I am interested in obtaining a HR certification and had a few questions for you. What do you recommend is the best way to prepare for the exam besides professional experience? I’ve been in the HR profession for about 4 years now and studied human resource management in college. Do you recommend buying study guides? What about the weekly courses/classes?
First things first, I believe that it’s helpful to study prior to taking a certification exam. That being said, I also believe that study habits are very personal. What worked for me, might not be the best path for someone else. If you’re considering any kind of certification, here are a few things to consider:
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. 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.
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 professional association 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.
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. Other people might have a totally different opinion. You’ll have to decide what’s best for you.
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 course syllabus to ensure you’re signing up for the right program. Also, check with your employer to see if prep courses are covered under tuition reimbursement or professional development.
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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 a certification exam, what advice can you provide?
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA0