SHRM to Roll Out New Assessment Exam for HR Students

By SHRM Online staff November 23, 2010
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is launching a new assessment exam for graduating college students in May 2011.

SHRM members who are hiring managers “should rely on this as the universal benchmark to show that recent graduates have acquired the minimum knowledge to be a successful HR practitioner,” said Nancy Woolever, SPHR, director of academic initiatives at SHRM.

The four-hour assessment will be restricted to students who have taken requisite HR courses. Passing the assessment will:

  • Demonstrate that a student has acquired the knowledge required for entry-level HR work.
  • Provide a means for HR students who pass the exit exam to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
  • Help universities meet their accrediting body’s assurance-of-learning requirements.

The exam is part of SHRM’s long-range strategy for its Academic Initiative, according to Woolever. SHRM is urging HR professionals to start looking for mention of the certificate on the resumes of recent graduates as soon as summer 2011.

Undergraduate students and graduate students in HR or HR-related degree programs are eligible to take the exam beginning one year before graduation and ending one year after graduation. Any applicant who meets the eligibility requirements will be given authorization to test with information about selecting a test-taking site.

The test will consist of 160 multiple choice questions that will cover 18 HR-related content areas; it reflects HR content areas in SHRM’s HR Curriculum guidelines.

The primary way students should prepare is through completion of coursework toward a degree in HR or in an HR-related program, according to SHRM. However, materials will be available in March 2011 to help students study for the exam. The materials will include source content used to write test questions, 160 practice questions, an answer key and rationale for the correct answers, and test-taking tips, Woolever said.

Registration for the exam opens January 2011, and the computer-based exam will be administered at Prometric test centers around the world. In 2011, the exam will be conducted during three test “windows” of May 15-June 15, July 15-Aug. 15 and Oct. 15-Nov. 15. A student who does not pass may retake the test during a different test window within their eligibility period.

Students will receive a passing score report in addition to the Certificate of Learning; universities and colleges will receive pass/fail information and student scores. The pass rate will be ​decided in March 2011, Woolever said.

Creating the Exam

SHRM commissioned the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to conduct a series of studies in 2009 with 272 HR faculty members and 399 HR practitioners to identify important HR topics and knowledge areas the exam should cover.

Ninety-one percent of faculty members and 89 percent of HR practitioners that AIR contacted believed strongly that employers who hire new HR staff will appreciate job candidates passing an HR assessment.

AIR, in conjunction with SHRM staff, will be responsible for preparing the exam and tracking quality assurance, performing psychometric analyses and scoring, developing support materials for the test, and setting performance standards of the test.

A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is guiding many of the decisions about the test’s structure, content, administration and scoring policies. The TAC chair is Wayne F. Cascio, who chaired the SHRM Foundation in 2007, received the Michael R. Losey Human Resource Research Award from SHRM in 2010, has written or edited more than 20 books on HR management and is a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources. The 10-person committee includes Susan R. Meisinger, SPHR, J.D., former president and CEO of SHRM.

Details on the new test were shared at the SHRM Leadership Conference in November 2010 and during the SHRM Assurance of Learning Town Hall Meeting held in June 2010 in San Diego. In addition, SHRM will promote the exam among its student chapters and among universities and colleges.

Information on the exam’s background and purpose, content areas tested, how to prepare for the exam, eligibility and registration can be found at


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