What Is the Best Way for Me to Pass the CPHQ Exam?

CPHQ candidates now have a choice of options when getting ready for the CPHQ exam. In order to get the most valuable advice about the approach that best suits their situation, candidates should have some basic information on hand.

“How can I pass the CPHQ exam?”

“What resources should I buy to pass the CPHQ exam?”

“Can you give me advice on passing the CPHQ exam?”


I get a few questions like these every month. Sometimes they come in an email. Sometimes via the Contact page. Other times in a LinkedIn message. And other times by telephone or in person at conferences, seminars, or workshops.

Ask the Question in the Right Way

What Is the Absolute Best Way for Me to Pass the CPHQ Exam?

It’s a great question. In my role as a professional CPHQ coach, I think about this issue (a lot) to help my students achieve the best possible result as quickly and as comfortably as possible.

But this is no longer 2009. We have more options (though not many legitimate ones) for approaching CPHQ exam preparation. Gone are the days when you get online and search for a few books (or in many cases, one book) to buy to help you prepare for the CPHQ test. That’s so old school.

Anyone who gives you an answer directly, without asking you more about your circumstances, is doing you a disservice and/or trying to peddle their product without thinking whether it will help you and how.

Your strategy for taking the CPHQ exam should be based on you, not on what the marketers promise or what other people did in the past. How others prepared for their exam might or might not have been the best way for their skills, knowledge, and experience. Their methods might or might not have been the most efficient or most effective possible, regardless of the results. They might not have had the opportunity to explore more modern techniques for preparing for the CPHQ exam.

So if you’re asking someone (not just me) about the best way to become a CPHQ, stop for a second and consider the following questions:

  • What is your experience in healthcare quality? (Not only in terms of years, but also what you’ve done in that period and where.)
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses, relative to the CPHQ exam content outline? How objective is your assessment?
  • Have you attempted the CPHQ exam in the past? If so, what were your scores for the four major content categories?
  • What other credentials do you have, e.g. certifications, a master’s degree?
  • What is your preferred learning style?
  • How much resources and time can you invest in exam preparation?
  • What time frame have you given yourself?
  • When was the last time you sat a standardized professional exam? What were your results?
  • How familiar are you with the commonly-used terms and commonly-tested concepts on the CPHQ exam?

It will take some time, but asking yourself these questions and writing down the information somewhere before seeking advice will help you get the highest quality suggestions while avoiding either (A) a one-size-fits-all magic “solution” or (B) a wishy-washy answer that leaves you none the wiser.

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  1. If any healthcare quality professional is looking at what their study material options are in terms of passing the CPHQ exam, I would say that Dr Teh’s website (yes, ALL his articles MUST be read thoroughly including all quizzes) and 1 standardised healthcare quality book would be more than sufficient 🙂 My passing the exam on the first attempt with the above mentioned resources is enough evidence!

      1. @heather – Prior to taking the CPHQ exam, Dr Sundar, as she stated during our interview, had undergone her internship and had no formal training in quality management. Dr Sundar was a physician executive. She assumed a support role in the medical administration department of the hospital, where she was working, for less than 2 years before becoming a CPHQ. Dr Sundar passed the CPHQ exam on her first attempt. The information provided here is merely extracted from our interview with Dr Sundar; I haven’t shared any additional information. Although I knew/know a lot more about Dr Sundar’s circumstances (we still keep in touch – she never forgets my birthday!), I hope you understand I will never disclose personal or other information about her or any of our clients, both individuals and organizations (of any size). Privacy and confidentiality are paramount in our work as healthcare consultants.

  2. I second that. I read one book and did the questions on CPHQ tutor and achieved a passing score of 113 on the first attempt.

    1. hello,
      I am rami from KSA, I saw your comment and I would like to know whats the book your were read.

      1. @rami – We have read more books on healthcare quality than we can count, and certainly more than 90% of CPHQ candidates. More importantly, we have distilled the pertinent information and presented it in a simple and concise manner.

