HR Certification Podcast Episode 3: Answering HRCI and SHRM Test Questions

Welcome to the HR Certification Podcast, a podcast for HR leaders working towards their human resources certification with HRCI and SHRM. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of and HR certification prep program, Ace The HR Exam as she shares study tips, exam insights, and topical review for HR exams, including the aPHR, PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, and SHRM-SCP. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of the HR Certification Podcast.

HR Certification Podcast Episode 3: Answering HRCI and SHRM Test Questions

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:38.70] Hello, Hello, Hello. Hi, and welcome to the HR Certification Podcast. I’m your host, Jessica Miller-Merrell, and I am so excited to have you here today. My mission, purpose, and passion is elevating the human resources industry. And in the HR Certification Podcast, which is what you’re listening to right now, I help HR leaders in personal and professional development solely focused on HR certifications with SHRM and HRCI. This podcast is powered by Workology and our HR certification prep courses and resources. If you’d like to learn more about them, visit I have so many resources over there for you at the website. Now before I dive into today’s podcast, I want to hear from you. Send me a text to “HR CERTIFICATION” to 512-548-3005. You can ask comments, leave questions, make suggestions. I am looking for all the resources and the things that you need to help be successful in your HR certification exam. So send me a text to that number. Let me know. Give me your feedback.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:01:56.31] In every single episode, I cover information and resources to help you ace your HR certification exams. This podcast is designed to be short and to the point so you can get your review in and move on. I know you all are busy. Now, the HR Certification Podcast is divided into different segments. In each episode, we will address a common question or topical area that HR leaders have as they’re getting ready for their HR certification exams. I’ll also review an HR glossary term and finally walk you through an HR certification exam question. All that in really 15 minutes. Again, the HR Certification Podcast is designed for SHRM and HRCI, and that includes the aPHR, the PHR, the SPHR, the SHRM-CP, and the SHRM-SCP. I have a whole host of resources in the transcriptions of each and every podcast. So go to, grab the full transcript of this podcast, and get access to more of the resources and other things I talk about in detail to help support you.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:06.46] In this episode, we’re talking about test questions. It is so important whether it is SHRM or HRCI, you need to have a test question strategy. This is going to help you understand how to get through that exam in the shortest amount of time, but also select the best answer or the one that you think has the most likely chance to be the correct one. Now, I’m going to talk a little bit about what to expect in the exams, what’s included and what’s not included, because this is important in your test question strategy. But what I would encourage you to do is to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. I encourage you to do a self-assessment. This self-assessment is going to help you identify the topical areas that are most likely to be on the exam that you struggle with. Every HR person is different, which is why I encourage this.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:04:04.94] Let’s get into our first segment where we are talking about test questions for SHRM and HRCI. Every single exam is different and that includes aPHR, the PHR, the SPHR, and then the SHRM-CP and the SHRM-SCP. They’re all different. If you are not sure where to start and I mean what best exam you qualify for, maybe you have arrived here at this podcast episode. Go to, and you can take our seven qu-stion quiz. It’s going to help you understand which exam you qualify for and which one is right for you. I include all the resources for all certifications with HRCI and SHRM. We have it in a single place. So let’s start with the test. I’m going to start with SHRM first and for the SHRM exams, I’m talking about the CP, the Certified Professional, and the SCP, the Senior Certified Professional. Expect the following: multiple-choice questions. You will need a 200 score to pass the exam, and I’m going to include some information in the show notes about what that actually means. So go to for more information. So you are going to have 4 hours to complete the exam. It is divided into two sections, all right? Still thinking about SHRM here. There are 158 questions and then you’re going to have an eight-minute survey.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:30.44] All right. 24 of the test questions are going to be non-scoring. They don’t score those questions. These are sample questions that SHRM is testing out to maybe use in future exams. So you’re not going to know really what ones are those. Now, when it comes to SHRM, there are two different types of test questions. There is knowledge questions and situational judgment test questions. Let’s break down knowledge questions first. These test your knowledge around competencies such as people, organization, and workplace, as well as strategy topic areas associated with the SHRM body of applied skills and knowledge, the BASK. These are foundational knowledge items that are going to be covered. And yes, behavioral competency areas are also covered. But in each test question, there’s only four possible answers and only one is absolutely correct. So that’s your knowledge test questions. Let’s move on to the situational judgment test questions. These are tricky. These assess your judgment and decision-making skills associated with different scenarios, like a couple of paragraphs. These call for the application of, primarily, the behavioral competencies. These are going to test your decision-making skills and present scenarios that outline a work situation that an HR professional may find themselves in. I find that these are complex and you will need to work through the scenarios to assess the best answer, not your answer, but the best answer. Again, each question has four solutions with only one possible response that is correct. All viable solutions are options oftentimes that you would maybe pick in your workplace, but there’s only one correct answer to receive the full credit, to be able to pass, to have that 200 passing score. We’re going to explore these situational judgment test questions a little bit more in detail. We’ll go through one as we walk through a test question today. So 80 questions are scored as the knowledge base questions. All right. In the SHRM-CP and the SHRM-SCP and 54 questions are situational judgment test questions. This is true for both the exams and I am talking about the 2023 testing window and beyond. SHRM has the spring and winter testing window. All of this information will work for at least the next 12 months. We include all this information and resources that are in the current testing window at our So if you’re like I don’t understand what a testing window is, go to, click on HR Certification and I have information like fees, costs, all the things when it comes to SHRM in one single place.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:08:25.10] Now moving on to HRCI, let’s first talk about the aPHR. The aPHR, which is the Associate Professional of Human Resources has the following things on its exam: 65 multi-choice questions and knowledge question format. This takes an hour and 45 minutes to complete the exam. That’s the time that you have and you’re going to have a five-minute survey. You will also have these 25 additional non-scoring test questions. These are test questions that they’re trying out for future exams. When it comes to testing, you’re going to apply with HRCI, this goes for all exams, and you will get your approval to test letter. You have 180 days from when that letter arrives to take the exam. A pass is a 500 score or above. They use weighted scoring. If you’re unsure what that means and how it’s calculated, I have resources. I’m going to put in the transcript of this podcast. You can go to and get all the resources. I want to switch now to the PHR and the SPR. These two are similar in terms of the exam. They both still have multiple-choice and knowledge-based questions. They also have weighted scoring. There is a survey as well as 25 non-scoring questions with the requirement of taking that 180 days to schedule and take your exam once you receive that approval to test letter. Now for the SPHR, there are 140 test questions and you have two and one half hours to complete the exam. The content with the SPHR is the same content, but it is more strategic. I talk more about what types of content is on the exam over at You can head over to, grab the HR Certification resource page there and you’ll get everything you need to know about HRCI exams specifically in terms of the content. I think that’s incredibly important for you to be familiar with. And just to be clear, if you’re listening to this podcast after 2023, it is always changing.

