I haven’t mentioned it a great deal on the blog since I announced in March that I had registered for the test, but I took the SPHR test yesterday and I passed it! For those members of the group who have no idea of what an SPHR is, it’s the Senior Professional in Human Resources certification. It’s not required to practice Human Resources (which is what I do), but it is professionally helpful.
Y’all know that I like to throw a rope to people who do not want to reinvent the wheel, I thought I would write down what, exactly, I did to study.
Since the exam is expensive ($525 for non-members of SHRM), I wanted to keep study costs in-line as much as I could. That might sound counter-intuitive because studying is the investment you make to pass the exam. But the reality is that the SHRM Learning System runs north of $500 as do many of the prep classes. That can make your total investment in the process range anywhere from $1000-$1500. I just couldn’t commit to that.
Materials I Used
I believe the total cost of the materials I purchased for this exam was $150. If I had to take the test again, I would absolutely recommend the purchases that I made.
The Official PHR and SPHR Certification Guide by Raymond B. Weinberg
This is the official HRCI booklet on the test. Most of the information within is pointless, but for the cost (I think it was $20 or so), it’s worth it for the 125 question sample test.
SPHR Exam Practice Questions by Mometrix
Many people were fast to tell me that what would be so critical in my studies was running through practice tests. This book contains two full practice tests (175 questions) with answers and explanations.
PHR/SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide, Fourth Edition by Sandra Reed and Anne M. Bogardus
This book is pretty much your choice for studying if you aren’t going to invest in the SHRM Learning System or prep classes. It has something like 600 pages with chapters split up by body of knowledge segments. There is a practice quiz at the end of each section with 20 questions as well as a 70 question pre-test at the beginning. It also comes with software that allows you access to another full practice test, 320 “learning mode” questions (you can retrieve explanations for your right/wrong answers) and a set of electronic flashcards.
TCHRA Preparation Course Materials
I did not take the TCHRA class, but I did inherit some old study materials from a friend that had taken the class and passed the exam. They had many positive things to say about this method. What this essentially ended up being for me (since I did not take the class) is another book with practice quizzes and helpful bonus notes in the margins. I did not register for a prep course for several reasons: They are expensive, and I did not want to give away a night of my week. That being said, based on these materials, if you are at all a prep class person, it seems that this one would be well worth your money.
How I Studied
I want to say that I started studying mid/late January and my testing date was June 20, which means that I had roughly 21 weeks to work through all of the materials I listed above. I studied for at least five hours each week, which brings our initial time investment to 105 hours of work.
After taking the practice test at the beginning of the Reed-Bogardus book, I set out to read that and take notes from cover to cover. The entire process took approximately 12 weeks. The highest I ever scored on a practice quiz in this book was 80% and most of my quizzes hit the 60% mark.
Once I had completed that, I took the practice test in The Official PHR and SPHR Certification Guide. Approximately 50% of the questions were on concepts I had never seen before, so that was shocking and amazing all at once. Also, I felt really stupid since I had just read 600 pages and apparently learned nothing.
From there, I moved onto the TCHRA materials and read through those in their entirety. Since the practice quizzes had already been marked up, I made Marcus read them to me as we drove Up North. By the time I was done reviewing all of these materials, another seven weeks had passed, bringing us to the 19 week mark.
The last two weeks of studying were a little bit overwhelming because at this point, I was still very aware of what I did not know. This is when I took both of the practice tests from the Mometrix book. I’d take one, score it, take notes on my incorrect answers (and the questions I’d outright guessed on) and then move onto the next. I got 67% on both of these practice tests. I reviewed the notebook and a half of notes I had taken on the Reed-Bogardus book. I reviewed some of the key sections from the TCHRA materials. The two days prior to the test, I finally fired up the software from the Reed-Bogardus book and ran through the 320 test questions in learning mode so that I could practice test taking and get immediate feedback on the questions I did not know or understand.
Why was all of this test taking valuable? Because hand to God, on exam day, there were probably 20 questions of 175 that I actually felt confident about answering. The rest of them ranged from I sort of know what this might be to Outright Cryptic. Taking the number of practice tests that I did not only succeeded in demoralizing me (67% is not a number to look forward to), it helped me to Stay Calm when I was bombarded with questions about things I had never ever seen before.
The three minutes I had to wait while the computer tabulated my score (you get a Pass-Did Not Pass) were the longest ever, and when I learned that I had passed, I was truly shocked. Obviously, I was really thankful as well.
There was nothing easy about the SPHR test. There was nothing easy about the preparation/studying process. I am really glad that I took the time to get this certification now, because based on the amount of time it consumed, this would be an extremely hard project to work on if I was trying to balance work-husband-children-life. I am really glad that yesterday I got to clear off the left side of our dining room table which has been covered with books and notebooks for the last five-ish months. Also? I am extremely proud of myself.