Miscellaneous Blog

How to Study for Long Hours for Exams

Author picture

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

Need help with your USMLE preparation , click here.

How to Study for Long Hours for Exams

Studying for long hours is difficult. This blog shares tips for how to avoid feeling bored when studying for exams. Learn the best ways to study effectively and hard for long periods of time!

We all want to study in the most effective and efficient ways possible. You’ve probably heard the saying, “study smarter, not harder.” While it is important to note that how well you study is more important than the quantity of time you study, studying smarter and longer is an ideal situation. However, it can be hard to study for long periods of time without getting bored or burning out

This blog will cover a variety of tips to study for a full 12-hour day. If you’re thinking, 12 hours? How could I possibly study that long?, you’re probably not alone. Throughout the rest of this post, we will talk about all aspects of your day from sleep to studying to breaks, and how you can work up to a 12-hour study day. Let’s dive in!

Start Studying: Wake-up to Chair Time

For many people, the day begins when we pick up our phones to turn off our alarms. Since the phone is already in our hands, we usually open it up and start browsing emails, texts, or social media.

To start studying for long periods of time, you need to minimize the amount of time it takes for you to wake up, get out of bed, and get into your chair to start studying. Think about it this way: if you want to study for 12 hours and you sleep for 7-8 hours, you have 4-5 hours of free time in the day. Would you rather spend that scrolling through Instagram or TikTok for 2 hours in the morning, or would you rather spend that getting dinner with friends that evening?

Get into a Quick Morning Routine

For me, wake up to chair time is around 20 minutes. I got there over time, slowly decreasing how much time I needed in the morning. This includes getting out of bed, doing my morning routine in the bathroom, and making coffee.
Think about your morning routine now and how you spend your time. Are you stuck in bed on your phone? Do you need to care for a pet? Start to prioritize the most important parts of your morning and slowly cut back on parts that aren’t necessary.

CV Editing

Our editing goes beyond language and grammar corrections to structural editing and content advising based on your personal story and achievement.

Your Study Space: Getting into the Chair

If you can, try to have a space that’s dedicated to studying. Studying in the same place consistently can help cue your brain to get to work. Once you’re in the chair, take a minute to get into the right headspace to study. Think about what it is that you want to accomplish that day. You might find it helpful to write your goals for the day on a piece of paper. Or, if you’re someone who needs accountability, tell a friend your goals for the day so they can ask you if you’ve completed them later in the day.

Prioritize your tasks. While writing your goals, think about how you want to split up tasks. If you’re at your best in the morning, you might want to do your hardest tasks early and move into easier tasks in the afternoon. If you’re not a morning person, you could keep it light while your brain warms up and then do more difficult studying later.

How to Study: Types of Studying

I like to consider three main styles of studying.

The first is free style studying. If you want to study in this way, you basically just study what you want until you’re bored and then you take a break. It’s not the most structured way to study, and it requires some discipline with using your breaks strategically.

The second is task-driven studying. If you know your goals for the day, you can break them into smaller, more manageable pieces and then schedule a break after each section is complete. You might say that you will study 20 pages and then take a break before doing another 20 pages and repeating the process. You also might say that you’ll do 10 questions and then take a break.

The final is the Pomodoro Technique. The traditional Pomodoro method says to study for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. You might adapt this to your needs and study habits and perhaps you can do a 50-minute study session with a 10-minute break. Use whatever variation of time works for you.

If you want to hear more about productive studying techniques and strategies, check out my video on that subject.

Medical Statistics for Beginners

Learn how to perform statistical analysis and interpret medical literature from expert researchers.

The Best Way to Study: Which Study Style Should I Use?

The short answer is that you need to use whatever style works best for you.

For me, taking breaks too often will disrupt my workflow. I try to work for longer streaks before taking a short break. I like to use a mostly task-driven study style. For example, I might guess that 10 questions would take me an hour to complete, and after those 10 questions I’ll feel like I’ve earned a short break.

Different studying techniques might be better for different study sessions. If doing questions takes a long time, you might want to do the Pomodoro technique to make sure you don’t get bored and lose your drive. The Pomodoro technique is time-driven, but you don’t know how productive you will be in that timeframe. On the other hand, the task-driven technique will encourage you to complete a certain number of tasks before you earn a break, but you might not know how long that will take.

Research Course

The research course will teach you how to take a research project from idea to publication and in which I will share my 3-year experience of clinical research in which I had over 100 publications and 80 presentations.

Take (Strategic!) Breaks

Taking breaks is very important as they can help keep you energized to move through the rest of your study day. Unfortunately, some breaks might distract you too much and pull you away from studying. It can be easy to say “I’ll watch ten minutes of a TV show” and then find yourself starting the next episode an hour later.

