Thursday, September 9, 2010

How often should you study?

How frequently should you study?  Study after study in the educational and congitive psychologists find that spacing out your studying much more effectively leads to long term memory.  That is, instead of cramming for say 8 hours before an exam, spread that 8 hours evenly over the period before the exam.

But how much should you space out your studying?  Economics is all making optimal decisions.  Just like you want to get the most bang for your buck, as college students you don't want to waste time studying, you want to get the best grades for each hour of effort spent studying.  So.. should you be studying every one of your classes every day?  Once per week?  Once every other week?  What's optimal?!

A new study answers this question with a nice formula: the magic answer is 5% - 10% (this is an estimate of course) of the amount of time between the second class (for my ECO 120 class this is Fri, Sept 10 for us) and the final exam (for me, this is Sat, Dec 18 for us).  This comes to 99 days.  What this means for my ECO 120 students is, if they want their studying to count the most, instead of cramming at the last minute, spread that studying out to every 5 to 10 days throughout the semester.

I hope that means I'll be seeing students fairly regularly in office hours. :)

The source is a somewhat technical paper I wouldn't recommend the casual reader to dig into, but I can provide it upon request.

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