February 19, 2018

8 Tips to Help You Study for the PHR/SPHR or SHRM-CP/SCP

studyI took the HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) exam and the Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) exam about a month ago. Today, I want to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked about these exams in the hopes I can help other people:

Which Should I Take?  Do I Need Both?

That’s completely up to you. I chose to take both as some companies prefer one or the other, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have both certifications.

Are the SPHR / Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Study Programs Good Enough for the SHRM-SCP Exam?

I studied for the SPHR only and passed both exams, but they are completely different exams. I’d say I relied on my personal HR experience to answer the situational questions on the SHRM-SCP exam; these questions focus on applying your knowledge to specific scenarios. The SPHR and the knowledge questions on the SHRM exam both required deep knowledge of the HR field.

What Programs / Tools Did You Use to Prepare?

The main programs I used were David Siler’s Distinctive HR self-study system and the HRCI practice tests. I also searched for SPHR and SHRM-SCP flashcards on Quizlet, which were incredible helpful. Exam-labs has free practice quizzes for the PHR and the SPHR.

I also kept notes on areas where I felt I needed improvement, and I kept reading those notes over and over again – especially as I got closer to the exam. In fact, I sat in the parking lot before the exam and reread those notes one more time!

How Long Did You Study for?

I studied for about 45-50 days. I felt ready when I went to take the exam, but everyone learns differently. Your preparation schedule will depend on your unique needs. Some people recommend you apply for the exam, study, and then schedule your exam when you feel ready.

The exam approval is good for 180 days with HRCI. HRCI eliminated exam windows, so you can take the exam year-round. The exam windows for SHRM are generally about 75 days.

How Did You Stay on Track?

I scheduled out my entire study experience ahead of time. I put down what I was going to do every day until the test – and included the day of the test to keep my eye on the prize. I did my study tasks every day, whether it was watching a few hours’ worth of videos or taking practice tests. In the days leading up to the test, I took a lot of practice tests and got myself mentally ready for these hours-long exams.

What Helped You More – Your Work Experience or Studying?

Both were integral. I couldn’t have passed either exam without drawing on both my work experience and my studies. You can’t rely simply on memory for either test.

When Do You Get Your Results?

You get preliminary results once you submit your exam, but you don’t get your official results for a few weeks. HRCI can take up to 15 business days, and SHRM says you’ll receive your results within four weeks of the close of the exam window.

Do I Need to Be a Member of SHRM or HRCI to Take the Tests?

No, but you receive $100 off your exam fee if you are a member of SHRM.

Please note that HRCI is changing the content of the PHR and SPHR exams, starting on August 1, 2018. If you plan to take the exam after August 1, you’ll want to be sure the study resources you use are tailored to the new exam.

Marissa Letendre is a senior HR professional. 

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Marissa Letendre is a senior HR professional. She holds her SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications, as well as a Human Capital Strategist certification from the Human Capital Institute.