Try to keep your breaks short and energizing. Set a timer and call someone for 10 minutes, go for a quick walk outside, or take some time to stretch.

Minimize Distractions

Try to minimize your distractions at your desk. Put your phone on silent, or leave it in another room. If you are using electronic devices to study, you can download apps that restrict you from doing particular activities.

Create a good study environment. Find a study location that you won’t be distracted in. For example, if you think the movement and ambient noise of a coffee shop will distract you, try to study at home. On the other hand, some people find that listening to music or throwing on some white noise can help them study. You could try this out and see if it works for you—opt for classical music or anything without distracting lyrics. Try to keep the room temperature comfortable and have plenty of light!

Application Packages
Want to have everything for your MATCH application handled?

Food: Fuel for Studying

Food is a necessity, but the types of foods that you eat when having a long study day are important. When you’re studying for long periods, avoid heavy meals. You also want to avoid foods high in sugar and high in fat (“junk food”). 

Healthy foods for studying have protein and complex carbs. Think about things like fruit, nuts, granola, oatmeal, and yogurt. Try to avoid anything with a lot of processed sugar because you don’t want to experience spikes and dips in your blood sugar.

I usually like to have breakfast after about 2 hours of studying, then lunch a few hours later. If you have planned your day accordingly, you can use dinner time to socialize and connect with friends after you’ve finished studying.

Exercise Your Body, not Just Your Brain

It’s important to exercise your body while studying, especially since you’ll be sitting still for so long when you’re reviewing materials.  However, it may be really hard to study for 12 hours and then exercise.

Some people like to exercise before they study, but some people feel tired after exercise so they wait until the end of the day to exercise. You should do whatever works for you. If you do have a hard day of study ahead, don’t do heavy exercise that might drain you too much.

Find a type of exercise that you like that can energize you. Some people enjoy running. Perhaps you want to take a walk as part of your breaks. You might even follow along with a yoga video to stretch your body after sitting in a chair for long periods of time.

Keeping a Social Life

You can have a social life even if you’re studying for long days! It might just take some extra effort. If you see people as part of your breaks, it might be too hard to come back to studying. Blocking off an hour to get coffee with a friend can quickly turn into multiple hours if you’re having fun.

To keep your social life and maintain your study schedule, you can budget time in breaks to call friends or family (but stick to a ten-minute timer, for example). You can also use socializing as a reward for finishing your study goals. If you know that you have a dinner reservation at 7:30pm, it might help motivate you to get through a 7am-7pm study day.

🎒Want to know how those who rank in the 99th percentile study?

Master the art of studying with scientifically proven techniques and memory hacks that will significantly boost your performance on exams!

Don’t Forget to Sleep!

Good sleep habits will be crucial to helping you study for long days consistently. Sleep is crucial to retaining information. If you’re sleep deprived, you can’t retain information as much as people who are sleeping well.

Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule—go to bed and wake up at similar times every day. Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals too close to bedtime. Finally, try to set up your environment for optimal sleep. You can do this by making sure your room is cool and dark. Some people find that having some ambient noise helps them sleep.

Play Video


Studying for 12 hours a day is not easy, and you can’t just start studying for that long out of nowhere. You need to work up to 12 hours through small, consistent increments. If you currently study for 6 hours a day, try to add fifteen minutes, and then another fifteen, and so on until you feel comfortable studying for long periods of time. You won’t be studying for every minute of these 12 hours. You’ll have breaks, but watch out for them! Avoid long breaks that can break your studying flow.

Remember that any amount of studying is better than no studying at all. Try to push yourself, but don’t go so far that you burn out.

With these tips, you’ll be ready to increase your studying stamina and ace whatever exam you have coming up. Good luck!

Want to learn more about how to study for exams? Check out The Match Guy’s Study Course.
Are you preparing for a specific USMLE exam? We have USMLE tutors who can help!

Latest Articles
Need Help?

🎒Want to know how those who rank in the 99th percentile study?

Master the art of studying with scientifically proven techniques and memory hacks that will significantly boost your performance on exams!
Crush your STEP 3!
A comprehensive guide to mastering the CCS part of the USMLE STEP 3 exam!

Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Live Sessions

The purpose of this course is to give you the skills necessary to conduct systematic reviews and publish research articles.


This course will provide you with a detailed explanation of the key statistical concepts and principles tested on USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK, translating into enhanced understanding and higher scores on your exams.

Looking for Affordable Tutoring?

Checkout MedTutorMatch.com
Match into your dream residency!
Our team of experts will guide you to the best MATCH® outcomes
Application Packages
Want to have everything for your MATCH application handled?

Contact Us

How can we help you?

Leave your message here and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

Shopping Cart

Sample Residency Interview Questions & Answers

Subscribe and get the sample sent to your email immediately.