How to Study for the SPHR Exam: 7 Study Tips

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Studying for an exam can be stressful, and the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) is no different. If you’re a big-picture thinker who wants to plan rather than implement HR policies, taking this test will benefit your future career prospects. Keep reading as we delve into how to study for the SPHR exam and what it entails.

What is the SPHR?What is the SPHR?

SPHR is a professional certification received by HR professionals who demonstrate a strategic mastery of human resources’ body of knowledge. As the exam is administered by HRCI (Human Resources Certification Institute), you must meet certain criteria to pass the test. You’ll have to showcase your skill set in policy-making and strategic aspects of HR management. The exam format typically lasts three hours and contains 140 questions, including alternative item types and multiple choice.

What is Covered in the SPHR Exam?

What is Covered in the SPHR Exam?

With thirty minutes allotted to administration time, the actual SPHR exam will take around two and a half hours to complete. As for how many questions are on the SPHR exam? Like we mentioned above, there will be 25 pretest questions and another 115 questions encompass fill-in-the-blank, scenario questions, multiple-choice, and drag-and-drop ones. They are meant to test your ability to apply principles that help solve real-world problems along with your HR knowledge, combining various approaches or elements to tackle complex issues.

The exam will cover the following areas:

  • Total rewards (12%): This section deals with the benefits of retaining and attracting employees and the effectiveness of compensation.
  • Development and learning (12%): How to retain employees using training and developing strategies.
  • Talent acquisition and planning (16%): You will have to develop strategies to attract and engage talent while also forecasting organizational talent requirements.
  • Employee management and relations (20%): The 20% section tests your knowledge on monitoring employee performance and satisfaction.
  • Leadership and Strategy (40%): For this section, test-takers should know how to contribute to organizational strategy, influence people management practices, develop HR strategy, and monitor risk.

You must also memorize common federal laws applied to the areas above. Holding a superficial understanding of concepts is simply not enough, meaning that the SPHR exam demands individuals to analyze the provided information and pick the best answer.

How Hard is it to Pass the SPHR?

How Hard is it to Pass the SPHR?

Are you wondering how hard the SPHR exam is? A recent HRCI study shows that the passing percentage for the SPHR exam stands at 53%, the lowest of all its exams. While it’s tough, the exam is quite doable if you know how to study for it and are consistent with your preparation.

What is the Passing Score for the SPHR?

What is the Passing Score for the SPHR?

The SPHR uses the modified-Angoff method to score test-takers, taking the raw score (the number of questions you answer correctly) and converting it into a scaled score ranging from 700-100. In order to pass the exam, you need a score of at least 500. A preliminary score report will be given to you before you leave the testing center, while the official score report will be emailed within 48-24 hours. In the case that you choose the remote proctor option for the exam, you’ll receive your official report in an email within the same time frame.

How to Ace the SPHR Exam: 7 Practical Study Tips

How to Ace the SPHR Exam: 7 Practical Study Tips

In this section, we’ll consider how you can ace the SPHR exam questions and answers with some practical study tips:

Answer Questions Strategically

Approaching the SPHR exam requires a unique strategy that differs from typical exams, as it mainly tests IQ levels or retention of information. The exam evaluates your practical HR experience by asking about common HR problems. Traditional test-taking tactics like swiftly skimming questions, impulsively selecting the most fitting multiple-choice answers, or relying on gut instincts are unlikely to be effective.

It’s in your best interest to read the questions and potential answers thoroughly, even revisiting them if necessary for clarity. This deliberate reading process will lead to a deeper analysis, helping you understand what is being asked. After you grasp the question’s essence, try to eliminate all the wrong answers. If you’re unsure about an answer, leave it to review later and move on to the next question.

Gain and Use Your Experience

A career in HR means you will have to earn significant experience before attempting certifications like the SPHR exam. Candidates with substantial prior experience are eligible to take the exam. This includes holding a master’s, bachelor’s, or high school diploma paired with four, five, or seven years of professional experience.

Since it is uniquely structured, the exam emphasizes practical skills over theoretical memorization. It aims to rigorously evaluate one’s expertise, analytical skills, and practical application skills in strategic HR planning and policy creation. So, be sure to get work experience and complete at least a master’s degree in HR.

Take SPHR Practice Tests

During the SPHR certification exam, effective time management is crucial. The exam spans three hours, encompassing 150 multiple-choice questions alongside 25 pretest queries. For this reason, taking SPHR practice tests is essential to help familiarize yourself with the exam’s format and ensure you allot enough time to each question.

If you encounter a challenging question during the exam, we recommend marking and revisiting it later to prevent spending excessive time on a single item. Solve practice tests from various sources to ensure a comprehensive understanding of every topic.

