As the January 2011 deadline for the degree requirement for the Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP) designation fast approaches, the number of people writing the exams for the designation increased by more than 50 per cent in the past year.
In May 2009, 1,439 people wrote the National Knowledge Exam (NKE), increasing to 2,145 for the October 2009 sitting and 2,208 for the May 2010 sitting, according to the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA).
While the number of people with university degrees writing the NKE has remained relatively stable, the number of people writing the exam without a degree has increased threefold.
In May 2009, 387 people who wrote the NKE didn’t have a degree. That number jumped to 957 in October 2009 and 1,187 in May 2010.
“Because the degree requirement is looming large, some candidates might have decided to try to get in under the wire without perhaps taking the time or being as seasoned as some of the previous exam writers,” said Debbie Bennett, president of CCHRA.
The pass rates for the NKE have also been steadily declining from 72.1 per cent in May 2009 to 59.5 per cent in October 2009 and 49.7 per cent in May 2010.
“We certainly did anticipate a lower pass rate under the circumstances because of people rushing to take the exam, presumably to avoid the degree requirement,” said Bennett.
With the pass rates declining for CHRP candidates both with and without degrees (see table on page 12), whether or not someone has a degree isn’t the only factor in the declining pass rates.
“There are so many factors that go into performance on an exam,” said Ian Cook, director of research and learning at the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association.
This could include people rushing to write the exam, people being stressed and a variety of other reasons for which there is no data available, he said. But the degree does make a significant difference, said Cook.
Another factor that could have contributed to the declining pass rates is more people, regardless of degree status, rushed to write the exam in May, said Claude Balthazard, director of HR excellence and registrar at the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto.
NKE writers in Ontario must complete a required set of courses and submit their transcripts before being able to register for the exam. With registration for the May exams occurring in March, one month before people would have completed their courses, these CHRP candidates would normally have to wait until October before writing the exam.
Because of the new degree requirement, HRPA implemented a “late transcript” exemption, which allowed people to register for the May 2010 exam and then provide their transcripts at the end of April.
About 450 exam writers in Ontario, nearly one-quarter, took advantage of this exemption and wrote the NKE sooner than they would have been able to in the past, said Balthazard.
“Even individuals with degrees didn’t seem to want to wait and were making use of the late transcript policy,” he said.
Another reason for the big change in pass rates is because the cut scores fall in the middle of the distribution of exam writers, so even small changes in raw scores will give rise to big changes in pass rates, said Balthazard.
Because exam questions need to change from sitting to sitting, each exam’s degree of difficulty needs to be evaluated to ensure consistency for each group writing the exams, said Bennett.
In 2009, the CCHRA adopted Angoff panels, an independent group of evaluators, to evaluate the difficulty of each question on both the NKE and the National Professional Practice Assessment to ensure the difficulty of the exams remains consistent from one sitting to the next.
“We looked at our exams pretty closely and we’re comfortable the psychometric integrity of the exam has been preserved. We don’t think it’s that the standard has changed compared to previous administrations,” said Bennett.
The fact the pass rate for the NKE was so much lower in May 2010 shows how valid and robust the exam and the CHRP are, said Cook.
“Nothing has changed in the exam. The only thing that has changed is the population is significantly different,” he said. “Your designation is worth something and here’s a little bit of proof.”
National knowledge exam for CHRP
A look at exam writers and pass rates
Total exam writers
Per cent without degree
Overall pass rate
Pass rate with degree
Pass rate without degree
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