Test taking counts as one of the chief causes of stress among college students. Many students enter college life without an understanding of what they need to do to prepare for a test. Very often, they can underestimate how much time they need to devote to the task, leaving them feeling nervous and ill-prepared on test day. The strategies they use to successfully take a test may surprise them. If they've acclimated to college life, they will use these same skills everyday.

Definition of Studying

The word "study" has different meanings. It can apply to your course of study or major. People also use it when speaking about a scientific or empirical study done by researchers. However, when used in the context of test taking, the definition given by Dictionary.com provides the best answer. When a person studies for a test, he is doing so in order to acquire new knowledge. In college, professors test students on this knowledge to determine how well the student has mastered the material.


The expectations that your professors will place upon you differ from the ones you'll have had put upon you in high school. The high school student spends six to eight hours a day in class, but only an hour or two studying at home at night and not every night. Most of the work required to acquire new knowledge takes place inside the classroom. In college, the instructors expect students to learn most of the material outside of class. When it comes to test taking, this distinction becomes important. If you follow the high school model, you may have the expectation that you'll learn most of what you need to know for the test in classroom, but the opposite is true.

Generally Speaking

Before you get to the specifics of studying for a test in college, it's helpful to understand how much time you should devote to studying in general. This knowledge will apply to your test studies as well, but with a much more specific focus. According to information on the Cornell University website, the average student can expect to spend two to four hours a day in class and as many or more hours outside of class studying. One good rule of thumb is to assume that for every hour you spend in class, you'll need to study for another two to three hours per class hour outside of class. So for a three credit class, you'll spend six to nine hours outside of class studying.

Studying for Tests

To understand how much you should study for a test in college, break down the tasks that you need to do in order to master the material. For example, if you have 40 or 50 pages of reading to do to learn some of the material for the test, you can count on at least four hours of reading. On average, you'll spend about four to six minutes per page reading and memorizing the material. That said, it's more efficient and less overwhelming to study a bit of the material each day. You'll remember more, because you'll review the material every day.

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