National Knowledge Exam Study Resources - CPHR NL



Important Information

About the Exam

National Knowledge Exam®

The National Knowledge Exam® (NKE) assesses one’s understanding of the Competency Framework 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 fairly accurately during the learning process. Examples of academic knowledge include: the rights and responsibilities of management and labour during union organizing and negotiation processes; the various methods of training and developing staff; and human rights, employment equity and pay equity legislation.

Question Content

The NKE’s questions are based on the content in the following nine HR-related areas, or functional dimensions, under which the Competency Framework is organized.

In the chart below, the percentages provide guidelines on the extent to which each area of knowledge is emphasized within the NKE.

Functional Dimensions


 Strategy         11%
 Professional Practice         12%
Engagement         11%
Workforce Planning and Talent Management         11%
Employee & Labour Relations         11%
Total Rewards         11%
Learning and Development         11%
Health, Wellness, and Safe Workplace        11%
 HR Metrics, Reporting and Financial Management          11%

Question Structure

The NKE is comprised of 160 questions including 10 questions which are added to the exam to allow new questions to be pre-tested. Pre-test questions will not affect the score and are used in examinations as an effective and legitimate way to test the validity of future examination questions. They are placed randomly throughout the exam.

Why multiple choice questions? Research has shown that exams using four-option multiple-choice questions to test academic knowledge are valid and preferred for the following reasons; they:

  • provide more flexibility and adaptability;
  • tend to be more reliable than other formats;
  • can accommodate a wide range of skills, knowledge and abilities to be measured;
  • provide better sampling;
  • have lower chance scores; and
  • can be scored using efficient technology.

 Exam writers have 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the exam 

Who Creates the Questions?

Questions included in the exam are developed by an Operational Plan of Item Writers. This panel is coordinated by CPHR and the Exam Vendor. The panel members are considered “best in class” for their respective area of HR expertise.

Important Dates and Fees

Exam Dates and Registration Deadlines:

Normally, the NKE is held in the spring and fall of each year. Exam dates are posted on our events calendar one year in advance of the day the exam is held.

Contact us for the location, times and more information regarding upcoming exams.

Exam Dates and Registration Deadlines 
National Knowledge Exam® Dates Registration Deadlines
May 26,2022

November 3/4, 2022

March 25, 2022

September 10, 2021

  2022 TBA

Exam Fees

The cost of writing the NKE is $565.62 CAD, and is non-refundable if cancelled less than sixty (60) days before the exam is held.

Exam Refunds and Deferrals

A fee of $100 CAD will be required if you choose to defer your examination. If you discover you cannot write for any reason, please contact us for information on how to defer your exam to the next sitting. A maximum of two deferrals per exam are possible.

You may defer to the next sitting up 7 days prior to the exam.  Within 7 calendar days of the exam date, deferrals are not allowed unless there is verified proof of extenuating circumstances such as serious illness or loss of immediate family.

Please contact us as soon as possible should such a situation arise.

Registrants who defer to a future sitting and then cancel their registration any time prior to this sitting will forfeit their initial exam fee plus any deferral fee paid.


 How the National Knowledge Examination is Scored

Twice each year the member associations of CPHR Canada administer the National Knowledge Examination (NKE), a 160-item multiple-choice assessment of knowledge in human resources. Scores that candidates earn are used by the member associations as part of the criteria for the Chartered Professional in Human Resources designation. 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; however, other candidates write by computer in a supervised testing center. The NKE is scored using the Rasch model, a well established one-parameter approach within the group of psychometric methods known as Item Response Theory.

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 function and 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 in the Rasch model. 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 Rasch 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.

Manual Re-scores

Manual re-scores are available for those who believe there has been an error in the scoring of their exam.  If you wish to have your exam manually re-scored please contact your provincial association. 

