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How much do you have to study to pass the PHR/SPHR?

A month ago I asked the question "Is the PHR/SPHR worth the paper it's printed on?".  My conclusion?  I think getting your PHR/SHPR is a good thing for your career, although I'm suprised SHRM and the HRCI haven't commissioned a study to prove that from a compensation standpoint. 

I just completed my portion of the instruction of the PHR/SPHR certification prep class put on by theHr_certification_institute_big_2 Birmingham branch of SHRM (aptly named BSHRM by the locals).  I taught the Employee and Labor Relations module.  Know what TIPS/FOE is when it comes to dealing with union drives?   If you were with us on Thursday and Saturday, you do now.

How much do you have to study to pass the PHR/SPHR?  Good question.  The HRCI breaks out pass rates for both exams, and lists the pass rate for the PHR (61%) as slightly higher than that of the SPHR (58%).

Why's the pass rate so low?  Simple.  There's a lot of material covered, and if you don't commit to a pretty strenuous study plan, you're not going to make it.  That's good for the profession.

Case in point.  To prep for teaching the Employee and Labor Relations module of the certification course for the BSHRM class, I developed a study outline of definitions and concepts I thought the class needed to know, from the material, to have a high confidence level that they would pass the exam.  Guess how many defintions and concepts I came up with for the Employee and Labor Relations module alone?  Roughly 350 items. 

The Employee and Labor Relations module accounts for roughly 20% of both the PHR and SPHR.  Do the multiplication and you come up with a projected 1,750 definitions and concepts that need some form of mastery to have a high confidence you'll pass the exam. 

With 1,750 items on the table, those that sign up and then forget studying until two weeks before the exam are destined to fail. 

For those of you who are currently cramming to study for the exam, good for you.  It will be worth it long-term.  Put the time in this time around and do it once... and only once....



So glad to hear you contributed to the prep class in B'ham. You bring a refreshing perspective to the topic. Personally, I hope I never have to retest for the SPHR. I'll do my best to stay on top of my continuing education hours.

Love reading everyday!



I am currently studying for the SPHR, (finally) I am testing in January so don't scare me! I was lined up to study with someone and he hasn't started studying so I guess I am on my own. I am disappointed because it is way to late to join a class or study group. Any tips?

Evil HR Lady

I sure hope it's worth it. I spent a lot of time and effort and a lot of money to pass that darn test. Now, I just need to make sure to get my 60 hours of continuing credit over the next 3 years.


Jennifer - Finally!! You stopped your busy day and dropped a comment. I am honored...

Recruitnik - Don't freak out. I did self study for both the PHR/SPHR, overprepared to the extent I could and did fine. I'll send you the outline I am referring to in the post to get you started...

Evil - you and me both. I have until May of 2008 to get my credits... Shouldn't blog with a baseline traffic level count as all 60 hours? Does SHRM know what a blog is? Your name alone might drive someone there into convulsions....



Thanks for the words of encouragement. The outline sounds great! Thanks.

Michael Haberman

As I sit here typing this the class I am leading is taking a test on Comp. We are getting ready to launch in to Labor. Kris is absolutely correct. To do this well takes alot of study time and a revival of study habits that most people have not had to exercise in a good number of years, indeed if they ever did. After doing this for 9 years + I have seen many reasons for failing most of it related to not putting the time in. This is not easy material to read and most people do not have experience in everything. So study, study, study.

Kris, unfortunately teaching it 4 times a year does not qualify for all 60 hours either, so I am doing my recert by exam in December. I am hoping having just come off
having taught the entire course twice I will pass the SPHR, but you never know. LOL


SHRM recommends at least 60 hours of studying prior to the PHR/SPHR exam. You can also earn 35 hours towards recertification with the SHRM Learning System.

Pam Sisson, SPHR

I actually did about 90 hrs + of self study - all within 5 days before the exam. Passed but made it hard on myself.


I just took and passed the SPHR today and I have to say that I only started studying last week. There is so much BOK (to use HR lingo)to grasp that I figured there's no way for me to memorize all of this information. So, I brushed up on my test taking skills, took some mock exams this past week, and skimmed over a PHR/SPHR prep book. I applied my brushed up testing skills today while taking the mindset that I was a CHRO or other org leader. It worked! Not sure what my score was but I passed. I have about 10 years of HR experience, which I'm sure helped me out. Good luck to everyone else that takes one of these exams.


I had planned to study for a solid month prior to the exam. Well, due to work and other factors I didn't study according to my plan. I skimmed through the Ann Bogardus book the day before the exam and took the practice exam included with the CD (131 questions).

I took the exam the next day and passed. I don't think the exam was as difficult as some people make it out to be. I have very little HR experience and just one day of studying was enough to pass the test.


I used the SHRM system and I do think the test and the system was very relevant. I past the PHR test today!

You gotta study

Ben Eubanks

I just took the SPHR and passed it--I am not sure about the value but really think that it's a good exercise to remind us of the importance of looking at HR strategically, as a business unit, instead of in the typical siloed view that is so prevalent.

I talk in my "How to study for the SPHR" blog post about some of the ways I trained my brain to think differently. It's not perfect, that's for sure!



I am planning to begin studying for it and I am nervous about absorbing enough to pass. Because of that I am not telling my manager or asking for them to cover the cost of materials and the exam until I know I passed. I would be so embarrassed if I failed. Some of the comments here were very helpful. Thanks.

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