The Professional in Human Resources exam and the Senior Professional in Human Resources exam are national certification exams for human resource professionals. The PHR exam covers the technical and operational aspects of human resources management, while the more advanced SPHR exam covers strategy and policy issues in management. The pass rate for the exams is generally less than 60 percent, so making the most of your study preparation time is key.

Exam Eligibility

To take the PHR exam, a person must have between one and four years experience in a human resources management position with the degree earned determining the experience required. A person with a master's degree or higher needs one year of experience, a person with a bachelor's degree needs two years of experience and a person with a high school diploma needs four years of experience. To take the SPHR exam, candidates must have an additional three years experience on top of what is required for the PHR exam.

What Is on the Test

The PHR and SPHR cover six different subject areas: business management and strategy, compensation and benefits, employee and labor relations, human resource development, risk management and workforce planning, and employment. The HR Certification Institute, which administers the exams, has a booklet available for download on their website. The booklet "PHR and SPHR Body of Knowledge" gives a complete listing of the exam content required for each exam. You need to have knowledge of both the laws and rules of HR as well as the responsibilities of an HR professional.

Plan of Attack

Plan to spend the better part of a year studying for the exams. Spend about a month on each section of the test and a month to review what you learned. Study guides are available for the exams to help you target your studying. You can also find practice tests and questions online to give you an idea of what to expect for the test. Combine study methods to maximize your efforts, mixing private study and group study and reading from texts as well as utilizing the online practice tests and flash cards.

Review Courses

Taking a review course is very beneficial for the PHR and SPHR exams. Review courses are offered by different colleges and universities both online and in classrooms. The classes are taught by people who have taken and passed the exams themselves, so they will be able to point you toward the most useful information, give you some tips to help you during the testing process and help you understand the difference between the knowledge- and responsibility-based questions.

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