How Many Days to Study per Week for the NBCOT® Exam

One of the most frequently asked questions from students is, “How many days per week should you study for the NBCOT”?

Basically, you don’t want to understudy or overstudy. There is a sweet spot.

1-3 Days?

Understudying is pretty intuitive – we probably all had an experience where we did not prepare enough for an exam and did not do so well. So studying 1, 2, or even 3 days per week will probably result in you failing. 3 out of 7 days is less than 50% of the time you could be studying. I would not risk it. Could you pass? Sure, but I would not take those chances if I had the ability to study more days per week.

What about “overstudying”? In terms of the material, there comes a point where you learned all of it and it will not benefit you to study anymore. Could this happen with the NBCOT? It’s possible – I don’t know.

7 Days?

Studying for 7 days a week, that should guarantee that you pass right? The data actually says otherwise. Now I did not know this when I was studying for the NBCOT.

Anecdotally – I actually studied 7 days a week on some (but not all weeks). However, I took a lot of breaks based on the Pomodoro Method (25-minute study + 5-minute break cycles) to allow myself mental rest. Although I studied 7 days a week on some weeks, I did not spend the entire day studying. I was able to keep up with a 7 day per week study schedule because I was able to get enough breaks, rest, nutrition, and sleep. I was also lucky to not have to work, have childcare, or other major responsibilities and I understand some of you won’t be so lucky. So what can you do? Especially if you have say, odd jobs that result in inconsistencies in your study schedule?

Interestingly, many countries have reduced the working hours of their employees due to low overall productivity. In European countries, working times for the week are gradually decreasing. In Sweden, working hours decreased from 8 to 6. If you find yourself supposed to be studying on a study day, but instead waste time or get distracted, then you’re not really studying “that many days”.

Is studying 7 days per week necessary and will it work for you? It’s probably not necessary but it can work, if you use the right method (Pomodoro).

The NBCOT Data

The NBCOT posted on social media a graph of the number of days that students studied per week and the percentage that passed. Here’s what they found out:

  • 2 days/wk – 1% passed
  • 3 days/wk – 5% passed
  • 4 days/wk – 16% passed
  • 5 days/wk – 47% passed
  • 6 days/wk – 22% passed
  • 7 days/wk – 8% passed

Of course, I don’t know the underlying sample statistics. Were more students proportionately in the 5 days/wk group leading to a higher pass rate? Was the sample for 1 and 7 days very small, leading to less likelihood of passing due to a smaller cohort? Were these students passing their first time or does this include multiple attempts? I don’t know.

What we do know so far is that 5 days/wk seems to be the sweet spot. Based on the statistics, it may be best to study 5 days/wk, maybe 6, but definitely not less or more. Before you go off and dedicate yourself to a 5 day/wk study schedule…

Should you follow a strict schedule like this? Don’t stress about it!

Life happens. You have appointments, birthday parties, social events, bad days – whatever it may be. What is more important is consistency.

It’s all Relative

Days and weeks are just how we define time in our society. From the day you start studying to the day you take your exam, you have that many “minutes” or “hours” or “days” to study.

What I recommend instead of thinking about days/wk is just to keep things simple.

KISS

It may be easier to break it down into per day. 5 days/7days = ~70% of a given week that you are studying. If you have responsibilities like work or childcare that make days per week change every week then this will work better for you:

try sticking to 70% of your awake time to studying.

This may be why the Pomodoro method worked for me even though I studied 7 days a week. I put in 100% mental effort into the 25 minute increments, took a serious 5 minute break, repeated, and took a long 20-30 minute break when prompted. With the Pomodoro Method, after you complete 4 cycles, you can take a longer 20-30 minute breaks.

The timeline of the Pomodoro Method for 5 hours looks like:

  • 25 mins study + 5 mins break + 25 mins study + 5 mins break (1hr)
  • 25 mins study + 5 mins break + 25 mins study + 5 mins break (1hr)
  • 30 minute long break (1/2hr)
  • 25 mins study + 5 mins break + 25 mins study + 5 mins break (1hr)
  • 25 mins study + 5 mins break + 25 mins study + 5 mins break (1hr)
  • 30 minute long break (1/2hr)

So in a 5 hour period (300 minutes), I would have studied for 200 minutes and taken a 100 minute break.

Studied for 200 mins / 300 mins = 66%

Breaked for 100 mins / 300 mins = 33%

Notice a similarity? Rounding 67% way up gives you 70%. That’s the magic percentage we got earlier from the NBCOT data of most students who passed studying 5 out of 7 days, or approximately 70%! So in a way, from a days/wk perspective, I was “overstudying”, but from an “hours per day” perspective, I was pretty close but still considered “understudying” (my 67% vs NBCOT students 70%).

Of course, I did other things besides studying such as BADLs – eat, shower and other activities like going to the gym, going for a walk – which reduced my studying time throughout the day. What this math shows that if I were to allocate a 10 hour period between studying and not studying using the Pomodoro Method, I would still be studying 67% of that time.

The Power of the Pomodoro Method

Although I have presented my anecdotal evidence, it tells a story of how I was able to study 7 days a week, but able to manage to “beat the odds” (I passed the first attempt) and fall in the 8% who passed because I allocated my time productively.

So if life makes it difficult to keep track of the days/week to study (and it will because there are many distractions and things that can happen), make it easier on yourself and use the Pomodoro Method.

Use your assistive technology. Don’t even stress or waste brain cells on this. Just download a Pomodoro Timer (many free ones for IOS, Android, Mac, Windows) and use it. You also shouldn’t have to pay for a Pomodoro Timer. These free apps are also neat because they track your study sessions and you can see how well you are keeping to a good study schedule. If you have fallen behind, then study longer and cut your 30 minute long breaks to 20 minute breaks, for example.

  • For Mac I use Just Focus.
  • For mobile, I heard good things about Forest.

Like anything new, this method and these apps are only as good if you use them! Put them front and center in your home screen, on your taskbar, and remember to start the clock when you study. And take those breaks too – don’t be tempted to skip them. You need those breaks just as much as you need to study.