Break: [00:10:43.29] Let’s head into the reset. I know this was a fast review, but it takes time. So we’re going to move into our next segment here at the HR Certification Podcast, powered by Workology. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Workology offers HR certification prep courses and resources. You can learn more about these courses and prep resources by visiting You can also head over to We have a variety of prep resources. I have things like physical products like flashcards and study guides, along with courses for different types of learners, all different types. Most importantly, I want these courses to be accessible for you wherever and whenever you need them. All our courses are available on-demand and they’re also accessible on our very own Workology app, which is available for Android, I don’t forget you guys, and iPhone users like me. Before we get back to the review, please know I want to hear from you. Text the words “HR CERTIFICATION” to 512-548-3005. You can ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future podcasts like this one here. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.

HR Glossary Term(s) – Non-exempt and Exempt Employee

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:11:55.77] So let’s head into our next segment. We’re moving into this new segment. It’s a special segment that I think is incredibly important on the HR Certification Podcast. I’m going to review a glossary term and we do at least one glossary term for every single episode. These are all human resources terms and definitions that are covered as part of the knowledge base for SHRM and HRCI exams, whether it’s the body of applied skills and knowledge for SHRM or the body of knowledge for RCI. So I want you to become familiar with these terms. They’re part of both knowledge bases, but it’s also important for you to know that you need to be really familiar. That means repeatedly reviewing this material, maybe teaching someone else. I encourage you to learn using different learning styles, which is why we have audio lessons in our Ace The HR Exam. We have short-form video, we have flashcards, digital flashcards, physical flashcards, and longer lecture content. I like focusing on a single topic area so they can master that. It’s often an area that is something you’re struggling with and is most likely to be on the exam. For example, talent acquisition. This might be a, not a strong point for you, so just focus on talent acquisition and I encourage you to do that over and over and over again. This helps you structure your focus. You don’t have to follow the book. You focus on what is your weakest point that’s most likely on the exam.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:13:28.83] Let’s move into that glossary term review. I’m going to mention a short description. Today, we are reviewing two different terms that go together and honestly, sometimes they’re confusing for people. These terms are non-exempt and exempt employee. In the United States, the term non-exempt and exempt refer to different categories of employees as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act. That’s your FLSA. So a non-exempt employee is entitled to receive overtime pay for any hours work beyond 40 in a workweek. They are entitled to things like minimum wage, meal, and rest breaks. Non-exempt employees are typically hourly workers. They’re paid by the hour and their pay must be tracked by the employer. So here are some examples of non-exempt employees: retail workers, administrative staff, and customer service representatives. So think about maybe somebody that you’ve encountered today that would be considered a non-exempt employee. On the flip side, exempt employees in the United States are exempt. They don’t receive overtime pay or other rights like minimum wage, meals or break time. Exempt employees are typically salaried and are not required to have their hours or their pay tracked by their employer. But a lot of us do for various reasons. Examples of exempt employees include: managers, executives, and professionals. These could be people like doctors or lawyers to be classified as exempt, this employee must meet certain criteria, such as a minimum salary threshold. And this is also things like performing specific job duties, and they must be paid on a salary basis. Employers that don’t follow this are subject to penalties, which is called misclassifying employees. So this is when you misclassify somebody as an exempt when they should be a non-exempt and an hourly employee. So that is exempt and non-exempt employees.

