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How Does the Amount of Studying Affect Your Grades?

by Van Thompson, studioD

If you struggle in school, it's easy to believe that you're just not good at a particular subject. Studying, however, plays a significant role in predicting grades, according to a 2005 Cleveland Federal Reserve Study. Not all studying strategies are effective, however, and if you're using a strategy that doesn't work, you could be wasting your time.

Effectiveness of Studying

A 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research tracked the performance of students who studied and those who did not. Unsurprisingly, students who studied got better grades than those who did not. Studying helps students move material learned from short-term to long-term memory, according to the book, "Child Psychology." This makes it easier to apply information in novel contexts rather than just regurgitate it and when students store information in long-term memory, they're more likely to excel on analytical tasks, such as essays.

Time Spent Studying

According to the Cleveland Federal Reserve study, it's not the amount of time spent studying that predicts academic success, but effective study strategies. While spending only two minutes studying for a complex class is unlikely to be effective, there is little evidence that grades correspondingly improve with more time spent studying. The book "Educational Psychology" emphasizes that some highly effective study strategies, such as reading a chapter twice and taking notes, tend to take longer than less effective study strategies. However, more time spent on ineffective study strategies is unlikely to increase grades.

Excessive Studying

The Cleveland Federal Reserve study points out that in some situations, there may be an inverse correlation between studying time and grades. Students who struggle with a particular topic might spend more time studying, but may continue to make poorer grades than students who "get" the subject matter. Students who've already mastered a subject may spend less time studying, so in some situations, time spent studying can indicate how much a student is struggling with the material.

Studying and Motivation

In his book, "Visible Learning," John Hattie analyzes several studies addressing education and motivation. He found that students with an intrinsic sense of motivation -- those who believe that they affect the world around them rather than seeing themselves as victims of circumstance -- tend to work harder and longer. This work ethic is also correlated with higher achievement. Students with an intrinsic motivation style will likely study as long as they need to master the material; for some, this could be a short period of time, while for others, the time could be dozens of hours each week.


About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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