Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Passed the SPHR Exam: How You Can Do It Too

After months of preparation, I finally passed the SPHR exam!

How I prepared for the SPHR exam this time around:

1) I convinced a friend at work to take the test with me. This is probably the single most important thing I did. We spent every lunch hour for the last 5 months reviewing material, taking practice tests, sharing memorization techniques and venting our frustration. Not only did we study together, we carpooled to the testing center, took the test and passed at the same time. Thank goodness we both passed, or that would have been an awkward ride home! Having someone to keep me accountable for studying, and struggling through the same material helped immensely.

2) I joined my local SHRM chapter, North Texas SHRM (, and started attending their monthly luncheons. One of the luncheons I attended featured Mike Poskey, a speaker who introduced me to the concept of Emotional Intelligence through his company Zero Risk HR ( I don't recall seeing the concept in the study material, but I did have several questions on the exam about the subject. Thank goodness I attended that meeting!

3) I joined the North Texas SHRM PHR/SPHR Study Group. Our group met every Thursday night from 6:00-9:00pm for about 10 weeks, as well as a few Saturday mornings for practice tests. Not only did I learn a ton of information at these meetings, I met the most phenomenal HR professionals and made some great friends.

4) I studied from several different sources of information. First, I read through and took notes from the PHR/SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide by Anne M. Bogardus ( Then I read through the SHRM Learning System and made flashcards for the concepts I was having difficulty with. I googled like crazy, and used some of the information from my friend's HRCP PHR & SPHR Study program.

5) I used an iPod/iPhone app called Flashcardlet. It allowed me to create my own flashcards on and to use flashcards that other users had already created. Check out all of the cards available that relate to the PHR/SPHR exam:

6) I used some interesting memorization techniques. I'll write more about them in an upcoming blog.

7) Practice test, practice test, practice test. I tested from so many different sources I can't remember them all. I practiced at home, in the office, and at a local coffee shop to be comfortable with testing and analyzing questions, and to learn to test through distractions. The testing centers are quiet, but there are still distractions, so I learned to ignore them.

It was a lot of work, but I'm so glad I decided to test again! Now to work on those recertification credits...

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer them.


  1. Congratuation!! Good job.
    I'm Jeongi pyun from korea. I am planing to get sphr exam in 2012. I passed the phr last jan..

    I know how you prepared for exam hard.

    I envy you so much.

    1. Thank you Pyun and good luck with the SPHR!

    2. I am highly impressed with 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. Hi Cynthia,
    Congrats on passing! I took the SPHR yesterday and failed. So bummed. I basically spent the last month memorizing the SHRM books and obviously that didn't work. What I learned...applying concepts is very different than memorizing. I also took the 3 day course - but did so about 8 weeks before the exam...think I forgot most of it by the time I really started focusing. Like you, in a FT mom and employee so fitting in studying was a little hard. No excuses though, I failed. So I'm going to take it again but this time I want to study with a group, consistently! I live in Dallas and I think you do too. Do you have any suggestions? I'm thinking about registering for the virtual class hosted by SHRM over 8 weeks but would also like to interact with people in people as I study. I need to talk through concepts, I need more practice test questions, I NEED TO PASS!!! :) I'm still so upset about not passing, but everythin happens for a reason and I have to stay positive.

    I'm even considering hiring a private you know of anyone?

    1. Jenn - I'm so sorry! I failed the first time too, probably because I also only studied for a month that time. I really recommend usin more than just the SHRM books. They helped, but I thought the questions on the exam were much harder than SHRM practice tests were. The best advice I can give you is to get in a study group with Jana Bates. Her classes have an 85% pass rate (the national average is about 55%). She teaches through the UNT prep program in Dallas and also through the North Texas SHRM group (this option is much less expensive but meets in Denton. It's also really helpful to try to apply the concepts you learn for your current job. Even if you don't use what you prepare, knowing how it would apply and fully understanding the concepts is invaluable. Good luck to you when you test again! -Cynthia

  3. Thanks Cynthia! I'm going to look her up now! I have to believe that having a group to discuss the modules with will help me SO much. I also didn't even realize that i should study other material besides the SHRM books...i really thought those were the only things i need to know, but you are 100% right - there was stuff on there that i know i never read. I also need to find lots more test questions. i did all that the SHRM learning center offered, but (again) obviously, that wasn't enough. And i want the tests to be harder than the actual not the otherway around, which is what i felt like happened. I was passing all of the tests online so i had a false sense of hope.

    AND I LOVE THE FLASHCARD site! It's awesome!! I'm going to take advantage of that for sure.

    If you think of anything else please let me know. I'm going to take a week or two off and then start the process all over. Gives me 5 months before the next test...oh what a joy :)

    Thanks again for the advice!

  4. Hey Cynthia - me again! Quick question for you...since i failed the test in June but i'm retaking it in Dec - same year, will the exam be the same? Wasn't sure if you knew the answer...

  5. I passed SPHR June 2014... to help other HR professional friends who want to get certified either PHR or SPHR... here I've summarized the tips and techniques to pass the exam. Please visit my blog at or my website at All the best with your exam!

  6. Really liked reading your comments, Cynthia! I just took the exam and passed. It was a beast, and I used many of the same suggestions you share here. I also shared my insights on how to pass the exam in my "How to Study for the SPHR Exam" blog post. By now you're probably gearing up for your recertification--good luck on that! :-)

  7. Hi Cynthia,

    I just stumbled upon your blog while I was trying collect resource materials for SPHR. Is it possible for you to share some resources/books which offer practice tests? I have already purchased the PHR/SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Deluxe Study Guide by Anne M Bogardus. I am sure this may not be enough for me to pass the exam.

    Thanks in advance.

  8. Thanks for taking the time to discuss that, I feel strongly about this and so really like getting to know more on this kind of field. Do you mind updating your blog post with additional insight? It should be really useful for all of us.
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