Studying is one of the most daunting tasks to face as a student. There is so much pressure attached to the idea of it. It can be challenging to find the best study method that works best for you. Many students pull all-nighters accompanied by gallons of coffee to get their study sessions in. Yet we all know, this is never the best method. Yet we all keep doing it.
So, the real question is: how many hours per day should we study? The consensus among universities is that for every hour spent in class, students should spend approximately 2-3 hours studying.
So, for example, if your course is three hours long two days per week, you should be studying 12-18 hours for that class per week. If your class is an hour-long once a week, you need to study that material 2-3 hours per day. Many experts say the best students spend between 50-60 hours of studying per week. This will definitely cut into binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix!
If you are taking a full course load, between class time and study sessions, you have a full-time job. If you do follow this suggested method, you are sure to do better on tests, because you aren’t cramming the night before the big exam. All professors and classes differ, but as crazy as it may sound, this is the expectation of a college student.
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If you are more of an audiobook person, Audible is for you. Audible has a huge library of audiobooks on a variety of topics and listening to audiobooks is a great way to learn on the go. Audible includes podcasts and Audible Originals as well.
One audiobook I would highly recommend is How to Become a Straight A Student by Cal Newport. Cal runs the Study Hacks website and his book provides the steps and insight necessary to become an excellent student.
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This Amount of Study Time Doesn’t Seem Realistic?
I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. This level of work doesn’t seem realistic for the average college student. In reality, what you need to do is evaluate your progress in each of your classes. Spend more time with the subjects in which your knowledge is lacking. If you’re a great essay writer, then maybe spend 30 minutes reviewing book content for your English exam, struggling in Spanish 3? Perhaps you should spend a couple of hours studying your vocab words.
Of course, universities and experts are going to suggest long hours of studying, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about knowing yourself and what areas you excel in and the ones that cause you to struggle. If you have tons of spare time to study each class’s material for a couple of hours a day, then, by all means, do so. But the fact is, most college students don’t have this kind of time on their hands. Classes, naps, Netflix bingeing, a job to pay for college, and socializing are often the culprits of why many students pull all-nighter study sessions.
Find Out What Kind of Learner You Are
I hate to break it to you, but reading and re-reading for 4 hours nonstop is not going to help you learn. If you want to learn efficiently, then you need to determine your learning style. Do you learn best through visuals? Listening? Doing? All three? As humans, we all learn differently. Once you find out what kind of learner you are, you won’t have to spend as much time studying, because you will have found a better study method for yourself.
That said, there are some tools you can use to optimize your learning time. One way is by using a strong note-taking system that makes a review and test-prep efficient. I personally use the Cornell Note-Taking Method as it is great at both note-taking and creating a strong feedback system for testing myself. You can find more information on the Cornell Note-Taking Method here.
Additionally, if you a visual learner, mind-mapping can be a great way to layout the content you are trying to learn is a highly visual way. Mind maps allow you to map out the relationships and hierarchy of the concepts you are learning and can help make the content clearer to understand. For more information on mind-mapping, click on this link.
Manage Your Time Wisely
An hour of studying is pretty much worthless if you spend half of it sharing memes with friends on Twitter. You can cut down the number of hours per day needed for studying if you use proper time management skills. Here are some ways you can do that:
|Time Management Tip||Reason it Works|
|Use a planner for all assignment||Helps keep you organized and|
on top of your assignments
|Create short-term study goals||Creates small victories that can|
help you build momentum.
|Have a priority list with the most|
important study topics at the
top of the list
|Helps establish what is important|
and reduces friction figuring out
what to do first
|Break down assignments into|
|Reduces anxiety over how much|
work there is to do
|Don’t try to multitask while|
|Multi-tasking doesn’t work and |
causes a mental drain over time.
|Avoid distractions||Finding a distraction-free|
environments aids in focusing
on your studies.
We created a detailed list of study tips to optimize your studying and improve your academic performance, which you can find at this link.
Remember, Your Brain has Limits.
It is scientifically proven that the brain takes 30% of our energy each day. That means you do reach a limit where your mind is officially on red, like when your iPhone reaches 20%. You need to listen to this. If your brain feels fried, that’s because it is. When your mind gets like that, you probably aren’t going to retain much more information.
The best way to not have to test your brain’s limits is don’t procrastinate, study a little every day.
Quality over Quantity
Don’t worry about the time. Your study session is never going to be beneficial if you are staring at the clock, counting down the seconds the entire time. Saying you’re going to study from 4 pm-8 pm means nothing if you don’t learn anything during those four hours.
Do what you need to do, no matter how long it takes. Some days you could be done studying in 10 minutes, on other days, it might take you six hours. I can tell you to make sure you study for three hours at least every day, but that doesn’t help you honestly. You’ve probably already spent 6-8 hours at school, so staring at the wall for three hours isn’t helpful at all. But, studying for an hour then taking a nap is.
It’s all about quality over speed. Don’t speed read through a page because it means you will finish faster. You might as well not even bother. Take your time. Read thoroughly, highlight key points, write down questions in the margins, and look up words you don’t understand. THAT is real studying.
If I do want to Study for 8 Hours, how do I do that?
Have a Saturday free that you want to spend studying? Here’s a suggested schedule for that:
|7 – 9 am||Check social media, shower, go over study schedule|
|9 – 10 am||Breakfast and a break|
|10 – 1 pm||Study. Take consistent breaks and be sure to hydrate|
|1 – 2 pm||Lunch|
|2 – 6 pm||Second Study session. Remember to take adequate breaks|
|6 – 8 pm||Dinner and some rest time to hang out with friends|
|8 – 10 pm||Final study session. Use as a review of what you studied today|
This method definitely won’t work on a school day, but it just shows that it is possible to study for 8 hours a day without your brain getting completely fried. This schedule gives you plenty of breaks, without studying from 10 pm-7 am straight.
