Situational Judgement Question Guide for SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP Exams

Situational Judgement Question Guide for SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP Exams

The Ace the HR Exam course(s) provide support and resources to help HR pros ace their exams including those situational judgement questions. You can also sign up for our SHRM Certification Prep classes as well. We also offer our HR Practice Test product with 400 test questions including situational judgement questions at

Situational Judgement Question Guide for SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP Exams 


There are three types of test questions that will be on your SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP exams:

– Knowledge items, or KIs, that will test your knowledge of key concepts and terms in the HR field

– Situational judgment items, or SJIs, that will test your ability to choose the best course of action in relation to real-life HR scenarios presented in the questions

– Field-test items that include both KIs and SJIs (these are used to test items being considered for future exams and not factored into your grade).


Here, we’ll talk about situational judgement questions. These require you to read a realistic HR work-related scenario and choose the best response from the list of multiple choice answers. These questions have no “right” answer, but one will be the best. The choices have degrees of effectiveness and you must choose the strategy that is the most effective. This is the primary difference between situational judgment questions and knowledge items – knowledge items have one correct answer; SJI answers range from most to least effective and you get credit only for choosing the most effective course of action.

There is typically one best or most effective answer and at least one answer from the choices that is there to trip you up (but there are no “trick” questions or answers). The least effective answer can still be correct; it just isn’t the most effective response. The best strategy for answering SJIs on your SHRM exam is to read the scenario carefully and look for specific keywords that trigger a “best” response, then read all responses and consider which fits the scenario the best based on your study materials. The “best” response may not be the perfect response; it just has to be the best one out of the choices provided. 


An Example of a Situational Judgment Question


A company is about to launch strategic planning sessions to evaluate possible directions the company might go in the future. They have not invited the HR manager to participate, but there are critical HR issues that must be addressed in order for the company to be successful no matter what direction they choose to move forward. The HR manager must be able to participate in this critical preparation for the future. What should the HR manager do to demonstrate value for the strategy planning session?


A. Gather important and critical information about the industry and company that will contribute to the effective discussion

B. Think strategically about the possible direction the company might go and the impact on  human resource systems

C. Gather information for implementation actions that will support the HR department agenda for the success of the company

D. Think strategically what the critical HR issues are and not worry about other concerns facing the company to help focus


While technically any of these responses is a possible response, A is the best answer because this is the most valuable information to gather and provide to the leaders. Look for responses like D – in the second half of that response “not worry about other concerns facing the company” is the one that’s there to trip you up. There are few company-related concerns that an HR manager should not worry about.


Step 1: Eliminate the Wrong Answers First 


So your strategy is to eliminate the least effective answers first, then evaluate what you’re left with to determine which response is best. Don’t over analyze or try to determine what the question means; take the questions at face value. If it feels “too easy,” it is probably easy. These questions are testing your ability to think strategically, and your approach to selecting a response is just that. Put yourself in the HR manager’s shoes, read the answers carefully, and consider which you would choose given the scenario presented in order to be the most effective in the same situation. You may already be familiar with the best response based on your own work experience, so your first instinct is likely to be the more effective answer.

Step 2: Ask Yourself WWSD


Once you have eliminated the wrong answers first, you are left with a higher likelihood that even a guess will be correct. This is one of the reasons I love the 50/50 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. From here, you’ll want to ask yourself WWSD which is short for What Would SHRM Do? It could also be WWHD if you are taking your PHR, SPHR or GPHR exams. You’ll want to ask yourself how would the governing body administering and overseeing the test want you to answer. They work in black and white and not gray so you want to think about that as your select your best answer.


Step 3: Go with Your Gut 

Don’t overthink your answers to test questions. You need to go with the best answer from step 2 and go with your gut. When we overanalyze we start to question ourselves which leads us to overthinking and also wasting time. After all, we have a limited time frame  to answer questions for the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams and even less time for HRCI’s exams. Select the right answer you feel is right and if you are still unsure, flat on so you can come back to it later on.


Another Situational Judgement Test Question Example 


Note that the same scenarios will be used two to four times on your exam, but the specific question based on the scenario will change. For example, another question based on the identical example I shared above:

A company is about to launch strategic planning sessions to evaluate possible directions the company might go in the future. They have not invited the HR manager to participate, but there are critical HR issues that must be addressed in order for the company to be successful no matter what direction they choose to move forward. The HR manager must be able to participate in this critical preparation for the future. Which step in the strategic planning process is most critical for the HR manager’s input?


A. The SWOT analysis during strategy development

B. The during strategy formulation

C. The initiative during strategy implementation

D. The process during strategy evaluation


Nothing has changed about the scenario, but the question you are tasked with is different. In this case, the most effective answer is A. The HR manager must impact decisions before the overall strategy has been finalized if the criticall HR concerns are to be properly addressed. Again, when evaluating the responses, consider the least effective. The “during strategy formulation” in answer B can be eliminated, as there is no during strategy formulation. C and D are vague, but A is specific. 

The most important thing is to remember that you deal with similar scenarios every day at work. Think about how you would personally respond in your own job before choosing what you think is the most effective response. The scenarios in the situational judgment questions come from HR professionals all over the world who have shared them. More than one response could be appropriate; your job is just to find the answer that is the most appropriate. 

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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