I often hear from people asking “What’s the best PHR study guide?” or “What PHR study guide is the best for preparing for the exams?” Today I’m going to help answer that question for those of you who might be interested in taking the exam (or maybe you know someone who is preparing who could use this info!).

If you’re not planning to take the exam any time soon, feel free to skip this post. Thanks! :-)

I’ve been using and recommending study tools for over five years now. The industry has made some improvements over the past few years, but there are also opportunities for improving the existing tools out there to better serve the needs of the consumer.

The exams

When we talk about interviewing people, we discuss the importance of making the interview questions and experience as similar to the job as possible; that similarity helps us to determine if the person will be a good fit for the position. The exams are no different.

I tell people they need to simulate the exam experience as much as possible at various times throughout their studies in order to improve their chances of success when actually sitting for the exam. In order to do that, let’s look at how the exams actually work:

Test environment, number of questions, topics, how questions formulated, etc.

The official PHR study guide

It surprises me, because so many people don’t realize it; however, there is no official tool recommended by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) for test takers to use. Think about it. If I created the “Best HR Pro” test to certify people and then started selling study materials of my own design, that would be suspicious and diminish the objectivity of the certification.

In order to be objective and not open themselves up the possibility of “teaching to the test,” HRCI can not and should not recommend any specific test prep tool. That makes sense, correct? They wouldn’t want to raise any red flags by suggesting one provider over another.

The SHRM Learning System has the largest section of the test prep market, but I think that’s more due to the fact that they have a captive audience than that them having the best offering. There are other providers out there, SHRM Learning System alternatives, and their tools cover the same body of knowledge as the SHRM products. With the eyes-bulging-out-of-my-head price that SHRM charges for test prep, that’s why I have pointed my readers to other test prep tools on the market.

Why HRCP is the best PHR study guide

They don’t have anything to go on but their good name and customer success. Nobody is promoting them to the potential student as a pseudo-official option for passing the test. Check out the video review below where I open a box of the HRCP tools and share some thoughts about them. (subscribers click through to view)

With HRCP, it’s about price, features, and responsiveness. If you’re interested in using the HRCP materials, you can get a discount. More info on that here.

So if you’re a SHRM member and/or volunteer leader, you probably saw the news yesterday that SHRM is no longer supporting the PHR and SPHR exams after 2014. Read on for how this impacts you, and for those considering a SHRM Learning System alternative, I have a recommendation for that as well at the end. Here’s the note that many of us received earlier this week:

Dear Volunteer Leaders,

As an important and valued member of the SHRM community, I am pleased to share some exciting news with you.  The Board of Directors of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has approved a plan to create a competency-based certification program for human resource professionals.

The new HR certification is based on the SHRM HR Competency Model, which consists of nine primary competency domains defined with behavioral proficiency standards across four professional levels — entry, middle, senior and executive.  The new certification will be the first of its kind focused on teaching and the testing of this practical, real-life information that HR professionals need to excel in their careers.

“The differentiator for HR professionals will not be what you know, but what you can do with what you know,” said SHRM Board Chair Bette Francis.  “SHRM has a responsibility to lead the profession towards a certification process that proves competencies.  That will benefit the individual, the profession and employers by aligning HR with the changing demands of business.”

Over the last three years, SHRM had conducted and validated research on behavioral competencies and has developed its own competency model to serve as a foundational resource for all HR professionals.  SHRM is currently working on a certification program that will create a testing regime and governance model to provide integrity to the exam process.

SHRM plans to offer the first exam for the new competency-based certification in mid-2015.  However, to ensure that no applicants are disadvantaged by this transition, SHRM will continue to support the PHR and SPHR certifications programs through the December 2014 – January 2015 test window.  Other exams will be supported through their last test window in 2014.

“We have been working towards this for several years and are taking steps to ensure a smooth transition for SHRM members and HR professionals,” said SHRM CEO and President Henry G. (Hank) Jackson.  “We are creating a clear pathway for HR professionals who are already certified under knowledge-based credentials so they can move to the new SHRM competency-based certification.  This certification will be relevant to all career levels, across all industries, and organizations around the world.”

I know you are as excited as I am about SHRM’s focus on competency-based certification and SHRM will be sharing updates with you about the new program in the coming weeks and at the Annual Conference.

Warmest regards,

Elissa C. O’Brien, SPHR
Vice President, Membership
SHRM

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With a background of working for numerous small companies, I am a strong supporter of those people and organizations that take a step of risk and try to fill a need in the marketplace, no matter who the competition may be. That’s how I found HRCP a few years ago, and I’ve been a big fan of theirs ever since.