HR Test Question Review for SHRM and HRCI Certification Exams 

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:15:43.24] All right. My favorite part of the review, it is here. So we’re moving into the special segment of the HR Certification Podcast where we review an HR test question. You’re not going to get this anywhere else. We do this for every single episode. These test questions are covered in the knowledge base for SHRM and HRCI. So this test question is good for both. Before I share the question, I want to give you a quick review of our HR test question framework. If you want to know more about this. This is over on our Workology YouTube channel. I’m going to link to the video and our channel in the transcript of this podcast episode, which is available at So there are five steps to this HR test question framework. Step one is to read the question slowly and concisely. I don’t want you reading the question a million times. Step two is to identify the HR competency in the test question that they’re asking. Step three, eliminate wrong answers. Step four is WWFWD or WWSD. What would SHRM or HRCI do if they were answering this question? We have to get ourselves out of us as HR practitioners and think like SHRM or HRCI. So once you’ve eliminated the wrong things or the things that don’t work for you. Step five is going with your gut. All right, That’s the five-step framework.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:17:07.57] So let’s get to that test question, all right? An employee earning $32,000 per year supervises two employees and spends 35 hours per week on job duties that require discretion and independent judgment. Which of the following applies to this employee? What do you think? Is it A) They’re exempt based on the administrative exemption test. Or are they B) Exempt based on the executive exemption test. Or are they C) Non-exempt Or D) Non-exempt based on the salary basis requirement. What do you think the answer is here? So I’m going to reread the question for you and give you the options again, in case you missed it, because that was a lot. Question:

An employee earning $32,000 per year supervises two employees and spends 35 hours per week on job duties. And these job duties require discretion and independent judgment. So which of the following applies to this employee?

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:30.13] That’s our question. And your options are:

A) Is the employee exempt base on the administrative exemption test.

B) They’re exempt based on the executive exemption test.

C) They’re just non-exempt.

D) Non-exempt based on the salary basis requirement.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:55.38] So, the answer is D) Salary basis requirement. They’re exempt based on the salary basis requirement. If you’re like, I don’t know what the salary basis requirement is or the FLSA, write it down, make a note because you need to review these materials. There have been changes to the FLSA thresholds. However, this change is more than two years old and it is likely to be on the exam. Any content that is older than two years, employment law or just topically, they will include on the exam. So it’s been more than two years since FLSA updated their thresholds. So be, be advised. And if you didn’t get this one right, don’t worry, just make a note and I suggest you add this topic to your daily review. Just review the FLSA. Become familiar with the exemption test. I do have more questions like this one and others that you can access. In fact, I have 25 free test questions that you can access at Go to and access it, free 25 test questions delivered right to your email box. So good, so fun. Test questions are so important.

Closing: [00:20:09.07] HR certification in my mind is such an important step in your career. Whether you are looking to increase your HR knowledge, gain credibility at the office or increase your income potential. Or maybe you just want to prove to yourself that you deserve to be here. Because I know that you do. You do. You deserve to be here in HR. Together, let’s elevate the HR profession. I want to thank you for joining me on this episode of the HR Certification Podcast. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. I help HR leaders ace their HR certification exams and I want to do the same for you. You know, Workology offers a host of courses and resources to help you ace your HR certification exam. You can go to and learn more about how we help you with HR certification prep. And we do that for the aPHR, the PHR, the SPHR, the SHRM-CP, and the SHRM-SCP exams. Before we go, if you have a question or suggestion or maybe a podcast topic for a future episode, I would love to hear from you for the HR Certification Podcast. Send me a text. Text the word “HR CERTIFICATION” to 512-548-3005. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. Thank you so much for joining this episode of the HR Certification Podcast. I hope this helps you plan out your study schedule, your plan of attack, your approach, whatever it is for you to have that pass of whichever HR certification exam. Best of luck to you. Let me know how I can support you in your HR certification study and prep efforts. Have a great day.



– HR Certification Quiz 

– Workology on Youtube | HR Test Question Framework

 – Workology on Youtube | What is a Passing Score on the SHRM and HRCI Exams 

– HR Certification: SHRM and HRCI 

– HR Certification Podcast Episode 0: Deciding Between aPHR, PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP Exams

– HR Certification Podcast Episode 1: How to Study for your HRCI and SHRM Exams

 – HR Certification Podcast Episode 2: Reviewing Business and Strategy

– Workology Podcast | Ep 161 – The Value of HR Certification: #HRCI or #SHRM?

– Workology Podcast | Ep 210 – How to Ace Your HR Certification Exam

– Workology Podcast | Episode 262: Test-Taking Strategies for HRCI and SHRM Certification

– Workology Podcast | Episode 332: Passing your HR Certification exam – What was your experience like?

How to Subscribe to the HR Certification Podcast

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

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