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CPHQ Examination Content Outline: 2015 Revision

The CPHQ exam content outline, effective from January 1, 2015, remains largely unchanged in substance and introduces only a handful of genuinely novel tasks.

The CPHQ exam content outline, effective from January 1, 2015, remains largely unchanged in substance and introduces only a handful of genuinely novel tasks.

The latest revision of the CPHQ exam content outline come into effect on January 1, 2015 (finally!). This change was long overdue but the delay in rolling out the new exam content outline hardly came as a surprise to us. In early 2012, we flagged the issues associated with pre-testing, especially in the context of the addition of US-specific competencies questions. Furthermore, the Healthcare Quality Certification Commission (HQCC) had to incorporate the results of the triennial CPHQ practice analysis survey in mid 2013, find people like myself to help develop the test questions, and then conduct pre-testing through 2014. While these activities were going on, we deduced (correctly) that there would have been no major changes to the exam content till the end of 2014, and advised our students and other clients accordingly. At the same time, we kept our ears peeled for the “new” pre-test questions that candidates came across in the actual exam.

CPHQ Exam Content Outline in 2015: What Has Changed? What’s New?

Even in December 2014, the tasks to be covered by the 2015 CPHQ exam content outline was largely open to conjecture by candidates and the “pundits.” We, on the other hand, preferred to take the wait-and-see approach. So we were delighted to see the new CPHQ exam content outline, effective from January 1, 2015, when it was published.

Form Versus Substance

The latest revision of the CPHQ exam content outline sports changes in how the tasks are described, i.e. in terms of the language used, the packaging. But the content—i.e. the meaning of the words, the meat—remains hauntingly similar to the immediately preceding rendition of the exam content outline. For example, 2 content categories have been renamed: “Management and Leadership” (in previous content outline) to Quality Leadership and Structure” (new in 2015); Performance/Quality Measurement and Improvement” (previous) to “Performance Measurement and Process Improvement.” To illustrate the point further, I’ll pick the first 3 tasks in the latest CPHQ exam content outline, the last 3, and 3 randomly selected ones (using a random number generator), and attempt to map them to tasks covered by the previous content outline:

1 A. 1. (Task Reference Number)
2015: “Support organizational commitment to quality”

PREVIOUS: “Facilitate development of leadership values and commitment to quality”

1 A. 2.
2015: “Align quality and safety activities with strategic goals”

PREVIOUS: “Link performance/quality improvement activities with strategic goals” AND

“Link patient safety activities with strategic goals”

1 A. 3.
2015: “Engage stakeholders”

PREVIOUS: “Identify champions (e.g., stakeholders, process owners, quality, patient safety)”

4 B. 3.
2015: “Participate in these patient safety activities:
a. incident report review
b. sentinel/unexpected event review
c. root cause analysis
d. failure mode and effects analysis (proactive risk assessment)
e. patient safety goals review
f. identification of reportable events for accreditation and regulatory bodies” ”

PREVIOUS: “Perform or coordinate risk management

a. incident report review
b. sentinel/unexpected event review
c. root cause analysis
d. failure mode and effects analysis” ” AND

“Participate in the process of patient safety goals review” AND

“Facilitate communication with accrediting and regulatory bodies”

4 B. 4.
2015: “Integrate patient safety concepts throughout the organizational”

PREVIOUS: “Integrate patient safety concepts within the organization”

4 B. 5.
2015: “Educate staff regarding patient safety issues”

PREVIOUS: “Provide training on performance/quality improvement, program development,
and evaluation concepts”

(You may argue that this task, i.e. 4 B. 5. is new relative to the previous CPHQ exam content outline.)

2 B. 4.
2015: “Interpret data to support decision making”

PREVIOUS: ” Interpret data to support decision making (e.g., benchmarking, outcome data)”

3 A. 5.
2015: “Identify process champions”

PREVIOUS: “Identify champions (e.g., stakeholders, process owners, quality, patient safety)”

3 B. 3.
2015: “Evaluate team effectiveness (e.g., dynamics, outcomes)”

PREVIOUS: “Evaluate team performance”

New Tasks in the 2015 CPHQ Exam Content Outline

Admittedly, there are some tasks that are new compared to the preceding exam content outline. One (“Educate staff regarding patient safety issues”) was given above.

