By: Amber Pereira on October 7th, 2015

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Best Tips to Study for Professional HR Certifications

PHR & SPHR vs. SHRM-CP & SHRM-SCP: What's the Difference Between these HR Certifications?

In several industries, professionals have the option to obtain certifications in their area of expertise. Many companies require certifications as insurance that their employees have the knowledge necessary to perform the job they were hired for. In the HR world, having certification credentials is no different.

HRCI Vs. SHRM Certifications

The most widely known and used certifications are from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM). You may recognize these as Professional of Human Resources (PHR), Senior Professional of Human Resources (SPHR); Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR); Human Resource Management Professional (HRMP); Human Resource Business Professional (HRBP); and California Designation (PHR-CA/SPHR-CA) for HRCI. SHRM recently released their own certifications, SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP, for certified professionals and senior certified professionals.

The Cost of Professional HR Exams

Varying in price, depending on which test you take, the HRCI exams cost between $400 - $525 and the SHRM exam fees costs $450 for non-members and $350 for members, which includes the exam and the application processing fee.

For those of you who have taken one of these exams, you know they are no joke!  The HRCI exams are composed of approximately 175 questions covering six areas: business management and strategy, workforce planning and employment, Human Resource development, compensation and benefits, employee and labor relations, and risk management. The SHRM exams range between 90 knowledge questions, 30 "field test" questions and between 40 - 60 situational judgment questions on topics such as behavioral competencies and technical knowledge: people, organization, workplace, and strategy. In both scenarios, the HR professional has three to just under four hours to complete the exam.

As you can imagine, the experience can be very overwhelming.  Here are some tips and suggestions to prepare for the exam below.

The Best Tips to Study for Professional HR Certifications

Top Tips to Prepare for Professional HR Certification Exams

  1. Devise a plan. After you sign up for the exam devise a weekly study schedule to keep yourself on track.
  2. Pick a study method. What methods work best for you? There are various prep classes as well as study groups available to help you. If you are more comfortable studying alone, there are also materials available you can purchase, including study guides, textbooks and flashcards. (I found some flash cards on Amazon that really made the difference for me.)
  3. Practice! HRCI offers a practice exam so you can give it try and see where your weak areas are. You can also find practice exams in many of the study guides.
  4. Get in your comfort zone. Do what you need to do to make yourself comfortable.  Get lots of rest the night before, eat a good breakfast, and make sure to pick an afternoon time to take the exam if you aren’t a morning person.

Remember with which ever certification you choose, it’s just a test.  Keep in mind that so much of the material is information you already know as a Human Resources practitioner.  Don’t over think any of the questions.  If you don’t know an answer, just mark the question and come back to it. Good luck!