“What score do I need to pass the Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) exam?” People ask me this question from time to time, so I thought I’d write a brief article on the passing score for the CPHQ exam.
Let’s first back up and review some things about the exam. There are 140 questions—125 of them will contribute to the scored examination result, the remaining 15 will be “pretest” questions (ones that are not included in your score but are being considered for future exams). These questions will cover a variety of “tasks” listed in the CPHQ exam content outline. The Healthcare Quality Certification Commission (HQCC) has provided the following information:
The methodology used to set the minimum passing score is the Angoff method, applied during the performance of a Passing Point Study by a panel of experts in the field. The experts evaluated each question on the examination to determine how many correct answers are necessary to demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to pass this examination portion. Your ability to pass the examination depends on the knowledge and skill you display, not on the performance of other candidates.
In other words, a panel of subject matter experts examined the content of each item (question) on the exam and then estimated how many minimally-qualified candidates would answer the item correctly. Based on the panel’s expert opinion, a pass/fail score (cutscore) is then determined. Not without controversy, the Angoff method is “empirical”, has undergone extensive research and meets the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing.
That’s all fine. But it doesn’t really answer the question.
Over the years, I got the impression from various sources that the passing percentage grade was 75%. Being intrigued by this issue, I contacted the good people at the HQCC and received, among other details, the following information:
On the actual exam you need 92 questions correct out of the 125 total questions.
The Passing Score for the CPHQ Exam
So there you have it. To pass the CPHQ exam, you’d need to correctly answer 92 out of the 125 questions (or 73.6%) that contribute to your score. However, many candidates can’t tell the difference between the “real” exam questions and pretest questions. Therefore, as a rough guide, the minimum number of correct responses to pass the exam is 0.736 × 140 = 103.
Remember that the figures quoted above refer to the number of questions that “minimally-qualified” candidates would answer correctly, as predicted by a panel of experts. With proper preparation, most test takers for the CPHQ exam will perform much better than the minimum standard.