PHR Certification – 9 Strategies to Clear the PHR Exam or SPHR Exam

Taking the PHR SPHR Certification exam is no joke. It can impact your career or life at a certain degree. No matter what purpose you may have in taking the exam, one thing is certain: you want to clear the exam. Period!

I have listed the following tips that work well for me and hopefully it will work for you as well. These tips do not guarantee that you will pass the exam however, it can impact your preparation and outlook in test taking.

1)      Take a Pretest. It’s a good idea to pretest yourself say 4 months prior to your exam date and benchmark your knowledge in relation to the six body of knowledge (Strategic Management, Workforce Planning and Employment, Human Resource Development, Total Rewards, and Employee and Labor Relations) covered in the exam. There are tons of providers online that you can try or subscribe to like the HRCI, Certgear, HRCP, HR Review, and PhRExamPrep. Word of caution: you need to spend some amount for their practice tests.

2)      Analyze the Pretest Results. At the end of your pretest, you will get a comprehensive result of your exams. Sometimes the results can be very surprising and amazing. Don’t celebrate or feel bad about it.  It’s just an indicator to where you are at the moment in terms of a specific HR body of knowledge. Instead, analyze the results and identify your weaknesses and strengths. And then, create a review roadmap. Identify the body of knowledge you will devote most of your time and so on.

3)      Create a Review Strategy and Timeline. This step is very critical as it will affect your daily routine and social activities. It involves effective planning and time management.

a)      Know how much time is left for you to review from the time you have taken the pretest until the exam day. Then calculate how much time you will allot for each body of knowledge based on the results of your pretest.

b)      Know the time of the day when your memory works best. Also consider your review atmosphere and if possible apply what you have learned in your office ergonomics.

c)        Develop a study pattern. If your exam schedule falls on the morning then I suggest that you simulate your review based on the time of your exam. This is to condition your mind and body and be used to it. Little sacrifice (huh!) will mean a lot. If you think you are productive in the afternoon, then hit the button and change your exam time in the afternoon. If you are working (8-5 or other shifts) then this review strategy may not be for you. Go try some other methods and strategies like go to bed early and review early in the morning while you are in the most holy place of your home. I found it very productive.

d)      Organize your review materials. Others find it easy to review if their notes are arranged according to the body of knowledge. And still others find it easy to review if their notes are cluttered. I agree to the latter as the PHR or SPHR exam questions (225 items) are presented in random. Try to make your own mnemonic. Example: Planets – My very educated mother just served us noodles (MVEMJSUNP).

4)      Diversify your review sources. As past examinees keep on saying—no single review material will guarantee that you can pass the exam. And that’s true. Sometimes the test taking ability (remember the exam is multiple choice) and experience of an individual can spell the difference.  If you will visit PhR SPHR blogs and forums, most likely, you will encounter the same advice. Others passed the exam because they go the extra miles reviewing each government sites like the OSHA, DOJ, DOL, USCIS and the White House website where the most recent Executive Orders are posted.

5)      Visit HR Blogs and Forums. By visiting blogs and forums, you can find fresh tips and firsthand information from others who have taken the exams already. Don’t expect for more as all examinees have signed confidentiality and privacy of the exam. If you are looking for exam content (nada!!). The benefit here is that you can find a review buddy or group and exchange with them review notes and materials.  You can go to “My Resources” and visit those links.

6)      Take down notes. As a matter of habit, after reading something, try to write down what you have learned in your own words. Do it your way and not their way.  Keyword by association is the best. You just write the keyword opposite it is the word that you can easily associate with the keyword.

7)      Practice, Practice, Practice. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.” You must take multiple choice practice tests as often as you can and simulate the 4-hour allotted time. Remember, the exam is consists of 225 items. Two hundred items are graded and the remaining 25 items are for testing to be used in the next exam window. You don’t know which one is to be graded and not. The bottomline is you have developed the habit of taking the multiple choice test and that you know your energy.

8)      Take post test a week or two before your exam day. Most of the providers mentioned in pretest are offering package or bundles. The pretest usually goes with the post test. Take the pretest first and the post test later, say a week or two before your exam date. It will give you ample time to review or revisit the topics that you still need to master.

9)      Mental conditioning. Take a good sleep the night before your exam. I’ll repeat! You need a GOOD SLEEP before your exam day. And believe in yourself that you can make it. Think of the exam as just an ordinary activity in your life.

And don’t forget to thank yourself that you have reached this stage: ready to clear the PHR or SPHR Certification exam.  If all else fails, don’t lose hope.  Who cares if you failed? It’s not yet the end of the world. You can always take the exam so long if you like. And if you succeed, celebrate!


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8 Responses to “PHR Certification – 9 Strategies to Clear the PHR Exam or SPHR Exam”

  1. Nice tips! Thanks for putting this list together! A couple more blog/forum resources are:
    HRCP also posts some great tips and questions on their facebook page and sends out a weekly tips email. I believe Upstart HR also has a tips email.

  2. Thanks Ellen for providing these links. Its a big help for those who will take their phr/sphr/gphr certification exam.

  3. The tips here is really helpful, especially those people who are planning to take the PHR SPHR Certification exam even people who do their research will be benefited… To the person who made this I salute you and more power.

  4. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  5. Very interesting website and i love your logo graphics.

  6. I stumbled across your site, and think it’s fantastic, keep us posting

  7. Hi Otis,
    Thanks for visiting my blog. It is on a case to case basis. Other organizations pay for their employees (sponsorship with a corresponding service agreement). I am not so sure with military. You may want to inquire with your HR department.

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