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.

Please Note

CPHR PEI requires completion of the foundational courses before writing the National Knowledge Exam (NKE). This requirement is applicable unless the individual is covered by another eligible path.
For more information on the foundational courses, click here.

Update on the exam format
There is opportunity to choose which method you would prefer to complete your exam.

Each registrant should be asked to indicate their preference of the following options when registering for the exam:

  1. Test Centre
  2. Remote Proctoring

For those that choose a test center as their preference, this is not a guarantee. In the event a test center is unavailable, they would be assigned to remote proctoring. Cancellation and deferral policies will still apply. All registrants will receive confirmation of how they will be completing their exam at the beginning of May. Test Centre candidates will receive confirmation of their test location and time, while remote proctor candidates will receive a booking request email so they can log in to book their exam time with ProctorU. This will allow the majority of writers to complete the exam according to their personal comfort level.

What is a remote proctored exam?

A remote proctored exam can be taken anywhere in the world. This is what International writers and remote Canadian writers would have experienced for the November 2019 exam. The exam can be taken by the candidate at their home, office, etc. Their computer will be electronically locked down to prevent cheating and the room they are testing in will be examined for unpermitted materials. If required, they have the ability to freeze the exam and investigate any suspicious activity immediately.



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. A candidate’s total score is calculated as their number of correct answers.

Candidate responses are extracted from the line test delivery tool, and imported into a scoring and reporting software. Then, a preliminary item analysis study is conducted in which the statistics that describe the quality of each question is 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.

Exam Preparation

There are several study methods to help you prepare for the exam.

  • CPHR PEI has partnered with Captus Press for an online prep 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 here:
  • CPHR BC & Yukon has shared some Practice Exam Questions that could be used to assist in exam preparation.  They can be found here: NKE Practice Exam Questions
  • Textbook list found here
  • NKE Prep Course (Live Virtual) – more details on our event page

Exam Dates

Exam sittings are held twice a year at 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM local time.

Spring 2023 – June 1, 2023

Fall 2023 – November 2, 2023

The next National Knowledge Exam (NKE) for Prince Edward Island is scheduled for June 1, 2023. The registration deadline is March 31, 2023.

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) and met the foundational course requirement. 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

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.

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.

Cancellation and Deferral Policy

Cancellations: Exam fees are refundable for first time registrants (exam fee has not been deferred to a future exam write) if requested by May 17, 2023. The exam fee is non-refundable if a writer cancels their registration after the registration deadline or wishes to cancel following a previous deferral. Extenuating circumstances may be taken into consideration.

Deferrals: An exam registrant may defer their exam to a future sitting at any point following registration up until May 25, 2023. After May 25, no deferrals are allowed.

Note: all deferrals after May 17, 2023 will forfeit their $140 seat fee for the exam. This fee will be charged again for the deferred sitting. A maximum of two deferrals are allowed per exam fee (i.e. the exam must be written on the third sitting or the exam fee will be sacrificed). If the third exam is not written and the exam fee is sacrificed, this is to be considered a ‘no show’.

Rescheduling: After booking confirmation emails are sent out by our service provider Yardstick Assessment Strategies (YAS), writers may request a change in their booked date/time. In the booking confirmation email, there will be a section right below the scheduled time that has directions on how to request changes. They need to reach out directly to YAS who will review each request on a first come first serve basis. If they are able to accommodate the transfer request, they will.

Special Accommodation

If an exam writer requires special accommodation for the exam, they must indicate it during the online registration process and complete the NKE Accommodation Request Form. For important information regarding accommodation requests, please review the NKE Accommodations Handbook for Writers.

ACCOMMODATION request deadline is March 31 ,2023.

The completed NKE Accommodation Request Form with supporting documentation must also be submitted to us within one day of your online registration in order to make the arrangements. Only original, physician supported, documentation will be accepted. Supporting documentation must also be received by the exam registration deadline.

Examples of special accommodations that may be provided:
• Permitting timed rest breaks during the exam
• Allowing a medical device in the examination room, such as an inhaler or diabetic equipment
• Access to food/snacks due to medical condition
• Possibility of having a reader or scribe/typist
• Increasing time permitted for the examination
• Washroom breaks required due to medical condition (if more than the two washroom breaks that are provided are required)
• Access to a separate room

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.

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 process1by 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.