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What’s the Pass Rate of the CPHQ Exam?

“What are the chances of me passing the CPHQ exam?”

“How many people pass the CPHQ exam?”

“What is the CPHQ exam pass and fail rate?”

Many individuals who have considered taking the Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) exam have asked me these questions (and more).

In this article, I’ll address the question about the proportion of CPHQ examinees who pass and, by doing so, I hope to correct some misguided information that is circulating around the Internet.

CPHQ Exam Pass Rate

From January 2006 to December 2009, a total of 2694 individuals took the CPHQ exam. Of these, 1845, or 68.5%, passed.

I chose the period 2006–2009 because complete data were readily available and CPHQ candidates could only take the exam in its computerized version at Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc (AMP) centres from 2006 onward. In the years just prior to this period, the exam was available in two versions: a computer-based domestic (US) exam and a paper and pencil international format. With the information on hand, comparison of the pass rates before and after 1 January 2006 might not be valid.

The graph below shows the percentage of candidates who passed the CPHQ exam from 2006–2009.

The following table gives the number of persons who attempted the exam and the number who passed for each of the last four years, i.e. 2006–2009.

Year Persons Who Sat the Exam Persons Who Passed the Exam Pass Rate (%)
2006 529 348 65.8
2007 767 553 72.1
2008 607 428 70.5
2009 791 516 65.2
TOTAL 2694 1845 68.5

These figures are for illustrative purposes only. They do not tell us, for example, what proportion of first-time examinees passed. Neither do we know their educational level, years of experience in quality management, place of employment, etc.

What Do These Numbers Mean?

In summary, fewer than 69 out of every 100 examinees pass. This statistic includes both first-time and repeat examinees. The percentage of first-time examinees who passed the exam is higher, but it is not likely to be so by much. (The latter information is unavailable to the general public.)

I suppose the main reason why people are so interested in these numbers is that they want to gauge their chance of success in the exam.

However, using the statistics above to predict your probability of passing the CPHQ exam makes one or more of the following assumptions:

  • Passing the CPHQ exam is a game of random chance, akin to winning a lottery (which it is not)
  • The composition of the examinees, in terms of knowledge, skills, training, education, and experience, will remain the same in future years as it has been in the past (which it will not)
  • Your overall knowledge and skills in the subject matter tested in this exam is equivalent to the historical mean of examinees in preceding years (which may or may not be the case), and/or
  • The passing score for the CPHQ exam in the future reflects a level of difficulty that is identical to that of the exam in the past (which may or may not be the case).

A Rational Approach

I’m aware that some people get hung up over numbers such as those above. This is probably unnecessary.

Why? Because these figures lack any predictive value for your own set of circumstances. For you: the exam result is a dichotomous variable, i.e. Pass/Fail. As two or more of the assumptions listed above cannot be met, the pass rate, which is a proportion/percentage, does not add any further information.

Many different factors contribute to success (or failure) in this exam: education, professional training, experience in healthcare quality management, the amount and quality of preparation for the exam, exam technique, familiarity with the concepts tested, etc.

Like most other aspects of life, there are some things you can change quite easily and quickly, and others you can’t. Examples of the latter are: age, background, profession (nursing, medicine, health informatics, pharmacy, etc), educational level (diploma in nursing, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctoral degree), country of practice, healthcare quality experience.

On the other hand, there are some things that you can do to positively affect the outcome of the exam. These include:

  • Reading relevant material
  • Participating at CPHQ exam preparatory workshops and courses
  • Attending conferences and seminars related to healthcare quality
  • Receiving CPHQ exam coaching
  • Attempting CPHQ exam practice questions and closing any knowledge gaps identified
  • Discussing quality issues and CPHQ exam practice questions with colleagues

Doing all of these things doesn’t guarantee a pass, and the utility of each depends on the individual’s baseline knowledge, experience, preferred learning style, etc. But collectively, these activities would certainly help individuals get closer to passing the exam.


Based on the statistics and my own personal observations, I would rate the CPHQ exam as moderately difficult for most people who sit the exam. Overall, a little more than two thirds (68.5%) of examinees pass.

However, examinees vary considerably in knowledge, skills and experience. Historical pass rates should neither encourage nor deter anyone considering the CPHQ exam. Instead, it might be more beneficial to evaluate the professional, financial and personal implications of preparing for and passing the CPHQ exam.

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