HR Leads Business

Aug 1, 2017 | Sandra M. Reed, SPHR, Guest Blogger

5 Essential Tips for Earning Your PHR or SPHR From HRCI

Summer is the perfect time to apply, study for and take the Professional in Human Resources® (PHR®) or Senior Professional in Human Resources® (SPHR®) exam to earn your credentials from HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®). I’m going to be honest, the exams are tough. But often, success depends on knowing how to study and prepare.

  1. Lean on Your HR Experience

    In school, we learn to "hit the books" and focus on memorizing knowledge. But this strategy won’t work for the PHR or the SPHR, which are practice-based credentials.

    While knowledge is certainly necessary, the focus of the PHR and SPHR is on applying your HR knowledge to real-world scenarios. And let’s face it — rarely is there only one correct way to make an HR decision. On the job, we are constantly asked to weigh one option against another and choose the best fit for the situation.

    So it is with the PHR and SPHR exam questions. The exams mine for competencies. Only reading about something is very different from practical application. Just as you are a dedicated HR professional with creativity, innovation and drive, so must you be in approaching PHR and SPHR exam preparation.

  2. Use Multiple Study Sources

    There are plenty of materials with hundreds of pages full of knowledge-based facts, figures, labor laws and the like. Don’t get bogged down on one reference source. Even HRCI (the exam preparers) do not recommend one resource over another. In fact, HRCI recommends using different study materials and styles such as reference materials, classroom training, online study and practice exams.

    "The exams are based on generally accepted HR principles," HRCI says. "There is no one preparation method that can meet every examinee’s needs. The key to success is to (1) know where your knowledge and competency gaps exist, (2) prepare for the exam in a manner that aligns with your learning style, and (3) use a variety of preparation resources to ensure you thoroughly understand the HR principles."

    That doesn’t mean purchasing an arsenal of every exam preparation book on the market. Instead, seek out and find different perspectives and hear other voices. Analyze HR best practices so that when presented with a situation on the test, you have vast amounts of perspectives from which to choose the best answer.

  3. Don’t Underestimate Your Preparation Time

    Most people don’t give themselves enough time to prepare. Keep in mind that the PHR and SPHR covers the complete body of knowledge for HR (see A Guide to the Human Resource Body of Knowledge from HRCI). Thousands of questions are written for these exams, even though you will see only 175. And you will only have three hours to complete the exam! That means you will have to prepare to be tested on a broad range of HR knowledge, skills and competencies.

    Preparation takes time, structure and creativity. I cannot emphasize that enough! Giving yourself just a few weeks to cram will not serve your pass rate, nor will you retain enough information for this adventure to serve you long term.

    Certification is a journey, not a single event in your career. Your study plan must treat it as such.

  4. Work Your Study Plan

    For HR professionals, perhaps the best advice I can provide is to approach your exam preparation just like you would approach your assignments at work. Exam preparation is a project to be managed.

    Dedicate space each day to review materials and commit resources such as time and money to give you the best odds of success. Take ownership of your studying. Don’t assume a single source or study group will provide you with everything you need to know. Spend more time on areas where you don’t have work experience.

  5. Believe in Yourself

Earning your PHR or SPHR is, of course, proof of your HR competence. But it is also a commitment to lifelong learning. I believe, through certification, we are better as an HR profession, and you will be better as an HR practitioner.

Take the PHR and SPHR exams seriously. Take yourself seriously. Showcase to the world that you are a creative and resourceful HR leader — the qualities that got you into this profession in the first place. Good luck on your journey!

Sandra M. Reed, SPHR, is the owner of EpocHResources, a consulting firm specializing in the unique HR needs of small businesses. She is also the author of A Guide to the Human Resource Body of Knowledge™ (HRBoK™), from HRCI, and PHR/SPHR Exam for Dummies.

Disclaimer: HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®) does not endorse any particular preparation program or offering. We encourage prospective certification holders to use a variety of resources that reflect their learning styles and needs. Purchasing a certification product is NOT required and HRCI does not guarantee that an individual will pass based on the purchase of a certification preparation product.