How much revision should you do a day?
I'm frequently asked how much revision you should you do a day. Parents and students alike are looking for concrete numbers when they ask this question. However, the answer very much depends on the student concerned. In this article I'm going to give you:
- The ideal numbers for how many hours you should revise a day for GCSEs and A Levels
- The other factors you need to consider when setting revision targets per day
Keep reading to see my advice!
How long should you revise for a day?
The first step in knowing how long to revise for is knowing actually what revision is, as opposed to studying and homework.
Studying – I use the word ‘studying' as a catch-all which includes both homework and revision.
Homework – Tasks set by teachers to do independently. This will often be a revision task, particularly in the second half of an exam year such as year 11 or year 13.
Revision – Any work that is about securing the memory or understanding of content already studied, or practising using that content in an exam situation.
I always advise students and families to prioritise homework. This is because:
a) homework tasks can be learning content for the first time, or be designed to reinforce knowledge, understanding or skills first acquired in a lesson that day or week at school. Without doing this work, revision will be harder when you get to it.
b) homework tasks are often designed to be revision tasks e.g. complete a past paper, or write a practice essay.
If you prioritise homework you'll be keeping up to speed with the programme of learning the teacher has set.
I meet a lot of families who get very distressed, particularly in the early parts of year 11, because students can't keep up with the revision expectations they have set for themselves, as well as the quantity of homework. If you're in this situation, always prioritise the homework, for the reasons set out above. If all you can do consistently is five minutes of revision per day, that's OK, so long as you're keeping up with your homework.
How long you should revise for in term-time
So, taking all that into account, how long should a student study for in term time?
I like to give this as a weekly number, rather than a daily number, as it gives students more flexibility about how they fit it into their own lives. I give details about this in my article, The Weekly Routine of a Straight-A Student, which I strongly suggest you check out. However, the headline numbers are:
GCSE students (year 10 or 11) = 1.5 hours per subject per week. E.g. if they're studying 10 subjects this will be 15 hours per week.
A Level students (years 12 and 13) = 4-6 hours per subject per week. E.g. if they're studying 3 subjects in year 12, this might be 12 hours per week. If they're doing 4 subjects in year 13 this might be 20 hours per week.
Remember, those numbers INCLUDE both homework and revision, and any extra reading you choose to do. And, DO THE HOMEWORK FIRST, fitting revision in when you can around it.
How long you should revise for in the holidays or when you're on study leave
The three most crucial school holidays for exam revision are:
- February half-term
- Easter holidays
- May half-term
However, if you have mock exams in November or December, October half-term is a crucial time for revision, and if you have mock exams in January, the Christmas holidays are a crucial time for revision. You can read more about the rhythms of the school year and what to expect when here.
So, before you start setting revision targets for the holidays, make sure the holiday in question is a target revision time for you. If not, take a break as exam years are a long old slog and you need to save your energy for the important times!
How many hours you should revise a day for GCSE?
As I said before, this is a number that comes with many caveats and mitigating circumstances. However, the number I'd give if you have a very able and ambitious student aiming for the top grades in all subjects is 7-8.
If you've got a student who is less ambitious, maybe aiming for a mixture of grades 6 and 7, six hours per day would be a good target.
How many hours you should revise a day for A Level
Again, this number won't apply for all students. However, if you have a student who is aiming for three A*s I would suggest 8 hours per day in the holidays.
What factors affect how long you should revise for per day in the holidays?
There are many of these factors. I will go through the major ones here.
Motivation is a key factor for many students. When parents ask me how long their de-motivated child who'd rather spend all day on their Xbox should be revising for, I always hesitate. This is because I don't want to turn the child off revision altogether by giving a sky-high number. It's better that they do some revision, which in their minds is a reasonable target, than give them a number which they believe to be unrealistic and unobtainable. So, when I am talking to one of these families I always take into account the people in front of me. I also always start by asking the student what they think is reasonable and realistic, and then we go from there. If that number is three hours, fine. If they consistently and reliably do three hours of revision through the holidays without complaining that's much better than making them feel like a failure because they're not doing 8.