What is the MAXIMUM number of hours I should spend studying per day?
As you study, check the time to see when you start becoming inefficient. If you start losing focus 45 minutes into studying, try studying for 45 minutes at a time, then taking a 15-minute break each hour. Personally I use the Pomodoro Technique to create an easy to stick to study schedule. It uses 25 minute periods of work followed by 5-minute breaks. After four 25-minute work periods, you take a half-hour to an hour break. This helps with focus while still giving your mind consistent break periods to rest.
If you are interested in learning more about the Pomodoro Technique and how it might help you get more done, please click the link below:
Never go beyond studying 6 hours at a time, this is maximum. This amount of time is when experts believe your brain is beyond fried. Honestly, though, you should never even get close to 6 hours at a time, especially if you use the Pomodoro Technique or a similar system to manage your time studying.
According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, the average student spends around 17 hours each week studying for classes (Source). Try to keep it around this average and not go too much more or less. More than this is just not reasonable.
Study In-between Classes
One of the best pieces of advice that I can give personally is to study in-between classes. I would use my in-between class breaks as mini study sessions. If I had an hour to kill until my next class, I would grab a cold brew at Starbucks and then find a place to sit and study. I could have sat on my phone, checking social media, or met up with friends, but I used that spare time to my advantage. If I took that hour to study during the school day, then that was one less hour I had to spend doing so after my school day finished.
Find somewhere quiet and comfortable on campus where you can throw in your earbuds and study. You can also use this time to get assignments done to leave more time for studying later that night. Get those math problems or that reading done before you even get back to your dorm. I know it may be more desirable to relax after being in class for the past couple of hours, but your future self will thank you.
Depends on Your Major
Another factor in how many hours you should study per day is your major. If you’re doing something like engineering, you’re probably going to have many more study hours than say a photography major (though they are going to have a lot of study time too.)
If you are completing your general ed courses at either a community college or university, that’s going to take a lot of studying as well. For me, once I started working on my major, my study time increased substantially. As a software engineering major, I had to focus more on designing and writing applications rather than taking tests.
So, how many hours you need to study per day is dependent on not only what kind of learner you are, but also your workload and what you is your course of study.
What if I’m Taking a Super Easy Class?
Another thing that you need to take into account while studying is that not every course needs 2-3 hours of studying. It is not a hard and fast rule. Instead, it is more a rule of thumb. It also depends on the professor, as well. For example, in community college, I had a professor who had us take notes every day in class. He highlighted what parts of the notes we needed to write down. The highlights in our notes were the test answers. I never once had to study for that class. I just had to attend. Use the time that you would be studying for that class to work on a harder class’s materials.
Too Much Studying is Not Healthy
Both physical and mental health is more important than grades, always remember that. Throughout college, I had professors profess to me “C’s get degrees.” and they weren’t wrong. Someone with all A’s and someone with all C’s both receive the same degree in the end. Don’t sacrifice your health for a letter grade. Many students already have a full load of classes from 9-5. Staying up until the wee hours of the morning is never healthy. As a student, you need to eat three meals a day and get a proper amount of sleep.
If studying is going to cause you an anxiety attack, then it’s not worth it. College puts so much pressure on your shoulders, but you can’t let it consume you, as hard as it may be. That said, much of the anxiety of studying can be offset simply by creating a consistent study schedule and taking advantage of all the resources available to you, such as teaching assistants and tutors.
Make Sure Your Weekend is Free
To protect your mental and physical health, try to get all your studying done during the weekdays. A free weekend of fun and self-care can be great to clear the mind and reduce stress. You may have to devote more time to study throughout the week, but your future self will thank you. After you leave that one 9 am class you have on Fridays, you should feel free and ready to relax, not have 8 hours of studying ahead of you. Go to your university’s football game with friends, explore the city and forget about school for a little bit. Don’t let studying consume your whole life.
University experts recommend 2-3 hours of studying per one hour of class. Following this method can result in a very, very long day for the average college student.
You can use this method if it works for you, but in reality, it’s all about knowing you and how you study. Your brain has a limit, and you never want to push this limit. All-nighter study sessions are not beneficial for you or your grades. Your mind can’t comprehend that much in so little time without any sleep. There’s a reason that in elementary school before state tests, they told you to get a good night’s sleep and have a big breakfast. You should still be doing this, even in college.
Many students love to post selfies of themselves in the university library at 3 am studying during Finals, but if you’re at home in bed, you’re probably the smarter one. If they had studied each day, they wouldn’t need to be doing this extreme method.
If you can, try to study in-between classes. This activity gets you ahead of the game for your evening studying. Heck, maybe you won’t even have to study that night. Don’t spend your breaks liking pictures on Instagram, do something productive so you can spend your night relaxing.
Don’t ever let studying get in the way of your health. Don’t skip meals or stay up all night to prepare. Your health is more important than getting an A. You should never be pushing yourself past your limits, it’s just not worth it. Honestly, if you study each day, you probably won’t have to push yourself past your limits. Taking the time to be prepared can make all the difference in the end. The best students are the ones who don’t cram. They’re the ones who have mastered the material consistently throughout the semester.
You know what is best for you. We all learn in different ways. There is no perfect studying method. There is no set rule when it comes to how long you should study each day. How long to study is all up to you. Be wise in your choices and stay true to yourself, and you will have your degree in no time. You will survive, I promise.
“You can lead a boy to college, but you can’t make him think.” – Elber Hubbard,
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