Tag Archives: PHR

How to Pass the SPHR Exam the First Time

how to pass the sphr examAKA how to pass the SPHR exam and keep your sanity

If the title doesn’t give it away, I don’t know what will. Recently I took, and passed, the SPHR exam. Today I’m going to talk about the actual testing process and offer some guidance for those taking the exam in the next few weeks. Soon, I plan to write about the actual study process and offer some resources to support those of you who might be interested in pursuing the SPHR at some point. Update: Here’s the link: how to study for the SPHR exam

How hard is the SPHR exam?

Pretty darn hard. :-) More on that below.

How hard is it to pass the SPHR?

Several people I coached for this winter test window had taken it one or more times unsuccessfully in the past. It has a 56% pass rate (based on mid-2014 figures). If you want to visualize that, imagine that you and nine other people walk into the room to test at the same time. At the end of the test period, four or five of the people in that group will walk out with a “fail” printout. That said, most of you already realize how hard the SPHR exam is.

The critical thing for me, Captain Short Attention Span, is focusing on the questions and what they are actually asking. I’m a fast reader, so I am really bad about reading the question, finding an answer, and moving on without reading the others. I had to make myself slow down and read each answer, strike out one or two, and then make a decision. I also marked about 30 questions for review to go back and double check at the end. I ended up changing about 25% of those answers after having a fresh look.

That’s one thing that I definitely recommend. Marking for review just means you plug in a guess and come back later to re-read the question. I’m amazed how many times I have a brain “log jam” when I’m reading it the first time, but puzzling through another question afterward actually shakes loose the concept or idea I’m need to answer the previous question.

Another useful feature: strikeout. Striking out obviously wrong answers helps to narrow your focus and get your attention on the real possibilities. There are often two, but sometimes as many as three, good/possible answers. It’s all about picking the best one.

How to answer SPHR questions

sphr exam test prepI have to inject some humor here. My friend and I met last weekend to do some last minute studying, and we kept seeing a pattern in the practice questions. Virtually every time you were presented with an action or an opportunity to survey, analyze, or plan, the answer was always to NOT act. So I put this little graphic on The Four A’s of SPHR Exam Prep together to remind you of that. :-)

Seriously, though, there is a strategy to answering questions on the exam. This is critical if you are trying to figure out how to pass the SPHR exam. Here are five keys I used:

  1. This is strategic in nature, meaning that it’s about how HR ties in, and drives, business activities and measures. Write that on your scratch paper when you sit down and every time you read a question glance at that little phrase.
  2. Know how HR activities tie into the business objectives, and look for opportunities to highlight that in an answer everywhere possible
  3. “Strategy,” “company objectives,” and “business needs” are usually the answers when they are options.
  4. Despite my joking about the graphic, it is important to measure, assess, analyze, etc. before actually taking action.
  5. Imagine that you’re not in HR, but that you’re the CEO, especially when the question is focusing on marketing, operations, or another aspect of the business. Answering from that mindset will help to ensure that you’re giving the broad, strategic perspective the test warrants.

How to pass the SPHR exam the first time

passing the sphr examAs I said, I wrote a full-blown article follow up just about how to study, because there are so many tools, methods, tips, and other ideas that I just can’t capture here. However, just to give you an idea:

  • I used a 2014 HRCP study guide, read every book cover to cover, read every flashcard, and took the comprehensive practice questions
  • I used a 2007 SHRM Learning System just for the practice questions, never cracked a book
  • I used my 2007 Anne Bogardus book to do practice questions and did a simple chapter summary review in the last week
  • I used various other online resources (all free) to practice my questions and do research on concepts I didn’t know (I’ll discuss my process for this in the second post in this series)
  • I studied over 115 hours from September to January
  • I took over 2,000 practice questions to get ready–this is always my number one tip for how to pass the SPHR exam, especially in the final days of studying

One concept that I have relied on for quite some time is specificity. I use it to train for races that I run, and it applies pretty much everywhere else in life as well in terms of preparation. The goal is to make training as much like the actual event as possible.

