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The Best PHR & SPHR Study Guides - 2023

Article by Jane Newsom. Last Updated: Saturday, Sep 23, 2023.

Overview Of The PHR Exam

The Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certifications from the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI), can be a great way to advance your career. They signal a mastery of theoretical and practical aspects of the human resources field, including important US regulations and laws.

The exam itself can be quite challenging, and costs nearly $500 in total. Given the costs (both time and money) associated with taking the exam, it’s in your best interest to ace it on your first attempt, and there are tons of resources that can help you do just that.

We’ll cover the exam in detail, and give you our picks for the best PHR & SPHR study guides, review guides, and flashcards for test year 2021 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:

PHR Exam Details

The PHR Exam is composed of 175 questions, and lasts up to 3 hours. There are 5 major functional areas covered in the exam, each of which makes up between 10% and 39% of the total exam content.

Questions can be any of the 4 following types:

  • Traditional Multiple Choice (4 choices with 1 correct answer)
  • Multiple Choice With Multiple Response (2 or more correct answers)
  • Fill In The Blank
  • Drag And Drop
  • Scenarios

Of the 175 questions, 25 are not scored and a being piloted for future exams. You won’t know which 25 questions these are, so all should be answered to the best of your ability.

A passing grade for the PHR is 500 out of 700 points (71.4%).

Exam Sections

The 5 functional areas and their percentage of test questions are as follows:

  • Business Management (20%)
  • Talent Planning and Acquisition (16%)
  • Learning and Development (10%)
  • Total Rewards (15%)
  • Employee and Labor Relations (39%)

Additional detail on each of the sections is provided below.

Function 1: Business Management

The Business Management function includes topics such as:

  • Interpret and apply industry best practices
  • Reinforce organizational values
  • Recommend best practices to minimize risk

Function 2: Talent Planning and Acquisition

In the Talent Planning and Acquisition function, topics such as these are covered:

  • Understand federal laws and organizational policies
  • Developing sourcing methods
  • Execute talent acquisition lifecycle

Function 3: Learning and Development

In the Learning and Development section, topics covered may include:

  • Provide guidance to management and employees on professional development opportunities
  • Implement career development training programs
  • Contribute to succession planning discussions

Function 4: Total Rewards

The Total Rewards section includes topics such as:

  • Managing compensation-related information
  • Promote awareness of non-cash rewards
  • Implement benefits programs
  • Administer federally compliant benefits programs

Function 5: Employee and Labor Relations

The Employee and Labor Relations section consists of:

  • Analyze effectiveness at each stage in the employee lifecycle
  • Analyze employee engagement data
  • Understand organizational culture, theory, and practices

PHR Frequent Questions

How Do I Study For The PHR Exam?

The PHR Exam requires a combination of on the job experience, and self study. As with most exams, a comprehensive Study Guide and Study Plan are the best way to focus your limited study time.

How Do You Get A PHR Certification?

The PHR Certification is a 2 step process:

Step 1: Apply for Certification. Prerequisites:

  • 1 year experience in a professional HR position plus a masters degree - OR -
  • 2 years experience in a professional HR position plus a bachelor’s degree - OR -
  • 4 years of experience in a professional HR position with less than a bachelor’s degree

Step 2: Take the exam within 120 days of your approval to test.

How Long Is The PHR Exam?

The PHR Exam is 175 multiple format questions long, and you’re allowed at most 3 hours to complete it.

How Much Does the PHR Exam Cost?

The PHR Exam costs $495 in total, which includes a $100 Application Fee, and a $395 exam fee.

What Is A Passing Score For The PHR Exam?

The PHR requires a score of 500 / 700 to pass, which is 71.4%.

Best PHR Study Guides

PHR / SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide

PHR / SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide
5th Edition
by Reed & Bogardus

Pros: Extremely comprehensive and thorough review of key material.
Cons: Can be overly wordy in some places.
Our Rating: 5.0 / 5

PHR / SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide is our top pick for best PHR study guide, and is one of the best selling and highest rated PHR exam prep books available. As the name suggests, it’s suitable for assisting with preparation for either the PHR or SPHR and does a good job with both exams. The full list of features include:

  • Practice exams for both the PHR and SPHR.
  • Includes flashcards and ancillary PDF materials.
  • Fully addresses key topics covered by the exam.

