How to Deal with PHR/SPHR Exam Questions You Don’t Know

By Sandra M. Reed

You’ll inevitably run into a question (or a few) on the PHR or SPHR exam where you simply won’t know the answer. Don’t be surprised when you encounter one. Stay calm and don’t panic. Here are some strategies to deal with the unknown:

  • Trust your first instinct. Try not to overthink the question. If you really don’t know the answer, trust your first instinct and move on, marking it for review if time permits.

  • Make an educated guess. Making a guess is better than leaving an answer blank. You had to qualify by experience and education to take the exam, and you have dedicated the time in advance to prepare, so you can make a pretty good guess at what might be correct.

    Guessing is actually an extremely important test-taking strategy. You start with a score of zero and build up points for every correct answer. If you leave an answer blank, you guarantee that you’ll get zero points for the question. Guessing incorrectly doesn’t hurt you; you simply won’t get the points for the question.

  • Skip it and go back. Marking questions for review is a good way to address the unknown. Other questions may actually help you answer the headache questions. You may however want to at least take an educated guess, just in case you run out of review time at the end of the exam.