In running, that means I should run the pace, distance, course, etc. just like I would on race day.

In testing, I need to take practice exams that force my mind and body into the same mode I’ll need when taking the actual test: quiet environment, long periods of focus, no Googling answers, no cell phone, etc.

sphr study course detailsRemember, this is just the first half of the series on how to pass the SPHR exam. Here is part two on how to study for the SPHR. It’s going to be pretty awesome. Also, I’m almost finished developing a specific SPHR study module based on everything I have learned (and taught) over these past few months.

Anyone else taking the SPHR this window? What are your thoughts? Any questions? 

PHR Online “Study Group”

The tool I’m discussing today isn’t so much a PHR online “study group,” but you’ll see in a minute why I’ve started referring to this group that way.

Back when I released the SPHR &PHR Self Study Course in November, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that it would be a valuable tool and that it would really help people who were looking for something to help them stay motivated and engaged with their studies. There really wasn’t anything on the market that compared to the course other than in-person study groups, and those aren’t always easy to come by.

PHR Online Study groupI’ve had over 25 students go through the course so far. I expected a more junior group of HR pros, but it’s been an amazing cross section that represents the diversity we have in the HR field. A few examples of people who have taken the course:

  • HR Administrator for a realty office in North Carolina
  • HR Manager in hospitality industry from Indiana
  • A secretary trying to break into HR at a Florida university
  • An Organizational Development expert for a hospital in the Southwestern US
  • A talent acquisition pro from Texas

And that’s just the first few names on the list. I’ve been amazed to interact with this great group of people and help them prepare for their exams, and I would love to do the same if you’re interested in taking one of the HR certification exams.

Upcoming test window

Here are the upcoming test registration windows and testing dates for the PHR/SPHR exams from the HRCI website.

  • Test Dates: May 1-June 30
  • Registration Dates: Jan. 22 – Mar. 22

While the registration dates are from January 22 to March 22, the study course runs for 12 weeks, so you’d need to sign up by the end of January to ensure adequate time to complete the course before your actual exam date. If you sign up late, you can still get the lessons (see below).

Common question

I’ve set up the course to be delivered over a 12 week period to allow participants to soak up the information and adequately prepare. However, I had a few people sign up and say they wanted to get the lessons sooner (maybe they signed up late, they changed their test date, etc.). I do have the ability to send all of the lessons at once; however, I wouldn’t encourage everyone to do that unless there’s a specific reason for deviating from the schedule.

What people are saying

I’m always pleasantly surprised when someone lets me know their thoughts. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that most people don’t share their own thoughts and ideas, so the comments have been welcome:

  • Thank you! You definitely hit the nail on the head with this, as I’ve been really dragging my feet studying for this. Thanks again for creating this! Debbie
  • I attempted the PHR in June and came up short by 20 points. Heartbreaker. I was reluctantly planning my study strategy when I received the info on your study guide. It has been most helpful. Kelly
  • I want to thank you so much for going out of your way in helping me prepare for my PHR. It is so very much appreciated. Sherrie

A special bonus

Anyone who signs up for the upcoming test window will receive a special video I’m working on where I answer the top 7 questions that I receive most often about the HR certification exams. This ranges from “how can I study without breaking the bank” to “how long should I study” and even “what should I do on exam day?” It’s a collection of the most common things people ask, and I’ll be sending that video out as a special bonus to those who join the course.

Questions? Let me know and I’m happy to help!

PHR Study Group-Your Secret Weapon

Using a PHR study group (or PHR online study group)

online phr study groupThe other day I talked about how “hard” the PHR exam is. I discussed motivation as a key component for test preparation, and I think it’s often overlooked when developing a testing strategy. If you think back to Psychology 101, there are two basic forms of motivation-internal and external. Internal motivation is all about setting goals, prioritizing them, and getting satisfaction from your accomplishments. It also requires quite a bit of mental energy, which is often in short supply with the abundance of responsibilities on your plate (work, spouse, kids, church, friends, volunteer activities, etc.). External motivators, however, can be extremely effective when you’re looking for ways to boost your internal motivation. Enter the PHR study group.