Studying For the NKE

National Knowledge Exam Prep Course

(1) Captus On-Line Prep-course:

Captus offers an on-line self directed prep-course for the National Knowledge Exam. The only online prep course that includes: interactivity in a discussion board with their leading content expert; over 28 hours of multimedia lecture presentations with review quizzes; a diagnostic test, 4 practice exams, and a new 300 page NKE Preparation handbook in e-book format. The course provides both broad and in-depth coverage of the Competency Framework, along with many assessment resources to help you study and test your readiness to write the NKE.

Details about their course can be found at ​​​​

The cost is $349 plus GST (or HST) for 18 weeks access. You may also extend your previous registration for $39 for each 4 week extension (within one year of registration)

(2) CPHR In person Prep-course (not currently offered):

CPHR NL is pleased to offer our CPHR NKE Preparatory Session. This program, developed by the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association is now the official NKE preparatory program provided by five provincial HR associations including CPHR NL.

This two-day course is designed to help you consolidate the knowledge you already have and – more importantly – identify where you need to focus additional studying in order to be successful in the National Knowledge Exam.

During this interactive workshop, you will receive, review and discuss important HR theory for each competency area. You’ll also receive the RPCs, terms, definitions and sample exam questions, which will enable you to identify and rectify knowledge gaps.

It has not yet been determined if a course will be offered in during the fall. This may depend on the number of exam registrations.


LOCATION: MUN campus, Faculty of Business, St. John’s, NL



 Members    $390+HST
Student members $300+HST
Non members    $450+HST


  • The structure and format of the CPHR knowledge exam – components and weighting
  • An overview of the body of knowledge covered by the exam
  • To apply the knowledge using sample questions and group activities
  • How to design and implement an individualized learning plan


  • A 300+ page manual containing concepts, terminology, principles, legislation and practices from the eight discipline areas covered in the exam
  • Eight glossary exercises (over 350 terms and definitions) you can use to enhance your understanding of HR terminology
    over 400 sample questions
  • Lunch and nutrition breaks during the sessions


 Please complete the registration form here and pay your course fee.

Tips for Managing Your Study Time

Understanding how to take control of time is one of the most valuable skills a person can acquire—good time management is a key element in effective learning. The following tips will help you make the most of your study time, minimize your stress level, and maximize your results while preparing to write the national exams.

      • Prioritize what’s most important to you. Write an ordered list of what you want to accomplish and prioritize those items on the list. When completing your list, remember balance—work, family, studies, and self.  
      • Develop a long-term plan, setting specific goals to achieve your CHRP designation. Make sure your plan is realistic and manageable and avoid over-commitment. Include your family in the planning process and gain their commitment in supporting your goals.  
      • Find a place to study that is relatively free of distractions. Make sure it is well equipped for studying, has adequate lighting, and a chair with good back support.  
      • Maintain good eating and sleeping habits, and make time for physical exercise. These routines will help you stay energized and improve your mental capability.  
      • Develop a day planner to help manage your time. Schedule daily study periods and commit to your plan. Record due dates for assignments and tests; calculate the work and time needed to meet these due dates, and plan milestones into your schedule leading up to these dates.  
      • Go to class well prepared. If you are taking courses, don’t miss class; if you are self-learning, don’t miss your study time. Take good notes, you will be thankful for them when the next test rolls around.  
      • Remember balance. Take breaks when studying for long periods of time. If it’s a nice day, take some time to play with the kids or walk around the block with your partner. It refreshes the tired mind and helps remind you of other important things in your life.  
      • Reward yourself. Celebrate the achievement of your goals—even those small successes. Predetermine your reward and keep your promise once you have completed your task.

Tips for Taking Notes

The following are note-taking tips, which can prove very valuable regardless of whether you are taking an HR course, attending a workshop, or undertaking your own self-learning initiative.

