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Last Updated: March 05, 2021

PHR Certification Study Guide

A PHR (Professional in Human Resources) certificate is a very useful one to have. People who work in human resources have many job prospects, high salaries, and get to help people on a daily basis. Most employers in the human resources field require that you need your PHR certificate to work for them. The exam can be a tough one, so here are a few tips to help you out.

Study Guides

There are several study guides available, ranging from free to under a couple of hundred dollars. There are online practice exams, flash cards, and workbooks you can use just to name a few. Some of the practice exams have questions on them from previous PHR exams, so they will give you a good idea of what the exam will be like. Study guides can be purchased from at least nine different websites, including the site for the institute that gives the exams. Consider joining a study group, either online or locally. Your chamber of commerce can be a good place to look for exam preparation materials. It's a good idea to take a webinar too that focuses on exam preparation.

The Exam

You can write the exam if you have one of these three combinations of education and work experience:
  1. You have a Master's Degree and have worked in human resources for at least1 year
  2. You have a Bachelor's Degree and have worked in HR for at least two years
  3. You have a high school diploma and have worked in HR for at least four years. Your degree doesn't have to be in human resources, it can be in any field of study.
The exam tests your experience and knowledge that you gained on the job, and what you learned in your education. There are three levels of questions: comprehension, problem-solving, and evaluation.

The PHR Certification exam has 175 multiple choice questions on it, and you'll have 3 hours to take it. In some of the questions, there may not be a correct answer, so you have to pick the best answer. They test this so you can practice applying what you know to a real work situation.

The exam costs $400, and its given at a Prometric Testing Center. You can apply online to take the test, through the Human Resources Certification Institute. To apply with them, you first create an account, finish your application, pay, and then book the exam. You will receive your results within eight weeks of the test.

How it's Made

Since you don't need any education in HR to take the exam, it has to test real-life scenarios. This is different than testing from learning materials. How the HRCI does this is mostly by interviewing people who work in the HR field. They send out surveys to see which tasks that HR professionals spend the most time working on. They're asked how important each task is to them, and what percentage of time they spend working on each task on a day to day basis. This is done every five years or so, to make sure that everything is up to date. So if you're studying for the PHR exam, think of what tasks you do the most of on a daily basis. Chances are it's the same as the HR professionals that have been interviewed, so there will be more questions on what you do the most of. If there are certain areas you feel you're weak in, then ask a colleague if you can job shadow them, or ask for advice from a few co-workers. The best studying is on the job training, so use your work experience to help you succeed.

It's worth it to earn your PHR. It may not be necessary for some jobs, but it sets you apart from other job seekers. It shows that you are professional and have knowledge and skills that others may not.


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