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How Long Should You Study for a Big Exam?

We’re all busy. Whether you’re in school or already in the workforce, you don’t have several extra hours each day to study. If you’re getting ready for an important exam, like a human resources exam for HR certification, you have to study the right amount to make sure you pass it. 


But you can’t study so much that you burn out or neglect vital aspects of your life. How many hours per day is just right?


It could be less than you expect. How does 15–30 minutes per day sound? Maybe you even have an hour, but you almost certainly shouldn’t study three or more hours per day! That’s usually inefficient—and won’t improve your test results.


Get the big ideas below that will help you pass your exam the first time. You don’t have unlimited hours for studying, so we only picked efficient study methods.

How to Avoid Procrastination

The first major hurdle for any student is avoiding procrastination. Have you ever crammed for a test because you put off studying? You didn’t want it to happen again, but it happened anyway! We’ve all been there. 


How can you avoid that? Be more realistic about the time and energy you have. Many people procrastinate because they think the word “studying” means “re-reading (staring at) a boring book for five hours.” Of course you’ll do anything to get out of that!


You’re probably tired after a hard day when you need to study. If you demand that you study for hours and hours, you’ll just end up criticizing yourself, hating studying, and avoiding it even more. That’s why you should instead: 


  • Be very honest about how much time and energy you have for studying (maybe only 30 minutes per day!)
  • Plan to do something really fun after a short study session
  • Use only the most time-efficient and effective study methods, like those below

7 Ways to Study Faster

To fit studying into your busy life, you might need to update your study tactics. Here are seven methods to help you prepare for your HR exam or another test.


  1. Write a Study Guide: While you read or listen, write down questions and answers, definitions, evidence, and other information to create a study guide. If you don’t understand one part, figure it out quickly to add it to the guide.
  2. Find New Times to Study: Make a new habit that will let you review study guides in a quick session. For example, review during a 10-minute walk to another building.
  3. Motivate Yourself: Plan a fun, post-study activity—some hobby or other celebration—to motivate yourself to study efficiently and finish within your time limit.
  4. Explain to Understand: See if you can explain materials out loud without looking at the book. If you can’t, review it, and then keep trying until you can. You could try to make a helpful metaphor to explain it, or associate new facts with already-known facts.
  5. Test Yourself: Use flashcards and practice exams to test your knowledge. Focus on reviewing any areas that you’re weak in.
  6. Use Proven Materials: Get and use well-reviewed flashcards, reference sheets, practice tests, and classes on your topic.
  7. Review for the Test: Right before a test, review your study guides, flashcards, and other materials that you gradually mastered and understood well enough to explain out loud.

Get Expert HR Certification Help from HRCP

HR professionals use our materials to pass their PHR or SPHR certification exams. People often study for several months before a human resources exam, using a bundle of exam-prep products.


We also supply study schedules to map out your studying over a 4-12 week period. Just study the topic for that day, and check it off! Use our materials correctly, and you’ll never have to cram. You’ll know you’re studying the right topics—and you’ll be confident you’ll pass.


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