For the HR pro searching for a cost effective way to pass the exam for less than half the price of the SHRM product, this is what you’ve been looking for. (Be sure to use the discount code to get a $20 discount on the HRCP study tools! Plus, read on for information on the money back guarantee!

UPSTART17P is for the Complete HRCP Program: Print Edition
UPSTART17E is for the Complete HRCP Program: Print AND Online Edition!)

I sometimes talk about the PHR and SPHR exams, because I think it’s a powerful way for people to show commitment to the HR profession. With a pass rate hovering around 50%, it’s not an exam to take lightly. With the numbers of people who are unemployed or are on the verge of it, it just doesn’t make sense for many of them to take the risk involved with attempting the exam. The great folks over at HRCP are doing something revolutionary in the HR certification space to help minimize that risk and instill confidence in PHR/SPHR test takers everywhere.

Not only does HRCP offer a great study product, they have recently started offering a money back guarantee with their learning system. If you purchase their study tools, take the practice exams they offer, and still don’t pass the exam, they will give you your money back. Wow!

This is a good time to note that the HRCP tools would be a great fit for the self study course that has helped dozens of HR pros pass the exam.

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I haven’t mentioned HR Certification in a while, because I’ve obviously provided dozens of resources for those looking for their PHR, SPHR, or GPHR. However… I’ve decided to offer a cool bonus for those who purchase the HRCP Study Materials and use one of the promo codes to get the $20 discount (more info on that on the HR certification page).

  • UPSTART17P is for the Complete HRCP Program: Print Edition
  • UPSTART17E is for the Complete HRCP Program: Print AND Online Edition

Here’s the deal

If you purchase the HRCP materials between now and the end of the year and use my promo code, I will give you a free copy of the Rock the PHR guide! All you have to do is forward me the purchase confirmation email and I’ll send you an email with a link to download the guide. That’s a $20 discount on the HRCP product and a free $20 eBook, which is a pretty good deal in my opinion. :-) Instead of paying $650-$815 for SHRM’s materials, you can get a study guide that covers the same material from for $325 (with the HRCP discount).

I’ve been looking for ways to help people out and this is a great way to pair up one of the top study resources out there with a short guide detailing the “how to” of exam prep and study strategy/tips. If you’ve been thinking about getting certified, this is your kick start!

free hr practice examRemember that contest a few weeks back for someone to win a free HRCP practice exam? Well, the entries were sorted and a winner was randomly chosen from the group. Congratulations to Kellee! I’ll be getting her in touch with HRCP to get her contest prize.

Stay tuned for more contests throughout the year sponsored by HRCP.

I have been talking about and sharing resources to help people with the HR certification exams for over a year now, and in that time I have officially promoted one specific tool to those looking for a fully-loaded study resource–HRCP. Recently I saw that they were updating their website and making some changes to their offerings to help people pass the PHR and SPHR exams. I reached out to them for some specifics that I will share below. Be sure to read to the end so you can find out how to win something special from HRCP!

Free/Neat Stuff

You can take advantage of several of the free tools they provide. With the high cost of certification in general, we all like a little free, right? :-) (FYI: if you want a discount on the HRCP materials, see this page for more info.)

  • Create a free account, take the free practice exam, Customers who have purchased the HRCP Program will have access to twice as many practice questions in the new Online Testing System!
  • Thinking about studying without the aid of a group? Check out the self study guide (PDF)
  • Not sure if you need a lot of time to study? Check out the study schedules they have put together for different test preparation styles.
  • They have a group on LinkedIn so you can share ideas and find others who are studying as well.
  • In case you’re wondering, their 2011 materials are already updated and shipping (that was fast!).
  • The newly upgraded testing system provides twice as many practice questions as part of the HRCP Program, totaling 800 questions (for the same price!).

Contest Info

Okay! So, HRCP is going to give away a free 100 question practice exam and I’m working with them to make this a recurring contest. For today, though, I have one of those exams to give away to someone. Interested?

Here’s how to enter: Simply leave a comment below telling how you plan to use your certification once you achieve it. Want a promotion? Think you can leverage it to get a new job? Maybe you’re just looking to gloat over your annoying coworkers? Let’s hear your reason for taking the PHR/SPHR exam.

Rules

  • Three sentence minimum, so be descriptive!
  • Contest ends 2/16 at midnight so get to work!
  • The winner will be randomly chosen from eligible entries using Random.org.