Myth-Busting the SHRM Certification Exam: Part 2

The top 10 misconceptions that detract from success, debunked

By Nancy A. Woolever, SHRM-SCP September 26, 2019
Myth-Busting the SHRM Certification Exam: Part 2

​Urban legends. Bad advice. Misinformation. There are too many myths circulating about the SHRM certification exam that we've heard in personal anecdotes or read on online discussion forums. We busted the first of these myths in the previous issue. Now we'll debunk the rest of the top 10. These corrected misconceptions pertain to both the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams.

Myth No. 4: Memorize words and definitions.
False! The exam is not a vocabulary test.

Of course, it is helpful to know what key concepts and terms mean. But most of the knowledge items on the exam require you to know how to apply those concepts and terms. To answer those questions correctly, you must be able to use your knowledge to solve a problem, predict an outcome by analyzing and interpreting information, or demonstrate your understanding and comprehension of a concept (by, for example, comparing it with another).


Myth No. 5: Look out for clues and patterns that will lead you to the right answer.
False! There are no hints in the questions and no designs in the responses overall.

Don't believe advice encouraging you to always choose the longer answer, not the shorter one; always choose the answer that describes the long-term solution, not the immediate or short-term one; and never repeat an A, B, C or D answer so many times in a row.

Each question stands on its own. Any perceived pattern or design in the answers as a whole is random and has no bearing on whether a particular answer is right or wrong.

Here's what you should do: Read each question carefully. Read all four possible answers carefully. Eliminate the ones that are clearly incorrect. Trust your first impressions and make a choice. You will receive credit for each correct response on the 130 scored items. (Reminder: The unidentified 30 field-test items are not scored.)


Myth No. 6: Look out for trick questions and phrases that will lead you to the wrong answer.
False! There are no misleading questions nor is there misleading language on the exam.

The exam-item writers are specifically instructed to avoid imprecise phrasings and exceptional concepts in developing the questions, so you don't have to be wary of such words as "before," "after," "always," "never," "except" and the like. You won't find "none of the above" or "all of the above" as response options.

If you don't know the answer, make an educated guess. Credit is not deducted for a wrong answer; it is only given for a correct one. Because there is no penalty, there is no harm in guessing.


Myth No. 7: Look for hidden meanings.
False! Don't overthink or mistrust the questions.
They are just as straightforward as they appear to be. The questions are indeed asking what they seem to be asking. They're not "really" about something else, unsaid or implied.


Myth No. 8: Assume a "best-case scenario" with a great boss, unlimited resources and everyone's cooperation.
False! Answer only the question asked in the context of the situation actually presented.

Each situational-judgment-item scenario is different. If the situation involves a great boss, the question will describe a great boss. If the situation involves a terrible boss, the question will describe a terrible boss. Answer accordingly, without any preconceived notions.

Do think about HR best practices, your experiences as an HR professional, and HR knowledge and competencies as defined in the SHRM BoCK™.


Myth No. 9: Every time you answer a question correctly, the next question will be more difficult.
False! This is not a dynamic exam like some other standardized tests.

Dynamic exams present successively more-difficult questions after the previous question is answered correctly. The SHRM exam is neither built nor administered in this way.


Myth No. 10: If you do well on practice tests, you'll pass the exam.
False! Practice tests are a preview, not a prediction.

Your ability to answer practice questions correctly will not necessarily translate into passing the actual, live exam. Good practice scores give you confidence, but they can't predict how well you will score on test day.

Use the results of your performance on practice tests to identify areas that need improvement. Study those areas to increase your knowledge and understanding and become more confident.


Check out SHRM Certification Update's earlier myth-busting!

Nancy A. Woolever, MAIS, SHRM-SCP, is SHRM's vice president of certification operations and the editor of Ace Your SHRM Certification Exam: A Guide to Success on the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP Exams (SHRM, 2019).

For more information on SHRM Certification, and to register for the exam, please visit our website.

Already SHRM-certified? Be sure to maintain your credential by recertifying. Learn more about recertification activities here.


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