  3. I have gained knowledge since I joined the webiste. I do have a question. I do very well learning from lecutures. Does any know of any dvd lecutres that are available that are reputable to help with studying for the exam

  4. Can you pkease send me pic of the answers for the study question of janet brown book , the healthcare quality handbook , i need only the answres , have photocopy of the book but doesnt include answers , be cool and send them to my email please

    1. @Sara – Phoptocopying Janet Brown’s The Healthcare Quality Handbook without the author’s explicit permission is an infringement of copyright and theft of intellectual property. We neither participate in nor condone such activities. As a CPHQ, I feel the responsibility to uphold the values and principles of the healthcare quality profession. Though we have the material you want, we will NOT promote behavior unbecoming of the profession.

      Not paying for Janet’s, or anybody else’s, work is stealing, and stealing is definitely not cool.

      “Life is made up of choices. There are two ways of doing things, the right way and the wrong way. Every responsible individual stands almost daily at the crossroads and must choose which way he will travel. He can take the road that leads to the heights where the good and great of the earth assemble, or he can take the road that leads to the depths where the victims of remorse and despondency go. Life calls for almost constant decisions and the decisions which we make reflect with accuracy our thinking and our tastes.”
      —Delbert L. Stapley

      P.S. We are not associated with Janet Brown or her company, JB Quality Solutions, though we regard and respect Janet as a colleague in the healthcare quality profession. Except in specific circumstances and for specific topics, we do not recommend the use of Janet Brown’s The Healthcare Quality Handbook for CPHQ exam preparation. Also, we do NOT recommend against the use of The Healthcare Quality Handbook for the same purpose.

  5. hello,
    I visited your very impressive website… I suppose your teaching would be equally impressive and effective but unfortunately the course fees you have mentioned is way too much for me.. 🙁

    The way to go scheme will end up same too i guess!!

    I hope you dont have some discounted programs available for nonaffording

    1. @Shaz – We recognized more than 5 years ago that the fee for our private CPHQ coaching program was going to be beyond the budget of most candidates. Therefore, we created CPHQ Tutor, which offers excellent value! Discounts on the CPHQ Tutor subscription fee are available to members of selected state healthcare associations for healthcare quality and employees of organizations with which my healthcare quality consulting firm has worked with.

  6. Take my examination on December 19th. Hoping to pass with flying colors been studying for 2.5 weeks so far.m

  7. Hello everyone, I am a Registered Nurse. I have been doing quality for about 3.5 years. I was sorta placed in the position without any training. I went a BCBS CPHQ prep work shop in August, I have been studying off & on for about a month now. I plan on taking the exam in late December or early January. I welcome all comments & any advice for those who have taken the exam whether you passed or not. Thanks

    1. @kathleen schwarzkopf – New quizzes are published every 3 or 4 days. We don’t recommend you keep attempting the same ones because this is unlikely to add value to your exam preparation. You might wish to review ones you’ve previously tried at longer intervals, say every 4 weeks.

  8. Hi, Do you have any idea about the suspension of CPHQ exams taking internationally. when will they start again. can i start studying for the exams now

    1. @Bayani – The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers a range of certifications. None are specific to health care. The Healthcare Quality Certification Commission (HQCC) offers only the Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) certification. The latter is specific to health care.

    1. @sunday – We have written a number of books and “study guides,” which are meant for use by students enrolled in our private coaching program, in conjunction with other tools and our live instruction. They are not available to the general public.

  9. Hi Andy,

    I am an occupational therapist who is very interested and looking to get into healthcare quality but have very little actual exposure to the field. I have asked for opportunities to get involved in QI projects at the hospital, but its been a little slow because of my pt. care responsibilities. Do you think studying and passing the CPHQ would increase opportunities for me to venture into health care quality?

    1. @Roxanne – Being CPHQ certified may help because it demonstrates your commitment to quality and a level of skills and knowledge in the field. With the CPHQ credential, it will likely be easier to access opportunities to participate in improvement teams.

