PHR = Please Help Resuscitate

Okay, so that’s not what it really stands for. But it should.

The PHR, also known as the Professional in Human Resources certification, was the main event of my winter break. Promoted by the Society for Human Resource Management and administered by the HR Certification Institute, this certification helps establish your credibility as a human resources professional and makes you more marketable to most employers. For more information about certification and how to get it, look here: http://www.hrci.org/HRCertification.aspx?id=65

Once available to students, the PHR is now only available to those with a degree and 1 to 2 years of work experience in human resources. I was able to take the exam in December during the last testing session that used the old exam eligibility requirements.

I guess you could say that I approached the entire certification situation with a bit of a cocky attitude. I have a bachelor’s degree in HR and am halfway through a master’s in HR- “how hard could it be?” I thought. Big mistake. I had plans to study for the exam this summer- but didn’t actually end up studying. I then made plans to study for the exam during the fall quarter- but was crazy to think that I would have time to study for the exam while also doing schoolwork. Needless to say, I started to get a bit nervous when I was 2 weeks away from taking the exam and had yet to crack open the study books. Did I mention that the study books amounted to nearly 5,000 pages of text? Yeah, I was in for a rough time.

With 1 week to go before the test date, I spent approximately 8 hours per day studying for the test. The PHR exam consists of 225 multiple-choice questions and here’s how the test content is structured:

  • Strategic Management (12%)
  • Workforce Planning and Employment (26%)
  • Human Resource Development (17%)
  • Total Rewards (16%)
  • Employee and Labor Relations (22%)
  • Risk Management (7%)

My study strategy was: study the content that makes up the largest portion of the exam, then study the rest of the content, then go back and review only the most important content. At the end of the week, I was nearly blind from the eyestrain. My Life Advice to You: don’t try to study anything for 8 hours per day, 7 days in a row.

On the day of the exam, I drove to the testing center full of dread. This was my one chance to pass; if I didn’t pass, I’d have wasted so many hours of my life! Not to mention the very pricey testing fee! I wanted to cry. The friendly test site monitors helped me to register, led me to my computer with a marker and dry-erase board to write notes on, gave me a pair of noise-canceling headphones, and then left me to my fate. I used the full 4 hours allotted, and would have even appreciated having another hour to look over my answers before finishing the test. There were so many questions that I couldn’t answer with certainty, and more than a few that I could swear were never addressed in the study books. I was certain that I had failed, and I felt my face grow hot with shame before I even got to the screen that was supposed to show my test results. The computer made strange noises and I could do nothing but sit and wait for it to compute my results…

To my surprise and wild delight, the screen in front of me indicated that I had passed! After procrastinating, then madly studying, then fearing that it was all for naught- I could hardly believe that I passed it. I have definitely learned my lesson and will never again try to cram so much studying into such a short time! As you think about whether or not to pursue certification, think about whether you have the time to create a concrete study plan and the will power to stick to it!

Friends don't let friends cram for important tests


2 Responses to “PHR = Please Help Resuscitate”


  1. 1 Ben Eubanks January 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Glad you were able to make it through! It’s a tough nut to crack, but it’s pretty darn satisfying to see the “pass” screen when you’re finished. I had to test about an hour away from my home, so the whole way back was spent in celebration. :-)

  2. 2 Kathleen Newell January 10, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Congratulations, Ben! Isn’t it an awesome feeling? When I got my score breakdown in the mail, I found out that I did much better than I actually thought. Maybe all the hard questions were those pesky “test” questions that didn’t really count!

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