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.

NEW – Graduates of Accredited Post-Secondary programs will be one step closer to receiving their CPHR designation and may be eligible to waive writing the NKE. Check the Accredited Post-Secondary Program listing here.

Each provincial member association administers the NKE for their members. You will find all the information related to the NKE for your Province on their site. You must register with your member association as the first step. The cost of writing the exam varies from province to province.

Normally, the NKE 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 with your provincial HR association for the location, times and more information regarding upcoming exams.

Prepare for the NKE with the online prep courses and one and two-day preparation workshops available through your member association.

How the National Knowledge Examination is Scored

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 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.