What Are the Pass Rates for the SPHR, PHR, SHRM-CP, and SHRM-SCP?

pass rates sphr phr shrm-cp shrm-scp

In our HR certification study group on Facebook, we have an amazing community of supportive HR professionals who are working towards their HR certifications. We cheer (and hit those like buttons) when someone posts about passing their exam, but we also rush in and support anyone who posts that they didn’t pass this time. We encourage them, and talk about how failure can be a learning experience, especially with the HR certification exams – because with the pass/fail information, the exam taker also gets details on how they fared so they can learn what to concentrate on the next time.

The most successful among us see opportunity in failure. There’s a quote from Japanese author Naoki Higashida: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” It’s never easy to find out you didn’t pass the certification exam, but what really matters is that you’re not alone. And you won’t have to take the test seven times to pass on the eighth. I wanted to share pass rates for each of the exams.


PULL: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” – Naoki Higashida


In my own career, I’ve learned to see failure as a growth opportunity. If I’m not failing, I’m not taking risks, and if I’m not taking risks, I’m not growing my business. Failure, to me, has become a signpost on the road to success that tells me I am reaching outside of my comfort zone. These risks are important for innovation, for career development, and no risk is so large that it leaves us on our knees for very long. If I ask a roomful of HR professionals if they have ever failed, I alway hope to see every hand raised. Without failure, we cannot grow.


What Are the Pass Rates for PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, and SHRM-SCP? 


While it can feel like failing your HR certification is a setback, it’s important to know the pass rates by exam type: aPHR, PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP. The aPHR has a 84% pass rate. The PHR has a 65% pass rate. The SPHR has a 58% pass rate. The SHRM-CP has a 67% pass rate and the SHRM-SCP has a 51% pass rate. This means for three of these HR certifications, the initial pass rate of the exam is just a little over half. Nearly half of HR professionals who take the PHR, SPHR and SHRM-SCP fail the exam on their first try.

Does this mean that failing your HR certification exam on the first try isn’t going to feel awful? Absolutely not. It’s important to take a step back, a few deep breaths, hit the gym, have a cry – do whatever you need to do to acknowledge that you’re disappointed. But understand for each of these exams, you’re going to get more information on what you did well and where you need to focus your study efforts for the next time. And then you stand up one more time and start studying the competencies you need to dive deeper into to take the test again (and pass). 

This creates a shift in your mindset so that you’re thinking about preparation rather than focusing on failure. Thank the failure for the opportunity to learn, get your test results and find out where you need to focus your study efforts for the next time, and come at it from another direction. If your study method for the first exam was reading and memorization, consider learning by listening to audio lessons on the topics you need to do better on. 

How to Prepare for Your HR Certification Exam 


A study group can be an excellent source of support. Many members of our Facebook community have taken exams and failed at least once, and they have great advice for you on what to do next time. Take a look at these learning hacks that can help you ace the exam on your next try. There are so many great resources for your certification exam study that can help you confidently take the exam on your second try and pass. But do congratulate yourself for failing at least once. Failure means you’re growing in your career, not that you’re not great at your job.

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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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