Follow-Up Post: PHR/SPHR What Was Your Experience Like?

Back in July I posted that I had just received my ATT (authorization to test) from the HRCI and that I would be scheduling a date for my PHR exam during the winter months. Well the date I had scheduled was yesterday, December 27, 2013, and I’m proud to say that I passed my PHR exam (according to the preliminary results from Prometrics at least).  So now I guess I wait for my official test results to be emailed within 4 to 6 weeks and my certificate to be mailed within the same time frame.

So here was what my experience has been like over the past few months as I prepared to take the PHR exam:


In August I posted about the study guide I had purchased: PHR/SPHR- Professional in Human Resources Total Test Prep Package For Mac Users. This is the test prep package written by Sandra M. Reed & Anne M. Bogardus (check the link to the post for item details) **Note** the version that I had used was an outdated version for the 2012 PHR/SPHR exams, I’m sure that by now, there has been an update to the study guides (your best reference for items to study will be the certification test handbook provided to you free of charge by the HRCI). If you have an outdated version of the study material (i.e. 2012 as in my case) you’re more than likely to be okay, management practices haven’t changed drastically over the course of a year to year and a half so not much to worry about there.

Okay, as promised here are my thoughts on the book: I think it was a great resource, but it gave a somewhat unspecific look at certain items as relates to the HR Body of Knowledge (BoK) and I found myself referencing some of my old HR and management textbooks. If you’re like me and you keep your textbooks stashed away in a closet, then you’re in luck. If not my suggestion is to diversify your reading and reference materials for more concise insights on the topics covered in the test prep package. Also, as I had mentioned before, if you’re a Mac user and you don’t use an emulator like Parallels or have Windows installed via Bootcamp, save yourself some cash and just buy the study guide. However, I do recommend buying both the study guide and accompanying software; I found the test prep software to be extremely helpful in reviewing for the exam.

As I mentioned before, don’t count solely on one particular source for all of the information that you’ll need, I was fortunate in that I keep my textbooks as reference materials. I used two in particular: Human Resource Management: An Experiential Approach by H.J. Bernadin (this is a pretty concise book on all things HR related – seriously…it’s like the HR bible).  I also used a textbook titled Modern Management by Certo & Certo, this was especially helpful when reviewing material for the Business Management & Strategy (functional area) questions.

A lot of my studying was done with my laptop by my side, so I was able to reference the Department of Labor (DOL) website for materials covering the various laws that affect the HR profession. Google friggin’ knows everything…so when in doubt, do a Google search to point you in the right direction, I always did and was to find some good reference that came in handy on exam day.

Some people recommend large amounts of time to prepare with a regimented study schedule for the exam. On the flip side, I read of a person who crammed for two weeks prior to the test and passed. I can’t really say which is best, you should know what kind of a learner you are, so set yourself up for success by allotting the time YOU need to prepare.

Lastly, the exams are experiential by nature, so being prepared by having a solid foundation of hands-on experience in the field is going to be the best preparation you can have.

Exam Day

**Again, personal responsibility plays a factor here.**

All of the tips and tricks I read online relating to exam day, most recommended getting a good amount of sleep the night before and eating a good breakfast the morning of, personally, I was cramming the night before into the wee hours of the morning, and when I woke up I was so anxious I could hardly think about eating because my stomach was in a knot. So…you have to figure out what works best for you as test taker…as for me, I’m a horrible test taker, hence the last minute cram sessions this week.

Here’s what I can tell you about the test: READ AND FULLY UNDERSTAND THE QUESTIONS. I caught myself correcting a chosen answer after I re-read a question and found that I hadn’t fully read it the first time. There’s plenty of time allotted to you per question, make sure that you use that time to the fullest – do not rush.

All 175 questions are multiple choice; so the best strategy is to use during the exam is the process of elimination. Personally, I liked the strike through feature in the actual test which allowed me to visualize the answers that I was eliminating as possibilities. Don’t be afraid to guess, if you’ve narrowed down your choices to two answers, then you have a 50/50 chance of being correct.

Another helpful feature you’ll find in the exam is the ability to mark answered and unanswered questions for review at the end of the exam. Remember some questions or redundant throughout the exam, so you may confirm answers to prior questions later on, the feature allows you to go back and correct items you were unsure of. Mark EVERYTHING that you are unsure of or stumped by for review. I had about 20 minutes left to review 47 questions that I had marked. I ended up making three corrections for items that I had identified as incorrect and one to a question that I had mis-read. Again: READ AND FULLY UNDERSTAND THE QUESTIONS. Use the most of your time allotted which includes questions you have marked, and if you have time, review those you feel confident about (just in case).

One piece of advice I found particularly helpful was not to second-guess myself. I caught myself doing that several time and decided to go with my original choice (I passed, so I guess that strategy paid off).

Breaks: the timer on the clock doesn’t stop, so use the restroom before or after your test, and keep any water, drinks, or snacks you’ll need in the locker provided by the testing facility so that you can limit the time you’ll need for your break (I took a one minute break, during the test for a drink of water).

After The Exam

Since this is my first time taking the exam, I don’t really have any practical advice in this particular area (since I am currently still in that phase). Perhaps there are any certification veterans out there that might be able to provide some more insights?

Well, that was my experience in a nutshell, remember everyone’s experience will be different. What worked for me may not work for you, and that’s okay. Your certification experience is yours to create. Good luck to your in your certification endeavors!

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