No big surprise: Engineering students hit the books harder than others

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently highlighted the results of something called the National Survey of Student Engagement which found, among other things, that engineering students spent more time studying than students of any other major. According to the report, engineering students spend about 20 hours a week preparing for class. Students in the physical sciences were the next most studious, spending about 18 hours a week studying. Bringing up the rear were education majors and social science majors spending a little less than 15 hours a week.

The results, of course, come as no surprise to those of us who have been through engineering school.

Ironically, engineering students were also the ones who were most likely to go to class unprepared, despite all the studying. This, too, should come as no surprise to engineers. The great part of the Chronicle coverage is the comments you see afterward, and this item is no exception. One poster commented on the apparent dichotomy between studying and being prepared:

"The reason engineering students spend the most time studying and are most unprepared, is because the demand required to get "good grades" is actually closer to about 30 hours per week. For example: My Steel & Concrete professor for Civil Engineering 'expects' 3 hours of homework per credit, which equates to 12 hours of homework per week (4 credit class). In reality, it takes closer to 20 hours per week just for that class. Well if I'm taking 4 engineering classes per semester, spending more time on homework than the teacher actually expects, then I also have 3 labs and a writing intensive component which requires additional lab time (several hours per week), 2+ lab reports per week, then midterms show up right in the middle while everything else is still due, then we're also required to attend seminars on a bi-weekly basis, then something has got to give. I also work 10-20 hours per week, commute 45 min each way, and try to make time for friends once per week......"

You can read the Chronicle item here: http://chronicle.com/article/Who-Hits-the-Books-More-Study/129806/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

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Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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