Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How I Managed to Fail the SPHR Exam by 1 Point

Hi there, reader! My name is Cynthia. I decided to take the SPHR exam on a whim when I talked to a friend about it in October, 2010. I had never heard of it before, and I had not seen the material I would need to know for the test yet. I thought - I'm in HR, how hard could it be? HAHAHAHAHahahah...hahaha...ha...ha. I guess I should mention that in addition to working full-time, I'm also a graduate student finishing up my MBA, a wife, and mother of a 3-year old. I know, I barely had time to breath, but again I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. I applied, paid and scheduled the test for January 31st, 2011.
To prepare myself, I bought the PHR/SPHR Prep by Anne Bogardus from Amazon, and also had access to the SHRM Learning System. I planned on studying for the test during the Winter Break from school, but that was before I realized that my class for the following semester really began in November. I skimmed the Borgardus book, and decided to start with the glossary. I wrote flashcards for every term in the glossary that I didn't know with 100% accuracy. After writing about 300 or so, I decided that it probably wasn't the best method. I looked at the SHRM learning system and discovered that they had printable flashcards. I printed those out, and reviewed about 2 sections worth every few days for a month or so. I skimmed but didn't read the Anne Bogardus book from cover to cover, and I didn't look at the SHRM books at all. I did, however, use the SHRM learning system practice tests and quizzes several times. About a week before my test, I began to feel completely unprepared and decided to cancel it, but my mom talked me out of it! She said that even if I failed, it would be the best practice test money could buy. Thanks, Mom! I think I looked through the Anne Bogardus book one more time that week.
On the day of the test, I took the day off and went to the testing center. The test was more difficult than I had imagined. Some of the questions were so hard, it was laughable. WHO KNOWS THIS STUFF?!??! Out of 225 questions,I felt good about maybe 10. The rest I read, tried to decipher and answered the best I could.
Why were the questions so hard, you ask? I knew the glossary backwards and forwards, I knew quite a bit about about strategic planning from my MBA classes, and I knew lots of general HR things from work. It wasn't enough. The SPHR test didn't ask for what things meant, or what a law was about. It asked for in depth knowledge of the laws, where they came from and how they applied to HR. For example, it wasn't enough to know, in general, what each theory was about. You had to know all of the steps in the theory and which one was the most important in a certain situation.
I failed the SPHR exam by 1 point for two reasons:
1) I studied incorrectly. Surface knowledge was not enough. To pass, you should basically be able to write the PHR/SPHR study guide when you're done...and not just the glossary, the entire thing!
2) I didn't spend enough time studying. I started studying in November 2010 and studied a day or two a week, for an hour or so, until January 31st, 2011. Six months at an increased rate may have worked.

What I'm going to do differently this time:
1)I am going to sign myself up for the Dec/Jan testing window for 2011/2012.
2)I'm going to give myself from May (after I graduate) through December to study.
3)I'm going to join a SHRM SPHR class
4)I'm going to study like I've never studied before, and try to apply as many things from what I learn to things at work, so I'll know how they apply
5)I'm going to pass the test!

I am not someone who fails. I refuse to let this beat me. If 50% of people can pass it, I want to be one of them. Wish me luck!


  1. Have you passed the winter test? I failed hardly today! And, I felt exactly like you. I only spent two weeks preparing for the test, but the full two weeks. It was apparently not enough. However, I think this test was more like a PHR type of exam, they drilled down to every single details about mergers and acquisition and some other concepts. Unbelievable! I could not believe my colleague passed it without preparing for it! I am going to sign up for the next session because I feel that this test will help me! BTW, some accounting questions on the test were not so right!

    1. I did! I am still waiting for the official results, but I will definitely update this blog after that. I'm sorry you failed this time, I know how hard that can be. Keep trying!

    2. I am highly impressed with ProcessExam.com online practice exams for PHR and SPHR Certification. PHR practice tests and SPHR practice exams are exact replica of final exams. I scored almost 89% in both the exam. I am sure that you will have the same experience.

  2. Congratulations at passing the exams with flying colours .

    Plz share the SHRM Learning System or Books which u studied for certification. If they are in pdf files or soft copies plz share with me . i am working for the last 4 yrs to get the certification but un able to manage resources to Purchase new / old Books .


    I shall be very thankful to you

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