The flashcards and supporting materials are downloadable from the web, and do a reasonable job of being useful. Our review guide roundup is full of awesome books for PHR exam takers, but this one takes the cake overall due to it’s well organized and thorough contents. It’s also well produced, and feels very professional in terms of editing, etc.

PHR Study Guide

PHR Study Guide
3rd Edition
by Trivium Test Prep

Pros: Good overall review for people who don't need a ton of in-depth study.
Cons: Content is thin on some topics.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

PHR Study Guide didn’t make the top of our list, but it’s still a completely viable resource for people preparing for the PHR. It does a good job of covering key topics and has practice questions that are similar in difficulty to what you should expect on the PHR exam. The full list of features include:

  • A detailed overview of important test topics.
  • Practice questions for you to practice and improve.
  • Test tips and strategies to help you score higher.

If you’re looking to supplement your exam study materials, or you already have a good handle on the material and just want a quicker overview, this book is a great choice. It’s not quite as thorough as our top choice above, but can still get the job done!

PHR Exam Secrets

PHR Exam Secrets
Stg Edition
by Mometrix

Pros: Good number of practice questions and topic coverage.
Cons: Summary is fairly high level and not extremely in-depth.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

PHR Exam Secrets is another great resource for PHR takers. It contains a full high level review of PHR Exam topics, and comes with plenty of useful practice questions. Features include:

  • A high level review of the PHR exam key topics.
  • Comprehensive practice questions with detailed answer explanations.
  • Test taking tips and tricks to help you tackle all question types you’ll find on the exam.

PHR Exam Secrets is clearly organized and presents the material in an easily understandable format. The main reason this guide doesn’t place higher on the list is the ver high-level nature of the review sections. This is completely fine if that’s what you’re looking for, but if you need a more thorough review consider the guide at the top of the list.

PHR Study Guide 2023-2024

PHR Study Guide
Standard Edition
by Test Prep Books

Pros: Lots of useful and relevant practice questions.
Cons: Not as in-depth as other guides on this list.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5

PHR Study Guide 22023-2024 is another fairly abbreviated study guide, relative to our top pick above. There’s about 200 pages of content in the book compared to 600 in our top choice (PHR / SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide). That said, if you’re not looking for a complete and in-depth resource, and just want a general overview as a refresher, this is a decent pick! Features include:

  • Quick overview of all key test topics.
  • Detailed questions and answer explanations.
  • Includes review test with realistic test questions

If you have a good handle on the material already, and are just looking for practice questions and an idea of what you’ll encounter on test day, this book is a great bet. It’s especially useful for last minute review and ensuring you’re well prepared for the format and difficulty of actual questions.

Best PHR Flashcards

In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, aspiring PHR candidates will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards. Our top picks for Best PHR Flashcards are outlined below.

PHR Exam Flashcard Study System

PHR Exam Flashcard Study System
Flc Edition
by Mometrix

Pros: Comprehensive list of terms covering major exam topics.
Cons: Cards are relatively dense and contain a lot of info.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

The PHR Exam: Flash Cards is our top pick for flashcards to help you prepare for the PHR exam. It has over 350 cards containing tons of information across all test topics. Key features include:

  • Over 350 flashcards.
  • Covers all major topics and themes covered by the exam.

Flashcards have a tremendous benefit for students who elect to use them in their test preparation. Repetitive drilling on major topics is a good way to help in the days leading up to the exam. If you plan to pick up flashcards to help in your studies, these are your best bet!

Wrapping Up

For Human Resources Professionals, the PHR Exam can be the key to higher pay, more responsibility, and tons of other benefits. Study manuals, flashcards, and practice tests are a huge help to many people, and if you’ve read this far you’re probably one of them.

We’ve rounded up the best PHR Exam study guides and flashcards and presented them above. To recap our recommendations:

Top Study Guide RecommendationPHR / SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide
Top Flashcard RecommendationPHR Exam Flashcard Study System

Our top pick for best PHR Study Guide is PHR / SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide. It’s the most comprehensive and accurate guide on our list, and has the best practice questions and other resources included.

For top flashcard pick, we recommend PHR Exam Flashcard Study System. It’s got over 350 highly relevant cards covering all topics from the exam.

Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best PHR resources available. Good luck, and study hard!

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