Cover: PHR®/SPHR® Exam For Dummies® with Online Practice, 2nd Edition by Sandra M. Reed


Logo: Wiley

PHR®/SPHR® Exam For Dummies® with Online Practice

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to and search for “PHR/SPHR Exam For Dummies cheat sheet” in the Search box.


I wrote this book for all the HR professionals who are intent on leaving no stone unturned on their quest for the PHR or SPHR designation. It rounds out the edges of the preparation process, seeking to keep you on track and focused on the steps necessary to pass.

PHR/SPHR Exam For Dummies, 2nd Edition, also is a reminder that it’s not about what you know at this stage in the process, but rather what you don’t know that requires your full attention.

This book is for the tenacious and the curious and the self-deprecating, possibly because I find humility an attractive trait in individuals getting ready for a tough test. Those traits can keep your mind open and your eyes alert. Resolute curiosity can force you to grab a thread and follow it all the way to the end, which is the absolute best way to master and apply the information that you’re about to discover while getting ready for these exams.

About This Book

The focus of PHR/SPHR Exam For Dummies is to orient you, the experienced HR professional, to the task at hand: getting ready to become professionally certified. With pass rates low and nerves high, this guidebook takes you on your preparation journey, serving as a resource to get you organized and introduce you to key elements of these tests. In no other preparation resource will you find

Furthermore, adult learners tend to do better when they understand how information applies to them. In this case, taking a 50,000-foot view of key exam concepts and exam preparation activities allows you to take control of the exam prep process. As with anything worth doing, a haphazard, unstructured approach to preparation won’t serve a positive outcome. Just as a true career isn’t an accident, neither is successful certification — it takes both planning and strategic execution.

The primary purpose of your exam preparation activities is to successfully pass a fairly difficult test. For this reason, I include two sample tests in this book — one for the PHR and one for the SPHR. These exams are similar to the one that you’ll see on test day — 175 questions directly related to the exam content outlines. Although I provide bubble sheets for easy use, also consider putting your answers on a blank piece of paper so you can use the tests again.

Foolish Assumptions

Assumptions are simply things that I think I already know about you that guided my decisions on what to include in this book. For the PHR and SPHR exams, they are as follows:

  • You’re an experienced HR professional. Because exam eligibility is based on years of practical experience, even with a bit of education, I know that you know the basics of HR.
  • You’re preparing for an exam, not looking for HR in a jar. This book is about what you need to do to prepare to take a test about HR. It doesn’t teach you all you need to know about the field of human resources. In fact, the purpose of this book is to guide you to multiple resources for exam preparation.
  • You have a baseline knowledge of business and management principles. Corporate America, small businesses, and nonprofits all have shared HR and business needs. I assume that you’re a working professional in one of these categories and understand business terms such as strategy and organizational structure.
  • You know how to conduct internet research. So much of what you need to pass the tests can be found online, and I encourage you throughout the book to do so.

Probably the most impressive assumption I make about you is that you’re self-motivated, driven, and determined. Successful performers aren’t generally satisfied with the status quo. If you’re reaching out to take one of these tests, you’re among those individuals who demand more out of themselves and by extension, your preparation resources. For this reason in this book, I recommend adding study time, admonish you to take an expanded view of a topic, and encourage you to create other dimensions to the content. You must find it and touch it and interpret it yourself to fully grasp the nuances of the exam content. This process requires that you take control of your study time and resources. Leaving it to a single author or only your past work experience isn’t enough to get you through. I need you to tap into that drive and commit to doing what it takes to pass the first time around, or at least be a heck of a lot better for it after the process.

Icons Used in This Book

Consistent with the For Dummies series is the use of special icons. They serve as markers for information that may be of increased importance or interesting. I incorporate the following icons:

Tip In general, I use this icon when you have a special opportunity to apply a behavior in its easiest form. In most cases, a tip can save you both time and energy, building upon the experience of those individuals who have gone before you.

Remember I use this icon to reinforce an important principle. Pay attention to this information because it’s important.

Example This icon directs you to some examples of the types of questions that appear on the PHR and SPHR exams. It also gives you examples of how the content may be represented in the workplace.

Warning The information flagged by this icon may trip you up. The warning may be due to a topic’s complexity, level of difficulty, or commonly reported mistakes.

Beyond This Book

In addition to the content of this book, you can view some related material online, including additional information about each exam. You can access a free Cheat Sheet at Just type “PHR/SPHR Exam For Dummies cheat sheet” in the search box.

An added feature to the online content is two additional exams to support your learning. Taking multiple practice exams is an absolute must as you get ready for several reasons:

  • The exam level of difficulty requires that you’re familiar with question phrasing and multiple-choice setup. Keep in mind that these questions, also called items, can be highly situational. Taking practice exams can remove that element of surprise.
  • Answer distractors are common obstacles to a passing score. My online practice exams help condition your brain to recognize and eliminate the obvious wrong answers, increasing your chance of making a correct selection.
  • The online practice tests include a description of the right and wrong answers, which makes the practice exams extremely valuable, because they’re much more than another bank of questions. Taking these exams also helps you master content.

The general recommendation is that you can’t take too many practice assessments, and this book plus the online content is an excellent place to start. To gain access to additional tests and practice online, all you have to do is register. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Register your book or e-book at to get your PIN. Go to
  2. Select your product from the drop-down list on that page.
  3. Follow the prompts to validate your product, and then check your email for a confirmation message that includes your PIN and instructions for logging in.

Tip If you do not receive this email within two hours, please check your spam folder before contacting us through our Technical Support website at or by phone at 877-762-2974.

Now you’re ready to go! You can come back to the practice material as often as you want — simply log in with the username and password you created during your initial login. No need to enter the access code a second time.

Where to Go from Here

One of the reasons why preparing for this exam has been reported to be difficult is the sheer volume of reading that is required. This book can help a bit with all that reading. This book is modular in that you don’t have to read it in order from cover to cover. Feel free to pick and choose the bits that you think will serve you best.

I wrote it so that you can pick any chapter and begin reading. To the ordered mind, doing so may be an unusual prospect, so go ahead and proceed in chapter order — the content will bear up to the pressure. For those of you who are only interested in certain exam elements, you have come to the right place. Feel free to bounce around or even begin at the end by starting with a practice exam to simply see how you fare. That may highlight for you a correct starting point for your unique preparation needs.

If you need some help in finding somewhere to begin, scan the table of contents or the index, find a few topics that interest you, and jump in.

Regardless of where you begin, the absolute first and most important step is to build a study plan. This book is full of useful tips and information to fill in the blanks of a plan, so maximize your investment by taking heed and writing down your plans. What gets measured gets done, so strengthen your odds by getting organized.

Part 1

Getting Started with the PHR/SPHR Exam


  • Get a firm grasp of the structure for the PHR and SPHR so that you can begin to prepare a plan of attack to study for the exam.
  • Figure out the exam eligibility to ensure that you’re qualified to take the right exam.
  • Know how to talk to your boss about taking the test and how you may persuade her to pay for the test.
  • Select proper resources so you maximize your study efforts and have access to what you need to know in preparing for a passing score.
  • Identify the different types of questions on the PHR and SPHR in order to be able to figure out the best way to answer them.
  • Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of test day to make sure that you show up ready to go.