Study Habits

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Contemporary Educational Psychology 30 (2005) 96–116

Why study time does not predict grade point average across college students: Implications of deliberate practice for academic performance E. Ashby Plant*, K. Anders Ericsson, Len Hill, Kia Asberg
Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1270, USA Available online 14 August 2004

Abstract The current work draws upon the theoretical framework of deliberate practice in order to clarify why the amount of study by college students is a poor predictor of academic performance. A model was proposed where performance in college, both cumulatively and for a current semester, was jointly determined by previous knowledge and skills as well as factors indicating quality (e.g., study environment) and quantity of study. The findings support the proposed model and indicate that the amount of study only emerged as a significant predictor of cumulative GPA when the quality of study and previously attained performance were taken into consideration. The findings are discussed in terms of the insights provided by applying the framework of deliberate practice to academic performance in a university setting. Ó 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Keywords: Grade point average; Study time; Academic performance; Deliberate practice; Study habits


Corresponding author. Fax: 1-850-644-7739. E-mail address: (E.A. Plant).

0361-476X/$ - see front matter Ó 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2004.06.001

E.A. Plant et al. / Contemporary Educational Psychology 30 (2005) 96–116


1. Introduction The total amount of time that students report studying has often been examined as a potential predictor of success in school. It might seem that the more time that students spend studying, the better grades they should receive. Although students should increase their personal knowledge and skills by increasing the amount of time that they spend on relevant study activities, the relationship between the amount of study and achievement across students is less clear. Indeed researchers have consistently found a weak or unreliable relationship between the weekly amount of reported study time and grade point average (GPA) for college students (Allen, Lerner, & Hinrichsen, 1972; Beer & Beer, 1992; Gortner Lahmers & Zulauf, 2000; Hinrichsen, 1972; Michaels & Miethe, 1989; Schuman, Walsh, Olson, & Etheridge, 1985; Wagstaff & Mahmoudi, 1976).1 The most extensive study conducted on the issue, by Schuman et al. (1985) provides compelling evidence that ‘‘there is at best only a very small relationship between amount of studying and grades’’ (p. 945). In one of their studies, they found a weak, yet reliable relationship between reported study time and grades in the corresponding semester, but this relationship disappeared when studentsÕ SAT scores were statistically controlled. Schuman et al. (1985) argued that grades in college are primarily determined by aptitude measures, such as SAT, and attendance at lectures and classes. Subsequent investigators largely accepted the findings of Schuman et al. (1985) but questioned the generalizability of the findings across educational contexts (Michaels & Miethe, 1989) and student populations (Rau & Durand, 2000). In their study, Michaels and Miethe (1989) found a small (r = .18, p < .01) relationship between reported study and GPA, which remained after controlling for a number of background variables, such as high school rank, attendance, and reported study habits. They also found that studying ‘‘without listening to radio and television (no noise)’’ predicted higher GPA. Rau and Durand (2000) argued that Schuman et al.Õs (1985) findings were the result of their sample of undergraduates from the University of Michigan, which they posited are not representative of students in most large state universities. For example, they found that the students at...
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