How to Deal with Answer Distractors on the PHR/SPHR Exams - dummies

How to Deal with Answer Distractors on the PHR/SPHR Exams

By Sandra M. Reed

In addition to the two good answer choices, a question on the PHR or SPHR exam usually also has distractors. Distractors can show up in a couple of different places:

  • In the question stem: This extraneous information isn’t relevant to the correct answer.

  • In one of the four answer choices: Some distractors are answers based on common misconceptions. Others aren’t relevant to the question (such as a state requirement rather than a federal one). Some distractors are true statements that don’t answer the actual question. Worse yet are the distractors that are close to the actual correct answer, but with a slight variation that renders it second best.

    The difference between a distractor and a clearly wrong answer is that the distractors are plausible.

Dealing with the distractions isn’t quite as difficult as you may think. Take at least one practice test with the specific intent to work through these steps:

  1. Eliminate the obviously wrong answers, which leaves the correct answers and the distractors.

    Select one to apply.

  2. Reread the question while applying your chosen solution.

    Determine whether the answer still seems right. If not, eliminate it and repeat with the remaining viable answer choices.

  3. After you have made your choice, decide on the correct answer and move on.

    If you’re still not sure, mark it for later review.

Practicing this approach may take a bit of time at first. The clock eventually will matter for these practice exams, but during your practice sessions, your focus should be on training your brain to think critically through each exam item.

Here is an example of a question with distractors.

  1. Which of the following is an HR implication of the Griggs vs. Duke Power Company Supreme Court case?

    (A) Punitive damages for sexual harassment may now be tied to organizational size.

    (B) All tests used for employment selection should be job related.

    (C) Employment discrimination now include categories of age, gender, and military status.

    (D) Labor unions must now keep records of financial dealings in accordance with both state and federal laws.

    The correct answer is (B). All statements sound true, but the court case deals with employment selection tests. To answer this question, you need to know the basics of the court case. If you knew that Griggs vs. Duke Power is considered the benchmark case that established the need for employment tests to be job related, you could eliminate (A), because the case isn’t related to claims of sexual harassment; eliminate (C), because it didn’t address protected categories; and eliminate (D) because the case didn’t involve labor unions.