The National Knowledge Exam®

The National Knowledge Exam® (NKE) assesses your understanding of HR knowledge and skills. After you have passed the exam, you are considered a candidate for certification.

Normally, the NKE on Prince Edward Island is held the first Saturday in June and November of each year. Exceptions will be made when these dates coincide with a major holiday or holiday weekend. Exam dates are posted one year in advance of the day the exam is held. Please check in advance for the location, times and more information regarding upcoming exams.  Online preparation courses are available to those individuals interested in writing the exam.

National Knowledge Exam Scoring

The NKE is a multiple-choice assessment of knowledge in human resources. Of the 160 questions on the examination, 150 are designated as operational (intended to be scored), and 10 unscored are included for field test purposes. Most candidates write the examination in paper-and-pencil format, recording their responses on a scantron answer sheet. A candidate’s total score is calculated as their number of correct answers.

Answer records from the two modes of administration are combined into a single data-set after the answer sheets are scanned. Then, a preliminary item analysis study is conducted in which the statistics that describe the quality of each question are used to identify if any questions demonstrate unsatisfactory measurement properties. Such questions are then reviewed one-by-one by experts in human resources, and these experts decide whether or not the questions should be scored. Thus, the number of questions that ultimately are scored may not equal 150. Once these decisions are made, they are recorded in the answer key and an additional item analysis study is conducted to verify that the decisions were recorded correctly.

Using the approved answer key, the answer records are then scored and equated. Equating is a statistical process used to be sure that everyone is held to the same passing standard. This is necessary because there are multiple versions of each exam, and these versions may vary slightly in difficulty. Thus, scores that result from this process account for the number of scored questions answered correctly by each individual as well as the difficulty of the version of the NKE used in the given test administration, such that scores represent the proficiency of each candidate relative to the standards established for the NKE. These scores are then scaled to a distribution that ranges from 200 to 800, with the criterion-referenced passing standard anchored at 500. A scaled score is a score that has been mathematically transformed from one scale to another scale that is used for reporting purposes. This transformation is similar to converting from pounds to kilograms. The weight of the object has not changed, only the units being reported. The scaling is performed by multiplying the raw score for each candidate by the expected standard deviation of the scaled-score distribution and then adding a constant that places the passing standard at 500.

The Number of Allowable National Knowledge Exam Attempts Policy

In order to elevate the status of the CPHR designation, the CPHR Canada Board approved a policy to limit the number of times a person may attempt the National Knowledge Exam (NKE). Beginning with the November 2014 NKE administration, candidates who fail the NKE three times will be required to wait a full year before attempting the NKE for a final and fourth time. A fifth attempt may be permitted following a review process by the appropriate provincial HR association. NKE attempts made before the November 2014 exam session will not be included in the total number of attempts.

During the break period between the third failure and a fourth attempt, candidates are encouraged to complete a NKE preparation course and/or review the material which their NKE results indicate require more study.

This policy change aligns the CPHR designation with the exam attempt restrictions of many other professional designations.

Exam Preparation

There are several study methods to help you prepare for the exam. CPHR PEI has partnered with Captus Press and recommends the following course to assist you in your exam prep:

Should you wish to take this course to assist you in your exam preparations, you can register directly on the Captus Press site provided via the link above.

Exam Dates

Exam sittings are held twice a year and start at 9:00 AM local time. National exams are offered every June and November.

The next National Knowledge Exam (NKE) for Prince Edward Island is scheduled for Saturday, June 2, 2018. The registration deadline now closed. 

Registration for the November 2018 writing of the exam is scheduled to open in September 2018.  To register, please complete the registration form:

CPHR PEI NKE Exam Registration Form

The cost for the NKE Exam is $400.00 plus HST. Late registrations are not permitted, regardless of circumstance. All registrations are subject to the deferral policy. Registrations cancelled prior to the registration deadline will incur a processing fee of $50.00 plus HST. Cancellations after the registration deadline are not possible as the deferral policy then applies.   Please register as soon as you know you plan on writing the exam. Any last minute registrations that incur technical difficulties will not be permitted to register after the deadline, regardless of circumstance. You must be a member in good standing to register for the exam (dues must be paid). If you are not yet a member and plan to register for the next exam, you must apply (and pay) for membership prior to the exam deadline.

After you register

Within 2 weeks of the registration deadline, you will be sent notification from us advising your application has been received and it will outline some details relating to the exam. Part of the process includes an official confirmation of your registration (by letter) including notification of exam security procedures and your test location. You will be required to retain the letter and bring it with you to the exam. Exam writers will receive exam results approximately eight (8) weeks after the exam date.

Individuals that pass the NKE start the ten year clock to obtain the CPHR. They have ten years to complete the overall process to obtain the CPHR, provided they remain a member in good standing of our Association.

Exam Cancellation and Deferral Policy

Deferrals will be accepted 12 or more days prior to the exam date.  The deferral fee is $100 plus HST.  In certain extenuating circumstances, the deferral fee may be waived.  Supporting documentation will be required.  To request a deferral, please email

If you defer to a future sitting and then cancel your registration any time prior to that sitting, you will forfeit your initial exam fee plus any deferral fee paid. If you do not show up on exam day the full exam fee is forfeited.

Special Accommodation

If an exam writer requires special accommodation for the exam, they must indicate it during the online registration process. Supporting documentation outlining the accommodation required must also be submitted to us within one day of your online registration in order to allow the Association to make the arrangements. Only original, physician supported, documentation will be accepted. Supporting documentation must also be received by the exam registration deadline.

Out of Province on the Day of the Exam

If you must be out of your home province; however, will be in another province that hosts the NKE exam on the day of the exam, you must advise us when you register for the exam (indicate in the exam location field) as out of province writing may be possible. Please note that Ontario does not host the NKE exam so out of province writing cannot be arranged in that province.

Exam Results

Exam results are emailed approximately eight weeks after each exam session.

Recognition as a CPHR Candidate

Members who have passed the National Knowledge Exam and have not yet completed the Validation of Experience (VOE) will be granted the ability to use “CPHR Candidate” as a professional title.

The CPHR is valued by the employment community and the ability to be officially recognized as a CPHR Candidate will provide you with additional recognition. You may use this title in resumes, business cards, emails, LinkedIn or any other public profiles.

NKE Manual Rescore

Manual rescores are available for those who believe that there has been an error in the scoring of their exam. If you wish to have your NKE exam manually re-scored, you must first pay the manual rescore fee of $80 plus HST. To do so, please mail us at Requests must be received within 20 business days of the results being sent out by CPHR PEI.