  10. hii ,,, Anybody know the site of CPHQ practical question paper website,,,or anybody have link ,,,kindly post here ,,it will be great help whoever going for CPHQ exam…

  11. Dear i am mohd nazim hospital pharmacist has more than 5 years experience and also i am out-patient pharmacy quality coordinator..i am planing to attend cphq exam,i would like to ask you,cphq certification would be better for my hospital pharmacist carrer?
    and also what egilibilty criteria are required for attebd cphq exam..
    nazim saudi arabia

    1. @mohd.nazim – Will CPHQ certification advance your career as a hospital pharmacist? Possibly. Like all certifications, the CPHQ credential will help to get you noticed; it will lend you credibility, especially in the field of quality and patient safety. But there are other considerations, such as your ability to deliver results – the extent to which you add value to your organization, and more specifically, add value to the aspirations of the “real” decision makers within your organization, will ultimately decide whether you maximize the potential of your CPHQ certification. Not all CPHQs achieve the same level of success. Our clients (hospitals and other organizations) have found this out for themselves! 🙂

      With respect to the eligibility requirements for the CPHQ examination, I refer you to the CPHQ 2017 Candidate Examination Handbook (Page 8) and our article “Am I Eligible to Take the CPHQ Examination?

  12. for CPHQ exam… is it required to attend a lecture course prior to examination? is it part of the requirement? or I can take the exam even if I didn’t attend the lecture course? thanks!

  13. i will be appearing in CPHQ as international Candidate December 2017 . I want to take benefit from your site . kindly suggest how to do .

  14. Good day! I am planning to take the CPHQ this december.. and I am looking for a good reference for the exam. Does my subscrition to the CPHQ tutor will provide enough resources for the exam? and can you send me the details or the inclusion of your package before I purchase Brown’s handbook.

    Thank you!

    1. @A – CPHQ Tutor is not designed to be the sole resource for those preparing for the CPHQ exam. Some people have used CPHQ Tutor exclusively (i.e. CPHQ Tutor only, no books, no workshops/seminars, nothing else) to pass the CPHQ exam. However, this is not something I’d recommend most people do! Most candidates should try and identify gaps in their knowledge and skills relative to the CPHQ exam content outline and work on closing those gaps first. The CPHQ exam is a professional exam – most questions on the exam are “Application” and “Analysis” questions (74%), not “Recall” (26%). Therefore, attempting to “study” from a reference text would be extremely inefficient, in my opinion. CPHQ Tutor aims to highlight issues emphasized on the exam and to assist test takers develop a systematic way of approaching the questions. By doing so, the vast majority of members/subscribers would have achieved a higher score on the actual CPHQ exam than if they had not subscribed – over the years, we have accumulated a large body of evidence to back this claim. Our content is published on a schedule, i.e. the longer you remain subscribed, the more content you will access. Because of the (automatic) scheduled release of content and its targeted nature (relative to the current CPHQ exam content outline; see above), we cannot tell you what topics are covered (or not covered) by your subscription here. Further, our content is dynamic, i.e. it is constantly being updated and modified according to information we receive from test takers and other sources.

  15. Do most people sign up for the exam and then pursue studying or studying first and then sign up for the exam?

    1. @Karen Kramme – I don’t know the percentages of candidates who apply for the exam first and then prepare later and of those who prepare first and apply later. I have come across both types. The more cautious/conservative candidates will decide to apply only when they believe they will be ready by the exam date, which they select when they apply. Therefore, they tend to do the following, or something similar:

      1. Determine their level of knowledge and skills relative to the CPHQ exam content outline
      2. Assess what they need to do to close the gaps
      3. Do whatever they feel is necessary
      4. Apply for the exam (and select a date by which they believe they will be ready)
      5. Continue to work on their identified areas of weakness until the time of their test.

      In summary, these individuals prepare, apply, and prepare some more. This approach is probably the most common, and the one we recommend.

      Of course, we have also encountered candidates who, at our first interaction, had already applied and therefore scheduled their exam. Some of them have done satisfactorily within their chosen time frame, while others have rescheduled their exam appointment (candidates are allowed to reschedule their CPHQ exam appointment once at no additional charge) presumably because they felt they needed more time to better prepare. For a small proportion of candidates, rescheduling of their exam is not an option due to their circumstances.

    1. @Aya Seif EL – Nasr – I don’t know the highest score on the CPHQ exam. The highest score ever achieved among CPHQ Tutor subscribers was 121/125.