Another example is 2 A. 2. “Apply sampling methodology for data collection”. However, the concept of “new” in this case depends on your reference point. If you were comparing only the 2015 exam content outline and the one it replaced, then this task is new. However, old-timers in this business will instantly recognize this task to be one on the list in past exam content outlines. Nevertheless, even if you didn’t realize that this task was simply making a return to the list and had been a member of the CPHQ Tutor membership site, you’d know that we’ve got your back—the CPHQ Tutor site contains easy-to-read articles that give you all the information you need on sampling, plus realistic questions on sampling in the context of healthcare quality. To be sure, sampling is included in the CPHQ Tutor content because it is important in healthcare quality practice (we should know—it forms an essential part of our consulting work), not because sampling was included in the CPHQ exam content outline several years ago. Which brings us to a pertinent point: selection of the CPHQ Tutor articles and CPHQ exam practice questions are based on actual (high-value) consulting practice. No wonder our content has stood the test of time, regardless of what’s in the CPHQ exam content outline (itself based on the results of a practice analysis survey of people similar to ourselves). We choose substance over form any day.

Most, if not all, of the “new” tasks should not pose any problem to my private students or those who attended my CPHQ exam preparation workshops in the latter half of 2014, but I suspect others may need to put in some work in these areas.

Cognitive Levels of the CPHQ Exam

Cognitively, 3 types of questions appear on the CPHQ exam: Recall, Application, Analysis. The breakdown of question types in the 2015 CPHQ exam content outline remains similar to that in the past.

2015: Recall 26% | Application 57% | Analysis 17%

PREVIOUS: Recall 26% | Application 54% | Analysis 20%

CPHQ Tutor’s Response to the 2015 CPHQ Exam Content Outline

Our team at CPHQ Tutor is actively working to make the necessary changes. We are reviewing ALL content so that:

  1. Content is consistent, in terms of both language and meaning (form and substance) with the current CPHQ exam content outline;
  2. Content no longer relevant to the tasks on the CPHQ exam content outline is archived; and
  3. New content (CPHQ exam practice questions, articles, etc.) is added to address tasks on the 2015 exam content outline that are novel.

This process is often tedious but necessary, and is already underway. We expect all content to be consistent with the latest CPHQ exam content outline no later than February 17, 2015 (the job will probably be done much sooner). In addition, as in the past, we will use feedback provided to us by test takers (before they take the CPHQ exam and after) to modify existing content and to develop new materials for members of the CPHQ Tutor website.


The majority of the tasks covered by the CPHQ exam content outline that became effective January 1, 2015, is simply a play in semantics. However, there are a handful of genuinely new tasks that may be of concern to many candidates, e.g. those mentioned above, OSHA, HIPAA, PPACA, external quality innovations. Content (practice questions, articles, etc.) that address these issues will be introduced to the CPHQ Tutor website, if not already present, over the coming weeks and no later than the first quarter of 2015. Our live CPHQ exam preparation workshops are always guided by the latest CPHQ exam content outline.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • iyyappan.m.s March 8, 2015, 9:06 pm

    please send me details of CPHQ certification application

    • Andy Teh March 9, 2015, 2:14 am

      @iyyappan.m.s—CPHQ certification only requires a passing score on the CPHQ certifying examination. There are no eligibility requirements, but that shouldn’t be misinterpreted to mean anybody can pass the CPHQ exam. (We don’t recommend candidates take the exam unless and until they are adequately prepared.) Applying for the CPHQ exam may be done online or via snail mail. See page 9 of the CPHQ candidate exam handbook for more details.

      • Robert Columbia July 24, 2015, 5:54 pm

        Thank you for the summary of the recent changes. I had a question that is perhaps a bit unusual. I know that there are no formal eligibility requirements to earn the CPHQ (other than to demonstrate mastery of the subject matter), but that attempting the CPHQ on a lark or without adequate preparation is discouraged. My question is – if someone did manage to achieve CPHQ certification solely by self-study, with no healthcare experience and no health-related degree, how likely is it that they could get hired into a healthcare quality or other healthcare management position on that basis?

        For example, someone approaches a hospital with no experience, a bachelor’s degree in history, and a CPHQ. Are they a viable candidate?


        • Andy Teh July 25, 2015, 3:32 pm

          @Robert Columbia—Good question! (and it’s not unusual!). IF you were CPHQ certified but had zero healthcare experience, the chances of getting hired in a healthcare quality position or other management position in a healthcare organization are slim. However, you can build experience and expand your network through voluntary work—I know at least 3 CPHQs with little or no healthcare experience who found employment this way.

