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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.

Exam writers have 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the 160 questions on the NKE.

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.

Note: Exam writers have 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the exam (9:00 am to 12:15 pm)

Who Creates the Questions?

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

How to Prepare for the NKE

There are a number of resources available to help you prepare for the exam, including independent study resources; post-secondary and online courses; seminars; etc. To get started, you can visit the Exam & Other Resources section of our website, where you will find sample study questions, information on online preparation courses and provincial workshops, links to universities and colleges, and more.

You should also visit the Competency Framework section of our website to view the content on which the exam is based, and the approximate weighting of each of the functional dimensions within the exam.

Many of the provincial HR associations, through their education and professional development portfolios, may also provide various resources to help you prepare for the NKE. These may help you assess your current knowledge and abilities, and determine further development activities to help you pass the exam.

How to Register for the NKE

When you are prepared to write the NKE, you will register with your provincial HR association and sign the CPHR Canada’s National Code of Ethics or your provincial equivalent. To register you will be required to complete an application form and forward this to your provincial HR association with the required fee by the exam registration deadline. The registration deadline is at least 60 days prior to the schedule date of the exam, and is posted one year in advance on the CPHR website. (Please visit the Exam Centre for a list of upcoming exam dates.)

Prior to the scheduled exam date, you will receive confirmation of your registration to write the NKE. From your provincial association, you will also receive information on the testing location and any additional details necessary.

Please note: You must bring photo identification and your registration letter to gain entry to the test centre.

Passing the NKE

You will be informed of your test results approximately eight weeks after the date on which the exam was written—the date by which exam results are mailed will be communicated at the time of registration. Once you have passed the NKE, you become a certification candidate.

Limits on number of NKE attempts

Beginning with the November 2014 exam session, candidates who fail the NKE three times will be required to wait a full year before attempting the NKE for a fourth and final time. A fifth attempt may be permitted following a review process (1), by the appropriate provincial HR association. NKE attempts made before the November 2014 exam administration will not be included in the total number of attempts. 

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

NOTE: (1) The review process is currently being developed by the CPHR Canada member associations. 

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