SHRM Certification Exams


The SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams contain two types of multiple choice questions: stand-alone knowledge-based items that assess a candidate’s knowledge and understanding of factual information, and scenario-based situational judgment items that assess a candidate’s judgment and decision-making skills. 

Knowledge Items
There are two categories of stand-alone knowledge-based items on the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams. Items in the first category, referred to as HR-specific knowledge Items (KIs), cover key concept topics associated with the 15 HR functional areas. Items in the second category, which are referred to as foundational knowledge items (FKIs), cover key concept topics that are considered foundational to the eight behavioral competencies. Examinees receive credit for selecting the single correct answer to a given question.

Situational Judgment Items
Situational judgment items (SJIs) assess candidates’ judgment and decision-making skills. Examinees are presented with realistic work-related scenarios and asked to choose the best of several possible strategies to resolve or address the issues described in each scenario. Although more than one strategy may be effective, examinees only receive credit for choosing the one best answer, as determined by a panel of experienced HR professionals.

Field-Test Questions

Each exam contains 30 field-test items that are not counted as part of a candidate’s score. Field test items are used to gather data on a question’s effectiveness . Examinees’ answers to field-test items do not count toward any part of their exam scores and are only used for item development purposes. Field test items on the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams are randomly mixed with scored exam items.

Distribution of Items by Content and Item Type
The distribution of items with respect to content and item type is essentially the same for both the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams. As shown below, approximately half of the items on each exam are allocated across the three behavioral competency clusters, and the other half are allocated across the three HR knowledge domains. The table below indicates that approximately 40 percent of the items on each exam are situational judgment items, with the remainder being stand-alone items measuring either knowledge that is foundational to the behavioral competencies (10%) or HR-specific knowledge (50%).



  Leadership (13%)

Situational Judgment (40%)
Foundational Knowledge (10%)

  Business (18.5%) 
  Interpersonal (18.5%)



  People (17%)

HR-Specific Knowledge (50%)

  Organization (17%) 
  Workplace (16%)


Acronym List
Download a list of common HR-related acronyms which may appear on the exam. 

Exam Duration & Format
Both exams will contain Knowledge- and Competency-based questions:

The exams are delivered by computer, and candidates for both exams have 4 hours to answer a total of 160 multiple choice questions, of which approximately 60 percent are stand-alone knowledge-based questions and approximately 40 percent are scenario-based situational judgment items.

Breakdown of Testing-Time:

Confidentiality Reminder – 2 minutes
Introduction and tutorial – 8 minutes
Exam Section 1 – Up to 2 hours 
Break (optional) – Up to 15 minutes 
Exam Section 2 – Up to 2 hours
Survey – 5 minutes

Each section shows a countdown timer on the screen, and each section is separate and time-independent. Minutes do not roll-over. For instance, if a candidate spends less time in the introduction, extra minutes are not rolled-over to the exam portion.

Examinee performance on the certification exam is measured against a pre-determined standard (or passing score standard). The SHRM-CP standard is the level of competency and knowledge that can be reasonably expected of HR professionals who perform operation work. The SHRM-SCP standard is the level of competency and knowledge that can be reasonably expected of HR professionals who perform strategic work. The passing scores for the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams are reported as scaled scores. The range of possible scores is 120 to 200. All candidates who pass the exam receive the maximum score of 200.


Following each administration of the SHRM certification exams, in accordance with guidance from the SHRM Certification Commission, SHRM publishes the global exam pass rates for the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP. These scores reflect the percentage of examinees across the world who have successfully earned their credentials by passing the relevant exams.

Exam Period

SHRM-CP Pass Rate

SHRM-SCP Pass Rate

May - July 2021
Dec. 2020 - Feb 2021
May - Aug. 2020
Dec. 2019 - Feb. 2020​
May - July 2019

​Dec. 2018 - Feb. 2019


May - July 2018



Dec. 2017- Feb. 2018