How many hours should you as a student actually study a day and a week? How much should you study in the week and in the weekend? What is normal? A lot of students are asking these kinds of questions to themselves and others. Of course, there is not a simple answer on this. It depends on the course, you as an individual student, how soon exams are coming, etc. And even more important, the number of hours studying is highly dependent on how efficient your way of studying is. In the end, you are not necessarily more productive by studying more hours, but rather by studying smart to complete your tasks in the most effective way and thereby get good grades.
First, I will tell you more about number of hours studying; what is possible, healthy and average? Subsequently, I will give tips on what is actually more relevant, namely quality over quantity of the study process.
How many hours of studying?
How many hours of studying would be possible?
A day has 24 hours and a week 168. This is actually time than you think! According to research, it is healthy for students (which are most often young adults) to sleep 7 to 9 hours a night. Taking 8 hours of sleep, you still have 16 hours a day and 112 hours in a week left. That is still quite a lot! However, it is of course not really possible to use all these hours to study. But ignoring limited mental energy, your health and other tasks besides studying that need to be completed, 10-15 hours a day studying would in fact be sort of possible.
How many hours of studying would be healthy?
A workweek is typically 40 hours, which is also the required workload at most universities. A simple answer to this question of what would be healthy would therefore be around 40 hours. This would mean, when you want to keep your weekend free, 8 hours of studying a day. But as most of us students know, this is often not realistic. Suppose you also study in the weekend, this would on average be around 6 hours of studying a day. Being awake 16 hours, this means that you still have 10 hours a day to do other things beside of studying, meaning that 6 hours actually sounds quite good! The rule of thirds is also a good one; 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of studying, 8 hours of other things. This would mean 40-60 hours of studying a week, which is reasonable.
Of course, it is not as simple as it sounds. It also depends on the workload, the difficulty of the course and how close exams and other deadline are.
How many hours of studying is average?
When looking at myself and friends who are also studying at university, the number of hours people are studying (or seem to study) actually differs a lot. Some study all the time, some not at all, and most people (I think) on average 40 hours a week. When looking at my own schedule, I think I am quite average or study a bit more than average. This would mean around 40-50 hours a week, typically around 7-8 hours on a workday and a bit less in the weekend. When exams are coming up, also the weekend and most evenings contain (lots of) studying.
Hours of studying when exams are coming up.
At the beginning of the course, most students have the resolution to slowly build the hours of studying up as exams are coming closer. But as most resolutions, it can be difficult to keep them. It is tempting to leave your work for a couple of weeks (especially with online education) and then having to catch up everything in the days before the exam. This causes lots of stress those days, which you want to avoid. Therefore, difficult and cliche as it sounds, try to be as steady as possible in the hours you are studying and/or slowly building up when exams are near.
Find a balance!
In the end, it is (always) most important to find a balance. At all costs, you want to avoid getting overworked or even burned out. Therefore, I recommend you not to be too focused on the number of hours of studying. It is obviously useful to know how much time you spend on studying to plan and structure your life well. In the end however, productivity is not necessarily measured in the number of hours you study, but rather in the tasks you complete and how well you did this. Therefore, I will now discuss the importance of the quality of the study work over the quantity of hours you are studying.
Quality over quantity; study active and effectively
Study active instead of passive and look for your best way of studying
Studying smart and active really is the way to save time studying and remember the material better. Ways of studying active are making (short!) summaries, flashcards, exercising, practicing with past exams and teaching yourself and others. To be able to study in the most effective way possible, it is crucial that you analyze what way of studying works and does not work for you. Furthermore, it is important to focus on what you do not understand and the difficult parts, let them be explained to you and write them down. It is obviously tempting to study what you understand and think is easy, but by doing that, you will not get that good grade. So, challenge yourself and find your most effective way of studying. In this article, I give lots of tips on how to study active instead of passive to be more effective while studying.
Optimize your focus; remove distractions and take breaks
To study effectively, it is important that you are as focused as possible. This means to put your phone away in another room or on your bed for example and make your desk clean. Furthermore, it is important to take breaks on a regular basis to keep your mind fresh to improve your concentration when studying. You could for example use the Pomodoro technique, in which you study for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break, and keep repeating this. Another example is to study for 50 minutes and then take a break for 10 minutes for a few times. In this article, I give you more tips on how many study breaks you should take and ideas for study breaks.
Save time in procrastination; create a routine and set goals
To avoid increasing the number of hours of studying, but still remembering all the study material, it is crucial to save a lot of time with procrastination. Just do it! Do not spend time thinking ‘I can not do this, I do not want to study, I want to lay in my bed’. The work has to be done at one point anyways, so better do it right away! The two best way to decrease procrastination, is to create a productive study routine for yourself and set study goals on both the short and long term. By creating a routine, studying becomes more of a habit, which gives you less space to think, well I will do this later. By setting goals, you really work towards something and you know when you will be finished and can be satisfied, which will also lead to avoiding procrastination.
Plan things unrelated to studying
As said before, in the end it is all about balancing. Of course, studying and working to achieve your goals is important, but the last thing you want is to burn yourself out. Therefore, it is crucial to also plan things unrelated to studying. By doing this, you keep yourself motivated while studying to look forward to something else, and you avoid getting overworked.