How a PHR study group works

The PHR study group can be online or in person, but the key here is having a support system of people to encourage you and help you stay on track with your studies. Continue reading

Is the PHR Exam Difficult?

Is the PHR exam difficult? Just how hard is the PHR exam?

how hard is the phr examBecause of my history of talking about the HR certification exams, I get a lot of questions about the difficulty level of the PHR and SPHR exams. At first glance, it’s easy to see why people ask those questions. According to the HRCI statistics, nearly half of those who take the exams fail them, which can cause anxiety for those who aren’t good test takers.

What makes the PHR exam difficult?

Maybe it’s the “timed test” factor. Maybe it’s test anxiety. Maybe it’s the difficulty level of the questions. Maybe it’s the nearly-famous ambiguity of the questions. Or maybe it’s something else.

I honestly don’t know which part of the exam presents the biggest hurdle, but based on the failure rate statistics I mentioned above, it’s obvious that there is a barrier to HR professionals successfully completing the test. Continue reading

How Much Money Can You Make with an HR Certification?

The value of a PHR or SPHR certification is often discussed heatedly. Some believe it’s worth the time and money invested, but others think it’s just a waste. PayScale.com has sifted through their salary data and come up with some solid answers for everyone.

By the way, if you want to see your own potential salary we have created an HR certification salary calculator.

Interested in taking the exam? Check out what HR certification materials I would recommend. If you’re already certified, have you seen the HR Recertification guide for how to get free recert credits?

Worth It? The Value of the PHR and SPHR

PHR-SPHR Exam Topics (Free Webinar)

Ever wonder what sort of topics are on the PHR or SPHR exams? Look no further! 

It’s that time again, and I’m getting geared up to work with Dovetail Software on our second webinar to help those who are thinking about taking the HR certification exams.

What we’ll cover

The first webinar focused on the overall body of knowledge and a few solid tips from those who have taken, and passed, the exams. This time we’ll break down each area of the exam, look at how to target each one, and go over some practice questions to help you get a feel for what the exam will cover. It’s a great opportunity to start preparing yourself for the exam!

Register now

Click here to register for the webinar on Thursday, July 19th 12:30-1:00pm Central

If you can’t make the event, please register anyway, because you can get the recording for free after the webinar is archived on the Dovetail site.

Cool prizes

We’re giving away over $300 in study preparation tools from our friends at HRCP to a lucky winner, so please join us and you could win!

Free PHR-SPHR Webinar

Because I talk fairly often about the PHR and SPHR exams, my friends over at Dovetail Software decided to ask if I would work with them on a series of webinars to help people get their feet wet when it comes to the HR certification arena. Naturally I jumped at the chance!

What to expect

There will be three 30-minute webinars, spaced out from this week until August. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Thursday, June 21st, 12:30-1:00pm Central-Session 1: Preparing for the SPHR/PHR Exam 101 – For this session we’ll establish a foundation and help you determine if, and how, you can take on the exam.
  • Thursday, July 19th, 12:30-1:00pm Central-Session 2: PHR/SPHR Study Guide Cliff Notes – In this webinar we’ll look at some of the content areas and I’ll give you some tips on what areas to focus on with a little more fervor.
  • Thursday, August 23rd, 12:30-1:00pm Central-Session 3: 25 Recertification Ideas – This session is going to help those who are already certified, because it will provide 25+ ideas for getting your PHR/SPHR recertification.

For now, let’s focus on getting started, shall we? The first piece is going to help get you up to speed on the latest changes from the HR Certification Institute. This 30-minute session will cover the difference between each certification, FAQs, and tips and techniques for preparing for and passing the certification exam. It\’s everything you could spend hours reading but don\’t want to… and it\’s FREE.

I am excited to be working with the fine folks at Dovetail Software, and I hope you guys can join the webinar this week and get some tips and tricks for passing the exams!