SHRM Certification Exam: 4 Study Best Practices


As a certified professional, I’m often asked about  the importance of HR certification and recertification. However, one specific question I’m asked a lot has to do with studying for the exam. People want to know the best way to prepare. Does professional experience matter? Are the study guides worth it? What about certification prep seminars?

When considering a professional certification, work experience is important. That being said, I believe it’s equally important to study prior to taking a certification exam. However, over the years I’ve realized that study habits are very personal. What worked for me, might not be the best path for someone else. If you’re considering the SHRM Certification, or any kind of certification for that matter, here are four study best practices to consider:

1.       Get a copy of the competency guide to understand the exam. The first step to putting together a study plan is knowing what subjects will be covered on the exam. The SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (BoCK) can be downloaded from the certification site. Then, do a little self-evaluation. Are there topics that you know a lot about? Topics you don’t feel as comfortable with? This will tell you how much you need to study and what topics to focus on.

2.       Find study partners to share experiences. The great thing about taking a certification exam is you don’t have to do it alone. There are other people who have taken the exam and people who are studying just like you. See if you can find a group connected to your local SHRM chapter  or on social media – it can help you stay focused on your study goals. And being a part of a study group allows participants to share stories using their practical experience.

3.       Do research about books and tutorials. There are a wide variety of opinions about books and study guides. Here’s my two-cents: I felt that taking a certification exam was just as much about test taking as the mastery of knowledge and skills. So, I like the study guides, books, definitions, tutorials, etc. because I was able to practice test taking. SHRM has a certification handbook that you can download and they also offer a FREE online demo of the exam.

4.       Look for affiliated courses and classes. Like books and tutorials, there are many options available. I’ve found there’s a difference between an HR course and an HR certification prep course. Review the program description to ensure you’re signing up for the program that will accomplish your goal. SHRM offers in-person and virtual certification prep courses. Also, check with your employer to see if prep courses are covered under tuition reimbursement or professional development.

Professional certification is a big step. It takes commitment of time and resources to study for an exam. But the rewards are worth it. Not only do you learn as you’re preparing for the exam, but you’re making the commitment to continue learning afterward (as part of recertification.) For those readers who’ve taken the SHRM certification exam, what advice can you provide? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.



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