  16. I am counting down to the final 3 weeks before the exam, work full time but planning to take some days off each week to focus totally on the exam. I have signed up for March and April with this website content. I have worked in Quality for 3 yrs supporting Surgery, Anesthesia, Endoscopy, Sterile Processing, and HBCs for regulatory (The Joint Commission). My background is Radiation Oncology (Radiation Therapist for 37 yrs). I have my MHA as well. I struggle with statistics , not my strong suit. I worked as Radiation Oncology manager for 8 yrs so the leadership side of things come easy for me, as well as process improvement.
    One study book I purchased had a mock test but contained many Lab and Pharmacy questions. Will the questions be that specific? Thanks so much, this content is awesome.

    1. @kathleen schwarzkopf – Most questions on the actual CPHQ exam will certainly not be related to laboratory or pharmacy processes. I’m glad the CPHQ Tutor content is adding value to your exam preparation. I wish you all the best for your test!

  17. Is there an easy way of recalling or that can help me better understand the different types of charts i.e run charts, pareto and so forth and what they use for. I’m quite confused on those. Thanks a lot! and appreciate your help. Also, your practice questions are very helpful on my CPHQ certification exam. More power to you.

    1. @Marites Corpuz – I’m glad the practice questions are helpful in your exam preparation. Any decent textbook on quality should contain descriptions of the various charts used in quality improvement. Familiarity with the charts often comes from practice and experience.

  18. Per NAHQ the CPHQ exam is revised for 2018, is the content on CPHQ tutor adjusted to address exam content changes? More precise question, is what I am studying on CPHQ Tutor still valid for 2018 exam? Thanks so much – taking the exam 4/27.

    1. @kathleen schwarzkopf – Yes, the CPHQ Tutor content has been updated to meet the latest CPHQ exam content outline and will continue to be updated as more information – mainly from persons who have taken the exam – comes to hand. The new (2018) exam content outline is not all that different from the previous one; only 21% of the items are new. CPHQ Tutor does not aim to be all-inclusive; the content focuses on key selected topics. Based on feedback from 2018 test takers, we believe the content remains relevant.

    1. @jackie mikle – Candidates expressing their need to pass the CPHQ exam, for whatever reason, is something we are familiar with. I’m glad CPHQ Tutor is able to help!

  19. You said that you don’t suggest CPHQ Tutor be the only reference material used to study, but what are some other options to complete the study regiment and successfully pass the exam?

    1. @AD Strong – CPHQ Tutor has been used as the only resource for some successful candidates. However, most candidates would benefit from a variety of resources. The type and amount of resources required to pass the CPHQ exam depends on the individual candidate. We firmly believe in a customized approach to CPHQ exam preparation; we prefer not to dispense generic advice – please read our article above. The resources, including reference materials, you select should address the gaps in knowledge and skills you’ve identified. Without any knowledge of your experience, education and training, etc., it’s impossible for us to suggest any meaningful reference material(s).

  20. hello, Iam narjis, graduated nurse with no experience , Iam interred in taking the the certification in CPHQ, but I have like 5% idea about it, and no experience in the quality management field. So, how do i start ? is it possible for me to take the exam and pass in short period of time?

    1. @narjas alsalman – The CPHQ exam does not test at an entry level. Given your lack of experience in healthcare, let alone healthcare quality in a US setting, I would not recommend you take the exam at this time. Some individuals have passed the exam with little or no relevant work experience, but this is an exception rather than the norm.

    1. @neon – As stated in the article (above), I simply don’t know enough abut you and your circumstances to give you advice on how to best prepare for the CPHQ exam.

  21. Hi, I am an international medical graduate with ECFMG-certificate but without residency training. I worked in the US system as a medical assistant. I am interested in the CPHQ, I found solving exam questions really intuitive for the most part. I never read anything about CPHQ outside of my USMLEs.

    1. @Abdul – The CPHQ program is summarized in the CPHQ Candidate Exam Handbook. If you’re taking the exam within the US, you’ll want to have a look at the 2019 Domestic Candidate Examination Handbook. If you’re outside the US, you’ll want to read the 2019 International Candidate Examination Handbook. If you have more specific questions about the CPHQ exam (or the CPHQ program), you can simply post them below. I’d be pleased to answer them.

  22. Hi,

    I am a Quality Improvement Specialist at my current job and want to take this exam. Will this membership give me support from a real live tutor? Thank you.

