A bit of a tricky question, but an important one, and in this article we’re going to walk you through the answer.
It’s not an exact science, but if your teen has a fairly good idea of how much study they should be doing they will be able to:
- plan their time;
- manage their time;
- keep on track with their school work;
- nail their exams; AND
- consequently, keep their stress levels in check.
Our goal with this article is to help you and your teen come up with a PLAN for their study based on what is a realistic amount of study for them.
We’re going to split this plan into how much study your teen should do 1) during the week of a normal semester / term, and 2) how much study they should do in the lead up to exams.
How much study should your teen do during the week?
At the very beginning of the academic year, your teen probably doesn’t need to do a whole lot more extra study. Their focus should be on completing their homework and assignments.
Putting in the effort to complete homework and assignments to a high standard will be an investment of time and effort that pays off BIG TIME when exam study rolls around. Homework and assignments are what help to build your teen’s knowledge and understanding of their subjects throughout the semester / term.
We hear you asking for some actual numbers… As a guide, we suggest that your teen should be doing 1 – 2 hours of school work after school each day during the semester / term.
This time could involve:
- Completing homework set that day
- Working on any assignments due in the coming weeks
- What we call, extra study. Extra study might be:
- Writing out some notes based on the day’s classes
- Reading / watching a video on a topic they didn’t quite understand in class that day
- Starting to do some exam study or exam study planning if exams are less than a few months away
How much time your teen spends on these tasks will depend on what their priorities are on a given day. If they were given a lot of homework one day, then completing their homework might be the sole study task they accomplish that evening. If they only have half an hour of homework to do, then they might finish that and then spend an hour or two working on an assignment, and/or writing out some study notes based on the day’s classes.
Of course teens often have a lot of other activities filling up their time other than study, so if they have a lot of sport / music / drama / family commitments to fit in as well, then maybe some days they don’t do any school work after school, and they make up for it on days when they have more time.
The important thing is that your teen is keeping up with their school work and not falling behind. Students who get good grades don’t have to cram like crazy in the last week before their exams, because they have gradually built upon their knowledge throughout the semester / term. They use their exam study time to consolidate their knowledge, polish it up, and make sure they are ready to apply (see point 5 of this article) what they know to exam questions.
How much study should your teen do in the lead up to exams?
The first part of this question is, when should your teen START studying for their exams?
Our blunt answer is 2 to 3 months out from exams. Let us explain more fully….
More than 3 months out will usually be too far away from exams for your teen to feel motivated to study, and too far away to be useful. By the time their exams actually start, what they studied 3+ months ago will be a distant memory!
But 2 to 3 months out is only about 8 – 13 weeks out from exams! Two to 3 months is close enough to exams that your teen will be starting to feel some pressure, which should be used as a GOOD THING. Pressure makes us more driven, focused and productive. But 2 to 3 months out from exams isn’t so close that your teen needs to study in a panicked frenzy.
If your teen is younger (say 13 – 15), starting to prepare for exams about 2 months out from their first exam should be sufficient. Even 1 month out might be enough. If your teen is older (15 – 18) and preparing for the big ones (A levels, SATs, NCEA Level 3 etc), then they should probably be starting to think about doing some serious exam study 2 to 3 months out from their first exam.
And how MUCH study should your teen be doing each day?
Let’s make this simple and countdown from 3 months out from exams…
3 MONTHS OUT FROM EXAMS
- Still completing homework and assignments.
- Aim for about 1 hour of extra study per day as well. Some days this won’t be possible given your teen’s other activities, and that’s fine. Your teen can only do what they can.
2 MONTHS OUT FROM EXAMS
- Possibly still completing homework and assignments.
- Aim to ramp up the exam study to at least 1 – 2 hours per day. Your teen’s exam study at this stage should be FOCUSED. They should make an Exam Study Timetable and start FOLLOWING IT.
1 MONTH OUT FROM EXAMS
- Hopefully your teen will be done with homework and assignments at this stage; all focus is on exams.
- Aim to study up to 3 hours after school and more on weekends. Some days your teen will do less, other days they might do more. This is the time when hard work is really going to pay off.
2 WEEKS OUT FROM EXAMS
- This is when study should become all consuming. Your teen’s days will revolve around study. Weekends too. They can (and should) still eat, sleep and make time to unwind.
- Depending on where you live, they might have a week or so off school before exams start (ie study leave), and every day during this time should be filled with about 6 – 8 hours study per day. This amount of time might sound daunting to your teen. If they’re not yet a good studier, they can build up to it. Trust us, once they start building their study skills and resilience, all of a sudden, 6 – 8 hours goes in a flash.
For an Exam Study Timetable template and everything else we know about getting prepared for exam study, you can download the Green Pack of our exam study packs for your teen right now. These packs are stuffed pull of resources so we can share our study process with your teen, and you pay what you like.
- The younger your teen is, the less accurate these time suggestions will be. If they are just finishing their first year of high school, yes they should be using any exams as practice for the more serious exams they will sit in the years to come, but they don’t need to study as much as someone preparing for their A Levels or SATs.
- All of the times we have suggested should be used as a GUIDE and will vary depending on your teen, including how well they have stayed on top of school work throughout the year, how adept at studying they are, and how efficiently they manage their study time.
- Our ULTIMATE MANTRA is that every student needs to figure out what their unique Study Formula is, and figuring out how much study your teen needs to do and when they should start studying for exams is something that THEY need to figure out for themselves (with your help).
We hope that this breakdown of study time will give your teen a baseline to work from so they can develop their own study plan for the year. Please get in touch if you have any questions — we’d love to hear from you!
Clare & Chris
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