Planning to Take the PHR or SPHR? Three Exam Preparation Tips

Posted January 11, 2012 by
Mary White of Mobile Technical Institute & MTI Business Solutions

Mary White of Mobile Technical Institute & MTI Business Solutions

Getting prepared to take the PHR or SPHR certification exam can certainly seem like an overwhelming task to tackle. However, if you have the combination of education and experience requirements necessary to sit for the exam of your choice and you are willing to devote a significant amount of time to studying and honing your test preparation skills, earning a PHR or SPHR credential is certainly not impossible. Here are a few tips – from someone who has been teaching certification preparation classes for several years – that you may find to be helpful as you begin the process of getting prepared to earn professional certification through HRCI.

Three PHR/SPHR Exam Preparation Tips

1. Use the SHRM Learning System

While the SHRM Learning system is not inexpensive, it is truly the best resource for mastering the material that is covered on the PHR and SPHR preparation exam. There are other books and study materials out there, but they weren’t written by the same organization that creates the test you are taking. It only makes sense to go directly to the source for your exam preparation materials. Everything you need to know to master the knowledge requirements for the test is in the system.

The only reason you should even consider seeking study material beyond the SHRM Learning System would be if you had truly mastered everything in the system, including the thought processes behind arriving at the right answers for every one of the sample questions provide in the books and the online materials, as well as any other supplemental materials available through HRCI.

2. Perfect Your Test Taking Skills

While mastering the information included in the HRCI body of knowledge is an important part of getting prepared to sit for this exam, it is only on piece of what you need to do to get ready. Honing your test taking skills – specific to this exam – is an important piece of the exam preparation process. Use the test questions including in the learning system books as well as the online studying as an integral part of your studying process.

Don’t just rely on them to test your knowledge, but focus on the process of thinking through what is being asked, eliminating wrong answers to narrow down the options and applying your professional decision making and critical thinking skills to arrive at the correct response. If you miss a question, don’t just chalk it up to making a bad decision and move on. Go back through the materials to find out why another answer was better so that you end up with a deeper understanding of the question and the answer.

3. Go Beyond Memorizing

The misguided belief that memorizing information and study questions is sufficient for exam preparation is probably the biggest misconception that exists about PHR and SPHR exam preparation. You simply cannot memorize your way into earning a PHR or SPHR certification. You won’t see the same test questions you used to study on the exam itself. The purpose of the sample questions is to teach you how to think through exam questions, not to provide you with items to memorize. You will have to do a lot of memorizing to prepare for the exam, but that is not enough.

You can’t become a certified HR professional based simply on your knowledge of industry terminology and definitions or being able to state the outcome of landmark legal cases. In order to earn a PHR or SPHR certification, you must be able to take the information and knowledge that a true human resource professional needs to have and apply it effectively to real-world situations using high level critical thinking skills in order to earn your certification.

By Mary Gormandy White, MA, SPHR

Mary Gormandy White, M.A., SPHR is the Director of Training and Consulting Services for Mobile Technical Institute & MTI Business Solutions, where she specializes in human resources, management, and public relations training and consulting. She teaches business training seminars in Mobile, AL and provides on-site corporate training and conference presentations throughout the U.S., as well as human resource management and public relations consulting services. She is also the author of 101 Human Resource Management Tips and 101 Successful PR Campaign Tips in the LifeTips book series and is the editor of

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