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Questions on US Regulations and Accreditation in the CPHQ Exam: Further Delays?

November 29, 2012

This article was first published for members only on the predecessor of the CPHQ Tutor website on November 29, 2012. It was released to the general community on January 1, 2015.

The Healthcare Quality Certification Commission (HQCC) previously announced that new CPHQ exam content, in particular US-specific competencies, will be introduced from January 1, 2013. This represents a significant change to the exam content outline, and will, therefore, impact most candidates, whether or not they are based in the US or not.

Earlier in the week, I received unverified information that questions on the new exam content will only be scored from March 2013.

Because I am not in the HQCC, there is no way I can tell for sure what’s happening.

However, implementation of the anticipated changes in March 2013 makes sense for at least two reasons:

  1. Historically, the HQCC meets around March each year to finalize the CPHQ exam content outline, which is then published in the annual CPHQ Candidate Examination Handbook. To be fair to candidates, the new content should only be incorporated into the exam after the content outline is included in the exam handbook.
  2. Proper pretesting. By letting everyone know that questions on the new content will be scored from January 1, 2013, most people will assume this to be the case, and therefore treat each question with equal effort. As pointed out in an earlier article, by telling people that pretesting of the US-specific competencies questions was occurring in 2012, most intelligent candidates would/should have been able to identify these questions and ignore them. In other words, pretesting would have failed because a large number of candidates would not have answered pretest questions in the same manner as they did scored questions, as intended by the HQCC. The situation is different from January 1, 2013. It would be reasonable to assume that any question on the exam could be scored, and, therefore, candidates would answer them with the same amount of rigor.

I know several CPHQ candidates have altered their study plans, in some way or other, as a direct result of knowledge of the coming changes to the exam. For example, some have rushed their exam preparation with the intention of taking the exam in December 2012. Others, believing they cannot prepare for the current exam content outline, now plan to delay sitting for the exam substantially so that they can prepare for the new content as well.

When Should I Sit the CPHQ Exam?

With the unconfirmed rumor that there may be 2 or 3 months’ delay in the “new” questions coming out, should you take a chance by assuming the exam content will remain the same in, say, February 2013, and, therefore, not prepare for the new content?

This approach is risky. Here’s why:

  • The “news” that the new content will only be introduced in March 2013 is unofficial and remains unverified.
  • Lack of preparation for the new content could lead to a significantly lower score if you do encounter questions on this content. Read this article to find out why.
  • The changes will occur. We just don’t know exactly when. The longer we are in 2013, the more likely we are going to see the new questions.

So what should you do?

I don’t like living on the edge. I, therefore, recommend that, if you want to avoid any questions on US regulations and accreditation, then you should take the exam before January 1, 2013. You may still get away with preparing only for the current exam content outline if you sit the exam in the first week, or even the second week, of January 2013 (because those “new” questions will probably still be unscored). The longer we are in 2013, the risk increases that those “new” questions become scored, and therefore lower your overall score (because you were inadequately prepared).

If you simply do not have the resources—especially time—to sufficiently prepare for the exam before January 1, 2013, I suggest you prepare for the new content as well. This would be a “safer” approach than not preparing for the new content at all, and hoping/praying that the questions on the new content are not scored on your exam day.


Questions on US-specific competencies may only be scored from March 2013 (instead of January 1, 2013). However, the exact date of this change is unknown. To minimize the risk of being adversely affected by this change, CPHQ candidates should consider either taking the exam before January 1, 2013, or preparing for the new exam content if they choose to sit the exam in 2013, especially if they cannot sit the exam before February 2013.

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