When it comes to studying for any of the HR certification exams from the SHRM-SCP, SHRM-CP, aPHR, PHR, SPHR, and GPHR, having a study schedule and plan helps to ensure you are properly prepared and making the most of your time as you prepare for the HR certification exams. I’m a productivity nerd, and am always personally driving to squeeze more into the day. I’m type A and have a horrible time saying no. I always think I can organize my time to squeeze in another obligation. Well, I’m here to tell you that working and studying this way only hurts you, your stress level, your family, and your personal well-being. That’s not what this HR certification study schedule is. Our time is precious, and with proper time and preparation, we can create a study schedule that you can manage. I promise you that.
1. PLAN A SCHEDULE OF BALANCED ACTIVITIES.
- There is more to life than passing the HR exam. You need to make time for family, work, obligations, and more importantly self-care in order to be your best self for your HR exam test day.
2. PLAN ENOUGH TIME FOR STUDYING EACH HR TOPIC, CHAPTER AND CATEGORY.
- Most college classes are planned to require about three hours work per week per credit in the course. By multiplying your credit load by three you can get a good idea of the time you should provide for studying in addition to time spent in class.
3. STUDY AT A SET TIME AND IN A CONSISTENT PLACE.
- Establishing habits of study is extremely important. Knowing what and when you are going to study saves a lot of time in making decisions and retracing your steps to get necessary materials, etc. With the Ace the HR Exam course, I provide a study schedule for 12 and 20 weeks to make sure you are consistent and pacing yourself appropriately.
- You need a dedicated space where you feel focused and relax to review and study for your SHRM and HRCI exams. Having an environment that is comfortable, clean, and pretty is really important for me to focus and do my best work. When I’m finished focusing, I close the door and dedicate my time to things like my family, friends, or that never-ending to do list.
4. STUDY IN CHUNKS.
- Study in 20-30 minute in increments using a concept called chunking. Break large amounts of information into smaller subsections. Identify similarities or patterns and organize the information into smaller concepts. It’s essentially categorization or creating an umbrella topic. For example, on a grocery list, you might list each thing under the grocery section. For HR, you might decided to chunk all Supreme Court decisions into a single twenty-minute review session.
5. UTILIZE ODD HOURS DURING THE DAY FOR STUDYING.
- Pick opportunities when your brain is free to review material for the HR certification exam. I love studying and reviewing audio lessons of our Ace the HR Exam course. Use flashcards to review quick terms while you wait in line at Starbucks, and review materials 10-20 minutes before you sleep to allow for maximum memory and retention.
6. LIMIT YOUR STUDY TIME TO NO MORE THAN 2 HOURS.
- Cramming is never a good idea. You should never cram for the HR Exam. In order to retain and recall concepts best, study no more than 2 hours a day which is a challenge when your time is limited, however, if you commit to 30 minutes 5 times a week, over a 20 week period, you will be more prepared for the HR exam and you won’t be cramming like a maniac.
7. TRADE TIME.
- When unexpected events arise that take up time you had planned to study, decide immediately where you can find the time to make up the missed study time and adjust your schedule for that week. Also, make good use of weekends and evenings. For example, I trade time for studying by spending less time in front of the television or on social media. Maybe you work with your spouse or partner to help out with tasks like meal preparation or grocery shopping. I leverage things like grocery delivery services and use a housekeeper to allow me to squeeze in a few more hours of studying and reviewing HR certification materials during my week.
8. PROVIDE FOR SPACED REVIEW.
- Schedule one day per week to review the work in each of your courses and be sure you are up-to-date. I recommend using this time to review content, answer quiz questions, and review important terms that might have been tripping you up. Doing a consistent review will help lessen your stress levels and keep you from feeling as though you need to cram for the exam. The goal here is to space and plan for review time so you can before your best come HR exam time.
9. REVIEW, REVIEW, RECITE, RECITE AND TEACH OTHERS.
- Reviewing the materials are extremely important but even more important to allow for the maximum knowledge retention at the fastest pace is to teach and talk about HR concepts and complex workplace scenarios with others. This is one of the reasons I’ve developed the HR Inbox as part of the Ace the HR Exam course. It’s important not just to be able to recall the content but to apply it allowing you to answer the situational judgement questions for the SHRM and HRCI exams.
10. KEEP CAREFULLY ORGANIZED NOTES ON BOTH LECTURES AND ASSIGNMENTS.
- Good notes are the best basis for review. I’m a fan of writing notes on book pages and jotting down thoughts either on a Google doc or a Moleskin notebook. This again, helps with your knowledge retention and those situational judgement questions.
11. LEAVE SOME UNSCHEDULED TIME FOR FLEXIBILITY.
- This is the most important. You need to be flexible and no matter how well you plan and organize for the HR certification exams, you need to allow for some unscheduled time where you can go with the flow. Preparing for the HR exam is a marathon and not a sprint. Make time for the unexpected.
Taking your HR certification exam is not just about getting those coveted letters to place next to your name. It’s about the foundational HR knowledge and your personal growth as you move towards this very important career goal. It’s important to spend time in gratitude acknowledging the moment and nuances of the personal and professional journey you are on. This is where the real learning and growth happens instead of that pivotal moment where we achieve our goals or cross the finish line.
Looking for more resources and a community to connect with as your prepare for your HR certification exams? Join our Facebook HR Certification Study Group.