HR Certs: Recapping the SPHR

Like many of you- I know how challenging this certification process can be. Now that the SPHR is over for me, I’ve decided to spend some time sharing a little bit more about the process for me. 

I’ve been on this certification journey for a while now. In 2015, I self-studied for the PHR and passed on the first try. In 2016, I self-studied for the SHRM-CP and passed on the first try and in 2017, I self-studied for the SPHR and FAILED. 

And I’m sure you guessed right, I was devastated. I felt like a failure, felt defeated, deflated and disappointed. I actually wrote this piece shortly after failing not realizing how much relevance it would have a year later (Failure is Necessary). And once I went through those series of emotions, I became determined. 

Things I didn’t do: 

  • I didn’t announce to the world that I was studying for the exam. Sometimes this can work in creating a support group for you. Other times, it can add unnecessary pressure
  • I did not study for months on end. It’s almost impossible to reasonably study for 6 months and retain the information in month 6 that you reviewed in month 1. 
  • I did not subscribe to any outside noise. Most folks will try to ask a million questions like, “should I take the SHRM?” “ Do you think it’s easier”, etc. The bottom line is no matter which exam you take, SHRM or SPHR, either you know the material or not. These exams are not easy. You must know the material. There is no getting around this. 

Things I did do: 

  • I gave myself a reasonable time frame to study. 10- 16 weeks. Just about a week and a half to cover each section. Life happens. You may have every intention to come home and study daily but sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way. Allow reasonable time. And plan to test right after! 
  • I recognized that what worked for everyone else- just may not work for me. I found myself frustrated with the quizlet flashcards, etc for this exam. I searched for videos, more detailed explanations to really develop a deeper understanding of the material. 
  • I studied to understand- not to memorize 
  • I exclusively used Distinctive HR- David Silers LMS system for material purposes and self-studied. 
  • I used the Pocket Prep App to test my knowledge. There are daily questions, quick exams… around 1000 questions. More than enough to identify areas of opportunity. 
  • I did purchase the HRCI SPHR Practice Exams- major game changer


One of my colleagues also recently took this exam and passed a month or so before me. One piece of advice she provided was to study as if I was teaching the material. This made a world of difference to me. I imagined myself teaching the material to students. When I came to a section I did not understand, I asked myself “ How would I break this down to my students?”. This had to be the single most transformational technique for me to master this exam. My study habits were to really digest the info in lieu of memorizing it for a test. I approached every study session as if I was preparing a lecture for my students. It may sound cheesy… but it worked. 

Because I want each of you to be successful on this certification journey, I’ve committed to covering many of the topics you may see on your upcoming exam on my Channel Here. New Videos will be posted every Monday. 

Bonus: I’m also going to be sending out my notes from each section over the next few weeks to the first 20 people to join my mailing list. Don’t miss them!  Sign Up Here

Have questions? Send them to me at 

Happy Studying! 

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