          • Robert Columbia July 25, 2015, 8:05 pm

            @Andy Teh – Thank you for the quick response, and it does provide the answer that I was expecting. The CPHQ credential appeals to me as a self-learner – the one who has never been fully comfortable inside someone else’s classroom, but who has a tremendous ability to learn things on his own and then go pass tests.

            I’m more familiar with the Information Technology (IT) world, and so-called “paper certs” (that is, people who have a lot of letters after their name but very little, or no, work experience) are often considered the lowest of the low and unhireable. One of the reasons that is commonly given for this is that most IT certification exams test memorization rather than actual skills.

            In a way, I have suspected that the CPHQ is a little above most IT certifications in terms of rigor and that it actually does test real world competence, rather than testing to see if someone can memorize a list of port numbers or Microsoft Windows command prompt options.

            I’m actually still interested and motivated to try to earn a CPHQ by self-study. Do you think that a CPHQ could help make a candidate more appealing to a university admissions committee? E.g. study on my own, earn a CPHQ by 2017 (I know I can do it if I try!), then apply to a Master of Public Health degree program (or perhaps even Medical School!) with “CPHQ” prominently listed on my application.

          • Andy Teh July 27, 2015, 4:36 pm

            @Robert Columbia—Will the CPHQ credential appeal to a university admissions officer or committee? YES, based on the experience of several CPHQs I know, I believe it will carry some weight in your application.

  • FARZANA October 1, 2015, 6:19 am

    hi my name is farzana I want to applied for cphq ,can you give me information about this course I am in Riyadh their is any institute I will applied for exame ,please help , thanks a lot .

    • Andy Teh October 2, 2015, 1:45 am

      @Farzana—The CPHQ certification program isn’t a “course,” though there are various educational and training opportunities to help prepare you for the exam.

      We are not aware of any CPHQ exam preparation program in Saudi Arabia that we can recommend. Our workshop attendees from Saudi Arabia, including Riyadh, travel abroad to participate in our CPHQ exam prep workshops and courses.

      There are a number of test centers where you can take the exam in Riyadh, but you should contact Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc (APM) at 1-888-519-9901 or AMPIntlExamServices@goAMP.com to schedule your CPHQ examination in Riyadh.

  • Rod January 21, 2016, 12:07 pm

    @AndyTeh: Hi there. First, I’d like to thank you for this wonderful effort to reaching out with so many professionals like me who are willing to sit for the CPHQ Exam. Your website is really a big help. Anyways, I’m currently based here in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and I heard that the CPHQ Exam is no longer being administered here in Saudi Arabia. I am trying to verify this through the NAHQ but until now I haven’t received any response. Can you suggest any testing center in Saudi Arabia where I can sit for the exam? Looking forward to your feedback. Many thanks.

    • Andy Teh January 22, 2016, 11:44 am

      @Rod—I suggest you wait till the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) / Healthcare Quality Certification Commission (HQCC) makes its announcement on the pending return of international testing at the end of January 2016.

  • Mei ling July 17, 2016, 1:34 am

    So in conclusion to take this exam i just need to pay the monthly subscription fees of usd 67 and choose a date for exam. Exam will be conducted online as well? What would the exam cost be? Is cphq recognised in malaysia and is in demand ?


    • Andy Teh July 25, 2016, 4:18 pm

      @Mei ling—The exam is administered by the Healthcare Quality Certification Commission. You may take the exam at AMP testing centers, which are located throughout the world. CPHQ Tutor – Superior CPHQ exam preparation is a membership website that helps candidates get ready for the exam. The exam fee is $515 USD if you pay by credit card, and $540 USD if payment is sent by mail or phone. The CPHQ credential is recognized throughout the world. Hospitals in Southeast and South Asia that we’ve come across are looking for CPHQs to fill their quality positions. Unfortunately, suitably qualified CPHQs in these parts of the world are scarce.

  • unsa November 10, 2016, 11:26 am

    Dear Mr. Teh


    I would like to know about examination dates in 2017.

    I want to start preparation for this. please guide me.


    • Andy Teh November 10, 2016, 7:18 pm

      @unsa—If you are an international candidate (and we believe you are based on your IP address), the 4 windows (dates) for testing in 2017 are as follows:

      • March 19–April 1, 2017; application period is November 19, 2016–March 3, 2017
      • July 9–July 22, 2017; application period is March 4–June 23, 2017
      • September 5–19, 2017; application period is June 24–August 18, 2017
      • December 3–16, 2017; application period is August 19–November 17, 2017

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