshot. I then compared the pixels in the screenshots using Paint, and determined that they had both advanced an equal number of pixels. This suggests that it's extremely likely that it doesn't matter if you cast with duration or frequency - you'll gain at the same rate.

In summary, there is most likely no difference.

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+1 For doing science! – Ivo Flipse Nov 13 '11 at 8:50
Unscientific? Wouldn't want to know how many university employees use Paint to compare results :D – Konerak Nov 13 '11 at 13:41
That's not unscientific! – user7220 Nov 14 '11 at 6:55
this is because magic school advancement is based on magicka used.. – Skizzlefrits Nov 17 '11 at 21:27
Question, hypothesis, experiment, observation, conclusion. Seems scientific enough to me. That said, I suppose the answer is that gain, within a spell at least, is based on the amount of Magicka spent. – Hyppy Nov 21 '11 at 16:56

With respect to Destruction magic specifically (as well as most combat skills), you gain skillups not by casting more or for longer, but rather by doing more damage.

You'll skill up faster using a more powerful spell and simply being effective in combat than you will by trying to grind on rats with starter spells.

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I've heard that regardless of damage the level of the spell also changes exp (novice->master)? You could have an adept spell that does less damage than a novice spell (because of resistances), not sure which would give more exp then. – Annan May 27 '12 at 15:07
Damage done does not matter. Raw magicka spent determines xp. – David B Aug 27 '12 at 18:21
@DavidB For most other schools of magic, that is true. But like this answer stated, with Destruction spells, you gain more experience the more damage you deal. Raw magicka doesn't matter. For more info, see: – galacticninja Oct 1 '12 at 5:59

The complete answer you need can be found here.

First, let's answer a more basic question: "What causes my magic skills to increase?"

In some magic schools, your skills increase due to the base magicka of the spell:

  1. Alteration
  2. Conjuration
  3. Illusion
  4. Restoration (for non-healing spells)

For other magic schools, your skills increase based upon how much raw damage you cause/heal:

  1. Destruction
  2. Restoration

Now we can answer your original question. The answer is...

It depends on: the school of the spell, your gear, and the perks you have in the school.

Here are some examples:

  1. If you have gear that decreases the magicka cost of Illusion spells, you should be able to cast more during combat and level Illusion faster. Note: only the base cost of a spell matters, so any cost-reducing gear will help.

  2. If you have perks that decrease the cost of your Alteration spells, you will level Alteration more slowly because you won't need to cast them any more often.

  3. If you have perks that increase the damage done by Destruction spells, you will level Destruction more quickly because you will kill things more quickly.

  4. In my opinion, Restoration is easier to understand. If you heal better, you stay alive longer. And the key to leveling skills faster is to not die.

share|improve this answer… according to this XP gain is based on unmodified magicka price of the spell, not how much magicka you actually spend. – kotekzot Aug 27 '12 at 22:01
@kotekzot I did not know that. I have amended my answer, and will amend my gameplay to boot. – theJollySin Aug 27 '12 at 22:48
You still say "base damage", so - you're still wrong. – David B Aug 28 '12 at 1:49
@DavidB Actually, if you check the link I posted, it says "raw damage". Now, I have searched and searched and found no difference between "raw damage" and "base damage" on UESPWiki. Still, if that bothers you I have changed the word. – theJollySin Aug 28 '12 at 16:02
Look, I appreciate the formatting you've put into this answer. And perhaps the wordcount makes people happy. #1 you aren't answering the question (Should Shock be cast in bursts or continuously?). #2, you contradict yourself - "xp is Base damage" vs "taking damage increasing talents to increase xp". #3, Damage has nothing to do with it, so you are wrong. – David B Aug 28 '12 at 17:14

I agree with LessPop_MoreFizz. Damage is the standard. Even though you may cast more often the low level spells, or cast them for longer, i.e. hold the button longer, the over-all damage may still be lower than a single-cast, huge mana-draining higher spell, and the latter would still give a greater 'experience' boost. With damage spells though (and I think non damage skills too), they only give "XP' when cast at an appropriate subject, i.e. an enemy. Buffing/healing skills may also be credited when one is actually being attacked/in battle-mode.

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Your level progress with spells of the school of destruction depends on the damage dealt... Thus you can't level it up by casting it into thin air...

...however you can level up by repeatedly casting destruction spells at your familiar

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As I discovered over here: The amount of xp from casting spells is determined by (unmodified) magicka spent.

So if you cast Sparks for 5 seconds, or if you cast Sparks 5 times for 1 second each, you will spend the same (unmodified) magicka, and will gain the same xp.

For destruction spells, they must land on a valid target to award xp, but the damage done is irrelevant.

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@galacticninja Please read the linked answer. UESP is wrong on this topic. – David B Oct 1 '12 at 13:31

Damage is a factor, but the more damage it does the more experience you get. So Flames does 10 with Augmented Flames 1/2 and Fireballs are 50 damage, so you get more experience with Firebal than Flames. However, the more damage the more Magicka you need.

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I found that if you use telekinesis with the secret of arcanea power, it's unlimited as long as you hold it down. I got my character to level 150 this way.

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