The National Knowledge Exam®

The National Knowledge Exam® (NKE) assesses your understanding of HR knowledge and skills. It serves as the national benchmark for the assessment of proficiency in the Human Resources body of knowledge. The exam assesses an individual’s understanding of the CPHR competencies as they relate to academic knowledge. Academic knowledge refers to basic facts, policies, practices, methods, legislation, etc. It is information that can be written into procedures and transferred during the learning process.

After you have passed the exam, you are considered a candidate for certification (a ‘CPHR Candidate’)

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 in the fall of each year. Exam dates are posted one year in advance of the day the exam is held. Please check with your provincial Member Association for the location, times and more information regarding upcoming exams.

The NKE is developed based on the CPHR Competency Framework . 90% of the NKE is based on the HR Specific Competencies and 10% is based on the General Competencies.

Member Association Accredited Human Resources Programs

Individuals pursuing the CPHR may also be able to waive the NKE if they have successfully completed an accredited post-secondary program. Qualifying programs within educational institutions are accredited by a provincial Member Association and may be recognized by all CPHR Canada Member Associations once accredited. Refer to your Member Association for further details. Check the Accredited Post-Secondary Program listing here.

NKE Educational Requirement

In 2019, CPHR Canada announced the introduction of a mandatory educational requirement for the National Knowledge Exam (NKE). This educational requirement was added to set the bar for academic comprehension, establish a standard for educational requirements and build on credibility of the CPHR designation. This requirement is in the form of HR education in 9 areas related to the profession. Individuals can demonstrate completion of equivalent coursework already completed or take approved courses to meet this requirement. Refer to your Member Association for further details.

Individuals who have not graduated from a CPHR Canada member association’s Post-Secondary Institution (PSI) Accreditation Program, or have not covered the courses in an equivalent program, and wish to write the NKE will be required to enrol in the nine accredited HR courses offered by the provincial associations in partnership with Captus Press Inc. These nine foundational courses meet the CPHR Competency Framework.

In each course, students are required to access multimedia online lectures, study readings in the assigned textbook(s), participate in interactive discussion boards with their fellow students and the instructor, submit midterms or assignments, and write a proctored final examination.

Click here for more information about the courses required.

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

The New NKE Prep Course – in partnership with Captus Press Inc.

The only online prep course that includes: interactive tutoring in a discussion board with our leading content expert; 28 hours of multimedia lecture presentations with review quizzes; a diagnostic test and four practice exams. Both broad and in-depth coverage of the Competency Framework are provided with lots of feedback.

Features of the NKE Prep Course and Your Advantages

  • The ability to create a customized study plan that starts with a diagnostic pre-test, which assesses your knowledge level, provides feedback, identifies areas that need revision and suggests sources for learning that content.
    Your Advantage: You can display (and print out) the entire test and diagnostic feedback document at any time for easy access to the topics you need to review!
  • Access 28 hours of interactive multimedia lectures available 24 X 7 – equivalent to about 75 hours of class time. A detailed glossary and references to textbooks are also provided to cover the additional content required in the competency framework.
    Your Advantage: More instructional content and any part of the lectures is available for access 24 X 7! You don’t need to access parts that you don’t need to review!
  • Interactive quizzes and progress tests with automatic feedback to monitor your learning progress through the lectures.
    Your Advantage: You can display (and print out) all the feedback documents!
  • 4 timed practice exams – 600 multiple choice questions.
    Your Advantage: Four practice exams provide you with 600 practice questions on the Competency Framework that is covered in the NKE! They are similar to the NKE questions in format, coverage and level of difficulty. (Please note the practice exam questions in the prep course may not closely reflect the questions in the NKE.)
  • A moderated discussion board allows you to collaborate and form study groups with fellow prep course participants. Ask the content expert, Stephanie Milliken, questions on relevant issues and seek assistance.
    Your Advantage: Access to a content expert ensures you that all your questions can be answered. A totally pre-scripted course cannot do that!
  • Click here for cost and more information
NKE Study Resources – Textbooks

View the list of textbooks that can be used to study for the National Knowledge Exam (NKE) here. This list is effective for the Fall 2023 NKE and Spring 2024 NKE.

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. 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.