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The Importance of Connecting with Your Local SHRM Chapter and State Council to Prepare for Certification

Membership, volunteerism, community, professional development and certification test prep—all in one place


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​In July, we began a series of feature articles focusing on the benefits of belonging to a local SHRM chapter and becoming involved with the state council where you live. The benefits are innumerable in the varied ways they support your individual professional development. This series focuses on SHRM certification test preparation and test-taking tips from chapter and state council members. 

This month's feature article discusses helpful add-ons to your study plan and additional strategies for success—like leveraging your network and using flashcards and notecards. As a reminder to read the entire series, note that in October, we'll talk about finishing your study plan—especially by leveraging practice tests—and gearing up for test day. In the final article in November, the discussion will focus on the days immediately preceding your testing appointment and test day itself, so you can center yourself, put aside negative thinking and be ready when test day arrives. 

Remember: SHRM certification is completely achievable. Also, remember that you are in good company, because there are about 15,000 other studiers preparing to take a SHRM certification exam in the next testing window starting in December.

If you plan to take the exam in the upcoming test window, Dec. 1 through Feb. 15, 2024, it's time to schedule your appointment! Schedule your exam for the time of day when you are the most energized. Keep in mind that most test-takers take the exam in the final two weeks of the window—so if that is your plan, make your appointment now before the testing slots for those days are used by others. 

We hope this series of tips from SHRM chapters and state councils will aid you on your own certification journey. These tips come directly from chapter or state council members who teach or who have been part of a local study group. 

Leverage Your Network: Mentors and Advisors

Many previous test-takers from SHRM chapters and state councils advise that connecting with other HR professionals who have taken the exams can be incredibly helpful. They can provide insights and advice you may not have thought of yourself. HR professionals are skilled at leveraging their professional networks—and this includes identifying mentors and advisors to help guide your certification journey.

Test-takers noted that conferring with mentors and advisors is the most effective way to navigate the situational judgment items on the exams. Focus discussions to broaden your experience base by asking mentors and advisors the kinds of problems they have solved or the decisions they have made by relying on the subcompetencies and proficiency indicators of the nine behavioral competencies.
This sage advice comes directly from mentors and advisors who regularly engage at the chapter and state council level to provide guidance to HR pros preparing to take the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. Consider which of these additional tips can help you achieve your certification goal:

  • Your journey is not that of another. If one method of learning that appears to work well for someone else does not work for you, be willing to explore another method with the help of others in your network.
  • Don't give up until you've reached your goal of achieving SHRM certification.
  • Serve on a state council or chapter board, where you will have access to many experienced HR professionals and gain access to certification programs.
  • Ask your study group leader to pair study group members with a mentor, someone who has recently obtained their certification. Being able to talk to someone about their study habits and test-taking experience is a valuable resource.
  • Try something completely new to you to support your mental health and well-being as you prepare. 
  • Looking to try a new relaxation technique to combat test anxiety? Try "forest bathing"! This Japanese practice is a process of relaxation. The simple method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, observing nature around you whilst breathing deeply, can help both adults and children de-stress and boost health and well-being in a natural way.
  • Need a reward? Use social media and TV (any distractors) as a reward or treat for when you have reached your daily or weekly study goals.
  • If taking the SHRM-SCP, remember that the test questions were written by other SHRM-certified professionals already working at the strategic or executive levels; questions and answers will align with strategic-level thinking. Connect with someone at that level if you're hitting a wall.
  • Mentors bring fresh perspectives: When I had areas that weren't so familiar to me, I used several mentors who had their certification and had been in the field longer than myself. They were able to review various examples, look at my test results to see where I was struggling and truly help me grasp different ideas/techniques to re-engineer my preparation plan for success. 
  • Find an accountability partner who encourages you throughout the process. 

All About Flashcards and Notecards

One tip-giver summed it up this way:  "Two words—flash cards!" Enhance your study plan with these important study tools. Chapter members and state council members have these recommendations to maximize study time using these invaluable resources.

Even though fewer test-takers used notecards, the ones who did shared this valuable advice.

  • I kept a separate legal pad specifically to take notes on the items mentioned as likely to be on the test, or have been on the test before. It really helped me focus on what to prepare for before the test.
  • Notecards were very helpful for me to learn new terminology and think about how they might appear as test questions.
  • Take notes on the thoughts you have as you study. Re-read them.
  • Having a notepad and writing down concepts or information that you find more difficult to grasp.
  • It might be "old-school," but it works: notecards. And take them everywhere with you.  When standing in line or waiting for the kids to finish practice, pull them out and quiz yourself. 

Many said flash cards are particularly useful to study the 14 HR functional areas tested from the SHRM BASK, and the key concepts of the nine behavioral competencies form the SHRM BASK, which is tested through foundational knowledge items on the exams. Here is all the advice we received about how, when and why to use flash cards.

  • Use all the resources the online portal has to offer, including sample questions and flashcards. You can even review flash cards when you are standing in line at various places.
  • Continually cycle through flash cards during the two weeks leading up to the exam. When you've mastered a knowledge area, remove the flash card from your review rotation.
  • Have someone else quiz you using your flash card sets.
  • Flash cards were particularly helpful to me to master content areas: use both the ones in the SHRM Learning System and the ones from Lori Kleiman if you need a solid, non-SHRM source of flashcards.
  • The leader of our chapter study group and other chapter members also recommended making flash cards to test yourself.
  • Make your own flash cards!  It really helps to write out flash cards and then consistently go over them.
  • Use flash cards to write down questions and the answers to things that are not sticking.
  • In addition to the SHR- supplied books that come with the SHRM Learning System as an upgrade and online resources, making myself flashcards also helped tremendously.
  • Use flashcards for quick reviews when you have 10 minutes here and there.  The more exposure to terms and definitions, the better. Quizlet, an online flash card tool, can also help you prepare.
  • Being a visual person, I found that drawing a little doodle about the thing I was trying to memorize and putting it on a flash card made it easier for me to picture that doodle later during their exam and remember all the information connected to that drawing.
  • Flash cards were my saving grace! I used them to study, but also to take notes as I went through each section of each book. This also helped with memorization of the material. Highly recommend flash cards!
  • Using SHRM's online tools, including flash cards, because they are very helpful and really cement information.
  • Using flash cards can be incredibly helpful in assisting with passing the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams.
  • Create your own flash cards. This helps you build memory retention as you create the cards and further strengthens the retention by practicing with the cards. Focus on vocabulary and abbreviations.
  • If you have a study partner, help each other practice using flash cards so you can home in on the material that you really need to study. Do this often during your study period, and on the day of the test, you can breathe easy because you will think to yourself, "I've got this!" 

Remember—the exam is half knowledge and half experience.  Flash cards and notecards are perfect for mastering knowledge, but only your own experience or discussing mentors' and advisors' experiences will expand your own experience base. 

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