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Who has tips on earning SHRM's Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification?

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in The HR Specialist Forum

I'm going for SHRM's PHR certification, and want to know what to expect, and how others have approached the process. I've completed the SHRM Learning System and purchased a number of resource materials that look good. But I'd love to get feedback from people who have actually been through certification. I'm especially interested in getting comfortable with how the questions are asked. Any suggestions or tips? Better yet, success stories?—Chris

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Eubanks January 20, 2015 at 8:40 am

I just studied for, and passed, the SPHR exam. I passed the PHR several years ago. I put together all of my notes in a blog post if you’d like more info:

The short version: take loads of practice tests, understand how HR ties in with the business, and give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Good luck!


Jacks August 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I took the PHR exam in 2010 and failed. I attended a university specifically to study for this exam; I had outlines and studied extensively and I agree with Mary, most of the test questions were so unfamiliar and panicked when I realized this was not covered in class and could not recall the information being on the outlines and notes I had. I had shown up to the test site confident as I had spent hours and hours studying and was very disappointed that I didn’t succeed. I have been avoiding taking this test but will be signing up to take it again in December 2012. I hope to get a better test this time.


Antionette May 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with every post and thank each and every one of you for sharing. I will say back in the late 1990’s I took the PHR and missed it by 2 points. (Mary I feel your pain at question 60) What a disappoint but when they say it’s not a test to be taken as an exam it is so true, the fact they say you should have a minimum amount of years experience can be negotiated. I know someone who has over 25 years plus in the field, took a prep course at a local Community College and still did not pass the exam so what else can it be. I plan to take the SPHR in December 2011. Mariona pray for me :) ….. Johnik – PRAYER WORKS!!!


Mariona February 1, 2011 at 10:30 pm

I will start with PHR. take a course if possible, study, but mostly PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. take as many tests as possible, the more tests you take and the more answer you learn, the more chances to pass. I was so mad, I didn't pass and I had never studied so hard and felt to prepare, and I didn't pass ( I went for SPHR and I shouldn't). And yes, let your gut, instinct answer for you…


Johnik September 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I am taking the PHR Dec 4 2010. I am so nervous the way I am studying is writing all of the key terms from the Anne B. book and taking practice tests. I also just purchased and audio cd from hrreview.com. I can not afford shrm for I am a single mother. It is imperative I pass this exam the first time to increase my salary. Any suggestions for me?


Mary June 29, 2010 at 7:29 pm

3 of us took the 2010 PHR today June 29, 2010 and June 28. Both the lady with 20 years HR experience and I said after the test –70 percent of the test was NOT even covered in the SHRM guides that cost $800 dollars. I passed she failed. She also did Ann B’s book and HRCI. I did SHRM and HRCI. But almost nothing from those sources was on the test. I am not even happy about passing because it was just due to guess work not all the MONTHS of serious study I put in and she even put in more. The questions are vague and the answers are nothing you read in your books, or nothing like your practice exams. Experience dosn’t count because she had 20 years experience. The only way I passed was to put my HR knowledge aside and think like a business owner. At question 60 I wanted to go ask if they had loaded the right test.


Angie April 7, 2010 at 9:38 pm

So scary! I sit in May. I spend my nights ready and studying. Feel am nerved up by this test. I do “OK” on the test questions the first time around, and then ace them the second. Makes me a bit uneasy as I obviously will not be able to fail/pass/learn on the ‘real’ test….=(


Tristan March 23, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I am preparing for the 2010 PHR exam this coming May and I can say I am still consolidating review materials that are suggested by the people in the forum. I also bought SHRM Learning System along with Bogardus book. In between, I search the net for additional test-taking tips and I’ve found a cool site which is very informative.
Hope it helps. Good luck to all of us


Daniel August 25, 2009 at 2:00 am


I used this site… did the practice exams until I could pass those . Worked for me. Good luck!


Cam July 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Hello Judy,

What resources would you recommend for the SPHR? I’ve heard people using the HR Magazine as a reference in addition to the SHRM Learning System. Also, there is a book that some used and found helpful but I can’t recall the name of it. Any information/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Kathleen July 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I took the prep class and found it to be very beneficial. I was EXTREMELY lucky and passed on the first try! I like Judy Triebman’s answer. Don’t over-think the questions; don’t spend too much time on any one answer; better to skip and come back. Pace yourself – you have 4 hours but it goes by pretty quickly and you don’t want to be caught with a bunch of unanswered questions at the end. Good luck.


Christine July 14, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I highly recommend SHRM’s learning system with the online training. The practice tests and flashcards online in addition to the books were all of the information I needed to pass the exam in December 2007. Warning: they may have improved them since 2007, but when I purchased an HRCI practice exam, many of the answers were wrong and the test did not make me feel more prepared. Just study the material and keep up with HR news and blogs and you’ll pass with no problem!


Linda July 14, 2009 at 5:02 pm

There is no replacement for experience no matter how hard you study. There is a reason that the minimum requirements are in place. HR is not black and white as textbooks tend to be except perhaps regarding specific laws. The PHR is not a history exam. It deals with day-to-day HR practice. That said, you may wish to sign up for a preparation course. Many of those “graduates” have been successful when sitting for the exam.


Yvonne July 8, 2009 at 10:00 am

Hi Chris, I took the exam last May and unfortunately, I didn’t pass. Looking back, I over analyzed answers and should have gone with my initial instinct. I have not retaken the exam, but plan to . Good luck!


Mickey Levee July 8, 2009 at 8:58 am

I sat for my PHR exam in May 2005. I had not taken a lengthy test in years and was very nervous! The questions have 4 multiple choice answers. Truthfully, some questions I had never heard of, so had to guess at the answers (tried to use common sense). I took the SHRM Learning Course at a local college with about 8 other people to prepare for the exam. I finished it in December and took the exam in May. I did pass on the first try. I just renewed my certification and it was very simple. I found it easy to acquire 60 credits over the past 3 years. I actually had over the amount, but submitted only 60 credits. I submitted it all on-line and was prepared for the 6-8 week response as noted in the recertification material. In less than a week, I receied an e-mail saying I had been recertified!


Judy Treibman July 7, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Hi Chris, I have been through the PHR & SPHR and am the Certification Chairperson of the Morris County chapter in NJ. I suggest purchasing the HR Certification guidebook and also taking one of the practice exams on the HRCI website://www.hrci.org/assessmentexam/phrsphr/.
Try to memorize key words with terms. There is a lot of material to cover, but you can do it. Also, you need a strategy for the exam because it is very long (4 hours if I remember right). Go through each question and only answer what you know. Absolutely do not spend extensive amount of time on a question. If you spend more than a minute or two, skip it. Then go back more than once through the exam answering the ones you are most sure about. The round of reviewing questions should be the ones you are least sure about. Feel free to contact me directly at my e-mail. Good luck.


Charity M. PHR July 7, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Taking a prep class i feel is very beneficial. I tried studying the SHRM learning system on my own and wasn’t successful. Once you finally get to the “big test” don’t over analyse the questions and remember what was in the books and taught in your class, not necessarily what your company may or may not do. Hope this helps!


Shenese July 7, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Sorry, no tips…but I sympathize and think this is an excellent question! I plan to take mine this winter and have some books that were highly referred to while googling and researching for sources to study. I’ve pushed back taking the exam a couple of times…very nervous, as I hardly hear very many success stories…(at least for first time around). Hope you get some good feedback and answers…I’ll be watching for them as well. Best of luck to you!


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