  • Prepare for class: Read materials in advance and review notes from preceding lectures or chapters. Familiarize yourself with key concepts and vocabulary. Develop a framework for taking notes (e.g. subject headings in the course textbook).  
  • Make the most of class: Make sure you can see and hear the facilitator, and have a good line of sight to visual displays (e.g. blackboard, overheads, video screens, etc.) Listen actively.  
  • Determine what is important: Listen and look for cues and key words that help identify relevant and important information.  
  • Make excellent notes: Title each page with subject title and date. Use subject headings and subheadings to organize notes. Record relevant information and main points of emphasis. Use lots of white space, highlighting pens, models, etc.  
  • Edit notes soon after class: Edit notes as soon as possible after class, preferably the same day. Summarize, re-organize, expand upon, and clarify your notes for future ease of reference. Remember that these notes are not only critical in helping you prepare for tests at the end of the course, they will also be your primary source of reference when studying for the exams.  
  • Review notes often: Repetition is a key adult learning technique. The more times you review material, the greater the likelihood of recall when needed in the future. Make frequent reviews of your notes part of your daily study routine.  
  • After all is said and done and you still do not know the correct answer—guess! However, make it an educated guess. Do not leave any multiple-choice questions unanswered when there is no penalty for incorrect answers.

Preparing for the Exam Day

After taking the time prepare for the contents of the NKE, it is important to make sure that you are prepared for the test day. The following tips will help you reduce stress on your test day:

  • Get a good night’s sleep. Arriving at the test center rested and alert is the best way to prepare for any test.  
  • Try to relax. Learn a few basic relaxation exercises that can be used a few minutes leading up to the exam. Being relaxed will help you overcome your worries and concentrate on the exam ahead.  
  • Ensure you know the exact location of the test center, how you plan to get there, and where you will park. Allow plenty of time to get there. The last thing you need is extra tension that comes from worrying about being late for the exam.  
  • Wear comfortable clothes and bring a sweater. Testing rooms are notorious for being too hot or too cold. You can’t change the room but you can put on or remove a sweater.  
  • Bring an accurate watch. Hopefully, the room will have a clock and the proctor is diligent in posting the time during the exam. But be prepared if that is not the case.  
  • Bring all necessary materials you have been told you will need to the test center. Choose a seat in the testing room that is as far away from likely distractions as possible.  
  • Listen carefully to all instructions given by the test proctor, and follow any procedures necessary to ensure a successful exam process.

Strategies for Answering Multiple Choice Questions

The NKE contains 160 multiple choice questions. In addition to preparation for the content of the exam and the test day, it is equally important to prepare for the questions themselves. The following information will ensure that you have the ability to navigate effectively through a multiple choice test.

  • Multiple choice questions are made up of three key components:
    • The stem: states the question to be answered.
    • Correct answer: one of the four possible choices representing the only correct response or best correct response. ‘Best’ meaning a panel of HR experts would agree to this judgment.
    • The distractors: remaining three options and incorrect answers. They may be plausible, but incorrect or not the ‘best’ possible answer.

The Multiple Choice Checklist:

  • Read through each question completely and carefully. Avoid jumping to any conclusions about what you think the question is asking. Complete any questions you are sure of first and move on to difficult questions afterwards.  
  • Many individuals find it effective to read the stem part of the question and anticipate the correct alternative before actually looking at the choices available. If you generally do better on essay or short answer tests, this strategy may be of significant help to you. Some research shows that one-in-three students fare far better using this strategy alone.  
  • For those questions you are having difficulty with, narrow your choices. Eliminate any choices which are obviously incorrect. With the remaining choices, read the stem part of the question with each alternative to get a sense of the correct sound or flow that the correct answer often produces.  
  • Underline key words in both the stem part of the question, as well as the answer choices. Multiple choice questions examine not only your ability to recall and reason, but your ability to read carefully and thoughtfully as well.  
  • Relative words such as “often,” “generally,” “usually,” “seldom,” “may,” and “seem” on the other hand, are often more accurate and could indicate a true statement.  
  • After all is said and done and you still do not know the correct answer—guess! However, make it an educated guess. Do not leave any multiple-choice questions unanswered when there is no penalty for incorrect answers.
  • Don’t scan the exam looking for keywords that trigger recognition in order to complete these questions first. Overall you will waste precious time and will increase your chances of recording answers incorrectly on the scoring sheet.  
  • Don’t choose an alternative just because you remember learning the information contained in the alternative. It may be a true statement in its own right, but not the correct answer to the question posed.  
  • Don’t dismiss an alternative just because it seems too obvious and simple an answer. Some questions will appear straightforward if you are well prepared for the exam.  
  • Don’t be “wowed” by impressive terms in the alternatives. Don’t use the same alternative (e.g. ‘b’) every time you guess the answer to a question. Eliminate any obviously incorrect alternatives and make an educated guess from the remaining.  
  • Don’t pick your answer based on any apparent or suspected pattern of responses. For example, don’t eliminate alternative ‘c’ just because you answered ‘c’ in the previous three responses.  
  • Don’t try to determine whether there is any pattern to correct answers. With today’s technology, answer key patterns are unnecessary for process efficiency.

