How Long Should I Be Studying?

Lisa-Blue/E+/Getty Images

How long should you study for a test? This topic is one that students ask about most frequently in emails. The answer is that there is no right answer that works for everyone! Why? Because it's not just a matter of how long you study; it's how effectively you study that really matters.

If you don't study effectively, you can study for hours without making real progress, and that leads to frustration and burnout. It feels like you are studying too much. 

So what is the short answer? You should always study a subject at least an hour at a time. But you should do this more than once, and take time off between one-hour or two-hour sessions. This is how your brain works best -- through shorter but repetitive study sessions.

Now let's re-write the question and consider a much longer answer.

Why is it that I can read an entire chapter but then I don't remember any of it later?

This can be a big problem for students. It is so frustrating to try your best and devote the time to reading an entire chapter and then get little benefit from your effort. Not only that: it also causes tension between students and parents, who may sometimes doubt that you've really tried all that hard. It isn't fair on you!

You are unique. The key to studying well is understanding your special brain type. When you figure out why your brain works the way it does, you can learn to study more effectively.

Students Who Are Global Thinkers

Researchers say that some students are global thinkers, which means their brains work hard behind the scenes, deliberating in the background as they read. These learners can read over information and feel overwhelmed at first, but then - almost like magic - discover that things start to make sense afterward. If you are a global thinker, you should try to read in segments and give your brain an occasional break. Give your brain time to let things sink in and sort themselves out.

Global thinkers should avoid the tendency to panic if they don't understand something right away. If you tend to do this, just you could be stressing yourself out. Try reading, relaxing, and repeating the next time around.

Students Who Are Analytic Thinkers

On the other hand, you could be an analytic brain type. This type of thinker loves to get to the bottom of things, and sometimes can't proceed if they stumble upon information that doesn't make sense right away.

If you tend to get hung up on details and it keeps you from getting through your reading in a reasonable amount of time, you should start taking notes in the margins of your book (in light pencil or on sticky notes) every time you tend to get stuck. Then move on. You can go back and look up words or concepts the second time around.

Analytic thinkers love facts, but feelings seem to be so awkward when it come to the learning process. This means the analytic processor may be much more comfortable studying math or science than literature with its themes and motifs.

Do you connect with any of the characteristics above? It might be a good idea to explore your own learning and brain characteristics. 

Take the time to get to know your brain by reading over the information about learning styles and intelligence types. This information should be a starting point for you. Once you finish here, do more research and get to know yourself a little better!

Find out what makes you special!