Start Studying Early

Preparation for the SPHR exam goes beyond just relying on professional experience; proactive studying is the way to go. Familiarize yourself with the specific concepts, applications, and scenarios. It would help if you incorporated various learning strategies for effective preparation, as only studying from online courses or reading through guides won’t be enough.

Diversify your study methods. Consider creating flashcards, taking practice tests, utilizing study apps, and reviewing various SPHR study guides. You can also improve your preparation further by participating in SPHR study groups, attending relevant conferences, and enrolling in local SPHR chapters to build a solid foundation and increase your chances of success.

Get Enough Sleep Before the Exam

Make sure to get adequate sleep, ideally 7-8 hours, before the SPHR exam. Observe your sleep pattern in the days leading up to the exam to determine the hours you need to feel fully refreshed on exam day. When you’re well-rested, you will be much more alert and sharp at solving the questions. Consequently, you’re less likely to make simple errors and perform better.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Eat a heavy breakfast that integrates fiber, good fats, and protein, such as avocado, berries, eggs, oatmeal, nuts, or whole-grain toast. These foods are known to keep your mind healthy and keep you full longer. For example, a breakfast burrito including beans, eggs, salsa, spinach, and a whole-grain tortilla is ideal.

Revise, Revise, and Revise

If you have extra time, focus on revisiting high-yield subjects or areas you find challenging using study tools like flashcards. Concentrating on these areas before the SPHR exam can improve retention and help you recall concepts quicker during the test. As you become confident in specific subjects, work on more complex or less familiar topics.

Don’t hesitate to ask friends or family members to quiz you. Their involvement can make the review process more interactive and supportive, allowing for a more thorough grasp of the material ahead of the test.

How to Create a Study Plan for the SPHR Exam?

How to Create a Study Plan for the SPHR Exam?

Creating an effective study plan is crucial in preparing for the SPHR exam. Here’s what you should do:

Determine Your Eligibility and Exam Date

You should meet one of the necessary conditions based on education and professional HR experience. These include:

  • Four years of professional HR experience with a Master’s or higher degree
  • Five years of professional HR experience with a Bachelor’s degree
  • Seven years of professional HR experience

Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, apply online. Choose a date that aligns with your schedule and is at a time when your preparation will be complete, as this exam is available year-round.

Choose Your Study Materials and Resources

Various options are available to help you prepare for the SPHR exam, such as books, online courses, practice tests, and study groups. You can also purchase bundles from HRCI that include different combinations of self-study exam preparation options. Some of the popular study materials and resources are:

  • HRCI SPHR Prep – powered by MindEdge: A thorough, self-paced online course. It offers mobile-friendly modules, exam-taking tips, diagnostic tests, and practice questions, increasing your chances of doing well in the SPHR exam.
  • HRCP System: This package includes six books covering the SPHR exam’s functional areas. Additionally, it provides online access to different resources like flashcards, practice exams, and audio lectures.
  • Onward to Opportunity Program: A complimentary resource primarily for military spouses, this program includes access to online courses and practice tests on the SkillSoft learning platform.

Create a Study Plan and Stick to It

Establishing and sticking to a study schedule is essential for effective SPHR preparation. Depending on the available time, adjust your study plan daily or weekly according to specific topics and study methods. Here are some tips to guide your schedule:

  • Allocate around two hours daily for focused study.
  • Prioritize sections like Leadership and Strategy and Employee Relations and Engagement, which hold significant weightage in the exam.
  • Start by reading, note-taking, and highlighting essential points. Once you finish the material, revise everything using flashcards and self-assessments.
  • Employ various study techniques such as reading, watching educational videos, listening to audio lectures, and engaging in study groups.
  • Regularly assess your knowledge through practice tests from reputable sources like HRCI, HRCP, and SHRM so that you can identify sections you need to improve.

Why is it Important to Take Practice Exams for the SPHR Exam?

Why is it Important to Take Practice Exams for the SPHR Exam?

Taking a practice test helps candidates get a clearer picture of what to expect from the exam. They are invaluable tools if you want to ace the SPHR, helping identify improvement areas and offering a realistic exam preview. When you take SPHR practice tests regularly, you’re bound to become familiar with the type of questions you might encounter, the question format, and the exam’s duration.

HR professionals who want to improve their chances of passing the SPHR exam and advance in their HR career should incorporate practice tests into their study routines and use them effectively. Taking the HRCI practice exams is the best way to get comfortable with the challenge and pace of the SPHR exam.

Wrapping Things Up: How to Study for the SPHR Exam: 7 Study Tips

Perhaps you’re determined to pass the SPHR exam on the first try and are unsure how to start your prep. But fear not, because our guide above mentions the best SPHR prep course, how to make use of practice tests, develop test-taking strategies, and much more. All you need to do is plan beforehand and start studying early to ace the test and ensure success in your career moving forward.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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