Self-directed learning

In this section, you will find a full range of useful resources that can help you as you prepare to undertake the NKE.

Human Resources Management Business Textbooks and Publishers

Title Author Year Publisher ISBN
Strategic human resources planning (7th ed.). Belcourt, M., & Podolsky, M. 2019 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-679808-6
Managing human resources (9th Cdn ed.). Belcourt, M., Singh, P., Snell, S., & Morris, S. 2019 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-18-7809055
Recruitment and selection in Canada (7th ed.). Catano, V. M., Wiesner, W. H., & Hackett, R. D. 2019 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-676466-1
Industrial relations in Canada 4th ed.). Hebdon, R., Brown, T. C., & Walsworth, S. 2021 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-689170-1
Management of occupational health and safety (8th ed.). Kelloway, E. K. Francis, L., Gatien, B., & Belcourt, M. 2021 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-689301-9
Strategic compensation in Canada (6th ed.). Long, R. J., Singh, P., & Belcourt, M. 2018 Toronto, ON: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-665716-1
Canadian Organizational Behavior (10th ed.). McShane, S. L., Tasa, K. & Steen . S. L. 2018 McGraw-Hill Ryerson 978-1-25-927130-4
Compensation (5th Cnd ed.). Milkovich George T., Jerry M. Newman et Barry Gerhart 2017 McGraw-Hill International Edition. 978-1-25-908687-8
Cornerstones of managerial accounting (3rd Cdn ed.). Mowen, M. M., Hansen, D. R., Heitger, D. L., McConomy, D. J., & Pittman, J. A. 2017 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-6721237
ORGB (3rd Cnd ed.). Nelson, D. L., Campbell Quick, J., Armstrong, A., & Condie, J. 2019 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-6873387
Cornerstones of financial accounting (3rd Cdn. ed.). Rich, J. S., Jones, J. P., Mowen, M. M., Hansen, D. R., Jones, D., & Tassone, R. 2020 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-6898595
Managing performance through training and development (8th ed.). Saks, A. M., & Haccoun, R. R. 2019 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-679807-9
Essentials of managing human resources (6th Cdn ed.). Stewart, D. B., Belcourt, M., Peacock, M., Bohlander, G. W., & Snell, S. A. 2016 Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd. 978-0-17-657028-6
Understanding human resources management: A Canadian perspective. Peacock, M., & Steward, E., & Belcourt, M. 2019 Nelson Education 978-017-6798062
Principles of information systems (13th ed.) Stair, R. M., & Reynolds, G. W. 2018 Cengage Learning 978-1-305-917177-6


HR Management Magazines and Journals



Canadian HR Reporter


Ivey Business Journal


Canadian Business Magazine


Globe and mail Report on Business


Canadian Journal of Learning


The Training Report


Workplace Today


Benefits Canada


Canadian Journal of Administrative Studies


CCH Canadian Limited


Society for Human Resources Management


Harvard Business Review


Administrative Science Quarterly


Business Week




HR Focus




T+D Magazine


Business Horizons


California management Review


Academy of Management Perspective


Academy of Management Journal


Academy of Management Review


Labour Studies Journal

U.S. Occupational Outlook Quarterly


Workforce Management Magazine


Personnel Psychology


International Public Management Journal


People Management

European Management Journal

Euro Journal of Business Ethics


Sample exam questions can be found by clicking Practice Exam Questions.