One day when I was revising for some end of year exams at university, I got up at 7 am, started work at 8 am and had done five hours of revision by 1 pm. I carried on revising in the afternoon.
I was so chuffed with myself and so happy about how much I was going to get done if I worked like this up until the exams.
However, I got up the next morning with brain ache, feeling tired and demotivated and I just couldn't engage my brain in the day's revision.
What had happened?
I'd burnt my brain out in one morning or revision!
For this reason, I always encourage 1:1 study skills coaching clients and members of The Extraordinaries Club to find a number of hours they can do per day consistently. There really is no point in going for broke with revision one day, if it makes you ineffective and unproductive for the next two days. It's much better to be consistent.
Where you're at right now
Some students will have been revising diligently and consistently all year by the time they get to February half-term or the Easter holidays. Others will have grunted every time revision was mentioned and promptly gone off to do something else.
Clearly, these two types of students (and all those in between) will be in very different places in terms of their exam preparation. The diligent types can afford to take a less pressured, more methodical approach to their revision. However, those who haven't done any up to now are going to have to put some serious effort in to pick up their game.
This happened to a client of mine last year. He received excellent GCSE results, but during year 12 became distracted from his studies by some issues in his personal life. He was shocked to the core to get Ds and Es in some tests. That's when his parents came to me to help put him back on track. By the time we'd had our first session, he'd already done a stint of 12 hour days to get himself up to speed with everything he'd missed (I would never advise a student to do 12 hour days as I don't believe it's healthy, but he'd taken this upon himself before we started working together). This work got him back in the position where he was predicted As and A*s.
So, the message here is that you have to take into account your exam readiness when deciding how much to study each day.
If you're not sure where you're at, I can help. On my regular Revision Kickstarter Workshops we do an exercise that helps students see where their strengths and weaknesses are and what they need to work on. This exercise is also available to do independently in one of the revision modules inside The Extraordinaries Club.
I often get students writing to me about physical and mental health issues that are getting in the way of their revision and exams. My advice to these students is always that health comes first, because without your health you have nothing.
When it comes to revising with a mental or physical health problem, you need to really consider the sustainability point I raised above. Work out what you can sustainably do, and do that.
Students with learning differences such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and slower processing speeds will find that revision is harder, that it takes longer and that it is more tiring for them than for neurotypical students. This needs to be taken into account when setting revision targets for them.
Revising when you're tired is never productive, so it's not just about saying do more hours for these students, as this will make them more tired and less productive. Instead, it comes down, again, to sustainability, but also finding revision techniques that work for them. This is what we do with both 1:1 study skills coaching clients and members of The Extraordinaries Club. In fact, there's a whole module inside the club focusing on this.
The revision methods you're using
All revision techniques are not created equal. Lying on your bed reading your incomplete class notes whilst trying not to stare out of the window is an extremely ineffective revision technique. However, doing a focused revision power hour is very effective indeed. If you go with the lying on your bed version of revision, you could literally spend decades revising and not be ready for your exams. However, doing power hours, and other similarly focused and effective revision techniques, you'll find you need to spend way less time studying than people who slavishly create very pretty, but not overly useful, revision notes.
Over to you – how many hours will you revise per day?
I'm sorry that I can't give you a 100% clear cut answer to the question, ‘How much revision should you do a day?' but I hope this article has given you some guidance to work with.
If you're interested in getting some deeper guidance and advice, come join The Extraordinaries Club where we have three modules on revision:
- Plan Your Revision
- Optimise Your Revision Techniques, and
- Revise For Results
You can also ask questions about revision on the weekly live coaching calls or in the parents only Facebook group. The How to Revise Masterclasses also give subject-specific revision advice across all the key GCSE subjects and a growing number of A-Level subjects. Click here to find out more about The Extraordinaries Club.