Ace Your SHRM Certification Exam: What to Expect on Exam Day


By Matt Davis August 22, 2019

Part 1: Learning How You Learn Best

Part 2: Recognizing the Symptoms of Anxiety

Part 3: What to Expect on Exam Day

The big event is right around the corner—the day you take the test for SHRM certification. Your last step is to be ready for what will actually happen at the testing center. Ace Your SHRM Certification Exam: A Guide to Success on the SHRM-CP® and SHRM-SCP® Exams, recently published by SHRM, features expert tips and practice questions that demystify the tests and improve one's ability to understand and prepare for them.

This short, easy-to-use guidebook is edited by Nancy A. Woolever, SHRM-SCP, SHRM's vice president of certification operations. It includes everything a candidate needs to know before taking either level of SHRM certification exam: best practices for studying, research-based advice for sharpening test-taking skills, proven strategies for managing pre-exam anxiety, tips from experts and already-certified professionals, detailed learning resources, answer keys for both exams, and guides to exam structure, terminology and acronyms, plus more.

Below is the last of three excerpts from this helpful publication. Use code ACE19 for an additional 20 percent off when you purchase it though the SHRMStore. Current SHRM credential-holders who read the book and pass a quiz will earn 3 professional development credits (PDCs) toward recertification.

You've worked very hard to prepare for the certification exam, and now the big day is almost here. Knowing what to expect at the test center can help you feel more comfortable and less nervous.

Your SHRM certification exam will be held at one of Prometric's highly secure testing centers. Prometric operates hundreds of test centers in more than 180 countries, typically in secure testing centers in office buildings and on college campuses.

Get to the Test Center Early

It's essential to arrive at the test center before the exam starts. The test administrator can deny access to latecomers. If that happens, you'll need to re-apply for the exam and pay another fee.

Schedule your time so you will arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes early, so you can settle in and be ready to go when the exam starts. It's a good idea to do a "dry run" a few days before the exam: drive or take public transportation to the test center and make a note of how long it takes you to get there. If you'll be driving, figure out where to park. Then give yourself extra time, in case traffic is heavy or public transit is slow on test day.

Rescheduling the Exam

If you can't make your original test date, you can reschedule the exam. There's no charge if you reschedule within the same testing window at least 30 days before the test date. Prometric charges a fee if you need to reschedule less than 30 days before the test date. If you cancel less than five days before the test, you will forfeit the fees and will need to re-apply for another exam window.

In cases of extreme weather or a national emergency, Prometric may need to cancel the exam. In that case, Prometric will reschedule you as soon as possible, and you won't be charged a fee for rescheduling.

Arriving at the Test Center

When you arrive at the test center, the test center administrator (TCA) will check you in. The TCA will ask you to show a valid photo identification (ID) and sign a logbook. Be sure you reread your Authorization to Test letter and review the Prometric website about acceptable forms of ID. Your photo ID must be current, so check it far in advance of your test date, in case it is about to expire.

You can expect a high level of security, not unlike the security you encounter at an airport. Bring only what you need into the testing center, because you'll need to leave all your personal belongings—except your ID, eyeglasses and locker key—in a locker. That includes your phone and any jewelry, except wedding and engagement rings. The TCA will provide notepaper and pen or pencil or dry-erase board and markers, so you can make notes during the test.

Before you enter the testing room, the TCA will inspect your eyeglasses, hair clips, ties and any other accessories for camera devices that could be used to capture exam content. It's a good idea to leave items such as ornate clips, combs, barrettes, headbands, tie clips and cufflinks behind, because you might not be allowed to wear them into the testing room. The TCA might ask you to turn out your pockets, and you might also be "wanded" or asked to go through a metal detector.

Although these inspections are thorough, they take only a few seconds. They will be repeated when you return from breaks to ensure you do not violate any security protocols.

Additional Tips

  • Use the restroom: It's a good idea to use the restroom before you enter the testing room. The certification exam is 4 hours and 15 minutes long, and there are no scheduled breaks. You may take a break if you need one, but you may not leave the testing facility, will have to go through security again, and will not be given extra time on the exam. That said, before going back to the items you flagged for review, it might be a good idea to take an unscheduled break to use the restroom, splash water on your face, stretch, or loosen up tense shoulders.
  • Ask for headphones: Blocking out noise can help you concentrate during the exam. You will not be allowed to bring your own earplugs or headphones, but the test center will provide noise-blocking earphones if you need them. Just ask for noise-canceling headsets when you check in.
  • Testing accommodations: SHRM and Prometric are fully committed to providing reasonable accommodations for any medical condition that constitutes a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Not only SHRM test-takers: Not everyone at the testing center will be taking a SHRM certification exam. In fact, the person on one side of you might be taking a CPA [Certified Public Accountant] exam, while the person on your right might be taking a cosmetology exam. The various exams are likely to take differing amounts of time, so you can expect that people taking other exams will come and go during your exam period.

Additional Online Resources


Matt Davis is manager of book publishing at SHRM.

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

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


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