    1. @Sophie Le – Subscription to the CPHQ Tutor website does not include private CPHQ coaching. The latter is a unique program that we offer selected candidates; it includes access to all content of the CPHQ Tutor website plus face-to-face interaction, Skype calls, notes, etc. Despite its obvious benefits and effectiveness, the private CPHQ coaching program is not for everyone. Let’s face it – not all candidates need to go through the private coaching program to pass the CPHQ exam (they may like to but my time is limited… and my expertise is costly). However, there are those who will clearly benefit from the program (which comes with a 100% money-back guarantee – if you join the program, complete the program, take the exam, and don’t achieve a passing score, we’ll give you ALL your money back).

      There are three downsides to the program that I see:

      1. It is rigorous. My take on this issue is that I believe in enabling healthcare quality professionals succeed in their career, to make a significant contribution in the communities in which they serve, not just helping them pass an exam!
      2. A selection process. Not all candidates who apply to join the program (whom we refer to as prospective students) will be accepted. We will require an interview via Skype, a short MCQ test, and a review of the prospective student’s CV before deciding whether the program will likely meet the needs of the prospective student.
      3. High cost. The program is customized to the candidate’s skills, knowledge and experience. It’s labor intensive, and far, far superior to any course/program out there. It may set the student a considerable amount of money. (We do evaluate the likely value of the program to the prospective student, relative to the program’s estimated financial cost, during the selection process and give appropriate feedback to the applicant.

      The content available on the CPHQ Tutor website is available to students in my private coaching program, and they have found it extremely useful. This is one part of the coaching program which we can make available to any candidate. Subscription to the CPHQ Tutor website is cheap and there is no barrier to subscribing (no selection process!). If you decide it’s not for you, simply unsubscribe. Your financial loss will be minimal (Note: we won’t give you a refund if you unsubscribe). Several subscription plans are available, even a super-inexpensive 1-day plan!

  23. I became aware of CPHQ Certification from a job listing. I am interested in learning more about the criteria but find that information is disjointed. I am a pharmacist and have been practicing for over 20 years in the healthcare field. I would like to expand my career opportunities and have a passion for issues related to healthcare quality. I find it odd that there aren’t specific resources required to prepare for the exam. Can you clarify the relevance of CPHQ Certification? Of course, I’ll continue to research as well. Thanks!

    1. @Michelle – I would recommend CPHQ certification only if you would pursuing a career in healthcare quality, risk management in healthcare, or patient safety. I would not recommend you take the CPHQ exam if you had a strong interest in healthcare quality but were not interested in a career in the profession. CPHQ certification is most useful – and therefore of most value – if you were already in the healthcare quality profession (or a related area) or were wanting to join the profession, because it would complement your skills and experience. I do not believe the certification alone, sans relevant experience, skills, and knowledge, will add value to a person’s career outside the healthcare quality profession (or related area, such as risk management in healthcare or patient safety).

    1. @Meridith – Content on the CPHQ Tutor website is continuously being reviewed for relevance and modified/updated as required. Content follows the latest CPHQ exam content outline, which was last revised (by the HQCC) in January 2018.

  24. Is there a way to get more of the content before the obligatory scheduled dates?
    I purchased the membership less than a month from my exam not realizing it was a timed dissemination.

  25. Am glad I found this board. Ok, so, if I am to assess what I need to do to close the gaps in my knowledge (or lack of) and skills relative to the content outline of the CPHQ exam, how do I determine the gaps? I presume I would need to take some of the CPHQ content-driven practice tests to do so, right? If so, which practice test will best help me determine my knowledge, or would anyone help me identify my knowledge gap? Thanks.

    1. @Bukky Olaoye – I suggest you go with the CPHQ Tutor monthly plan. You will receive a variety of content and practice questions; this plan offers the best bang for buck. You can unsubscribe at any time.

  26. Is there a way to get more of the content before the obligatory scheduled dates?
    I purchased the membership less than a month from my exam, as it is its very tough to get good CPHQ exam specific study material, I have been in healthcare for 19+ years so I am getting 60% score right now but have exam scheduled in 2 weeks. Would appreciate some guidance.

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