Study skills: How much is enough?

A common question I hear from parents is, ‘how many hours should my child study at home?‘ Of course there is a direct correlation between the child’s age and the number of hours so there cannot be a standard response.

I once asked this question to two of  my most academically bright students. The answer was simple. They said, ‘as long as it takes for me to complete the task that I have set out for myself. It may take an hour or may be three, that does not matter so much.’  Well, for them they had their long term goals clear and the strategy to achieve them.

Lesson from the gym

Each day the gym instructor decides the format that will be followed for the 45 min workout. For example, on a particular day it may be EMOM i.e. Every Minute On The Minute. So, a set of exercise are predetermined and reps listed. The idea is to complete the set of exercises and the reps under one minute and still have few seconds of rest before you start the next round. So in case I finish my round in 50 seconds, then I get 10 seconds to rest.

But if I am working under my strength and endurance level, I will be able to complete the round in say 40 minutes and get a rest of 20 seconds. Now, this is where, I have to analyze my ability and potential and accordingly add on more weights or increase my reps and if I am not able to realize this, the instructor will push me to do just that. The idea being that the work and rest ratio needs to be maintained else I am under performing and wasting time.

The same way, if a student sets a low goal or an easily achievable goal, she will complete the task relatively easily and continue to live under the false impression of having achieved her goal. It is here that she will either have to increase the weight that is re-calibrate her target setting or add on additional task so as to ensure that the short term goals are well aligned to the long term goal set for the year.

Similarly, if the student is moving slowly, the rest time will have to be limited because the time taken to complete the task will eat into the rest time. Therefore, she will need to accelerate to complete her tasks and not trudge along.

Goals and strategy

It is important for students to set long term, medium term and short terms goals clearly. See that they are aligned with appropriate time allowance. Define their strategy. For example, what is the strategy for preparing for semester exams? What is the strategy for improving their writing skills? Strategy to ensure that they practice math daily?


They review their progress weekly, monthly, quarterly and at the end of the year. They do a self review and a review with a coach or mentor. Isn’t that what we do in real work scenario? Calibrate and re-calibrate to ensure that they meet their yearly goals. What are the tactics that they will employ to ensure their strategy works? They could organize a group review with peers or parents?

A lot can be achieved, by having a clear set of goals.

However, no goal can be achieved without having a clear strategy.

And, no strategy can be effective if we do not reflect on our action.

Simply put,

No goal, no direction.




2 thoughts on “Study skills: How much is enough?

Add yours

  1. It doesn’t only depend on the age group but it also depends on the ablility /level of child. It may be necessary to start with fixed time at early stage but after that the child should be encouraged to meet the set target so that she is encouraged to work more.
    This works very well at young age.(with my daughter’s experience?)
    And I think next phase is encouraging the child to fix own target to gain self confidence.

  2. Anshu, you make an interesting point of setting ‘routines’ with children. I think that in itself is a good habit to inculcate in children from young age. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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