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Preparing for the National Knowledge Exam® (NKE)

By: Alex Nikotina,Tamara Reid

Published On: June 15, 2017

In today’s day and age, having a professional designation is a must in almost any industry. Performance and knowledge standards are being continuously elevated for Human Resources professionals, and every respectable business, company and organization is expecting applicants to have the education and experience in human resources management.

If you are looking at updating your credentials or are on your way towards a professional designation in Human Resources, you may have to write a National Knowledge Exam (NKE) to demonstrate your knowledge in the field.

We have met up with Tamara Reid, Risk and Compliance Officer at Gedcor Group, to hear her insights on the NKE exam. Tamara holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Diploma in Human Resources Management, and she has successfully passed the National Knowledge Exam on her first attempt.

writing an exam NKE HR

NKE Exam: What You Need to Know

The National Knowledge Exam (NKE) gives candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the field of human resources. Below is a breakdown of a few simple things you need to know about the NKE Exam.

  • Exam Format: The exam consists of 160 multiple-choice questions that are directly related to the functional dimensions of the human resources profession. Each question lists four possible answers, only one of which is correct. Out of 160 questions, only 150 questions are scored (10 questions are included for field test purposes).
  • Exam Administration: The NKE exam is administered through each provincial member association. You should register with your provincial association prior to signing up for the exam. Generally speaking, the exam is administered twice a year, in June and November.
  • Price: Exam cost varies from province to province. Generally speaking, it is around $400 for the test.
  • Note: You may be exempt from writing the NKE examination if you are a graduate of an accredited post-secondary Human Resources program.

Tips for NKE Exam Preparation

Preparing for the National Knowledge Exam can be a daunting task, but there is a variety of tactics you can utilise to ensure you are fully prepared for this important exam.

NKE Study Groups

One of the options is taking NKE prep courses or joining NKE study groups. In Tamara’s case, she used the self-study method and joined NKE study groups on Facebook. “I took a post-graduate diploma in Human Resources Management, so I felt like I didn’t need to take extra courses for my NKE exam,” shares Tamara.

There are different NKE preparation courses available to those who are pursuing their HR designation. Refer to your provincial member association to find out what study sessions are available to you.

HR Diploma Programs

study session HRTaking an HR Management Diploma or Certificate can be a great option for individuals who are new to HR profession, or those who are looking for a more thorough review of the Human Resources industry without having to go back to school for another Bachelor or Master’s degree. This option would also work well for Canadian newcomers who obtained their certification and/or work experience outside of Canada. Many provincial member organizations also recommend NKE exam writers to take introductory HR courses.

If you are planning to take an HR Management program to prepare for the NKE exam, you should first look at the different pathways towards the CPHR (Chartered Professional in Human Resources) designation (or CHRP (Certified Human Resources Professional) in Ontario). Under certain circumstances, you may be exempt from writing the NKE exam when you take an accredited human resources program.

Study Materials

Tamara’s program was not CPHR-accredited, but she was still able to get multiple benefits from it. “One of the best tips that my Recruitment and Selection instructor gave me was to not sell my textbooks. I remember him saying: ‘Hold onto these books like they are worth their weight in gold!’ And I took his advice.”

“I made sure that I kept each and every textbook that I purchased during my HR diploma program. Many of these textbooks were a goldmine of information when preparing for the NKE.”

Of course, you want to make sure that your textbooks reflect current and accurate information about the Human Resources field, so you may have to look into new materials if you took an HR program more than two years ago. Accurate textbook materials can be vital not only for NKE preparation, but also as a guide in your early HR career. “I can speak from experience as an HR professional that some of my textbooks and study materials sit on the corner of my work desk, and I periodically reviewed them,” says Tamara, smiling.

Key Study Areas

When studying for the NKE exam, Tamara recommends paying very close attention to the HR Competency Framework. As of June 2015, CPHR Competency Framework has replaced the Required Professional Capabilities (RPCs). The focus in the HR Competency Framework is on 44 professional competencies that are grouped into nine (9) functional areas of knowledge in the Human Resources field:

  • Strategy;
  • Professional Practice;
  • Engagement;
  • Workforce Planning and Talent Management;
  • Labour and Employment Relations;
  • Total Rewards;
  • Learning and Development;
  • Health, Wellness, and Safe Workplace; and
  • Human Resources Metrics, Reporting, and Financial Management.

The HR Competency Framework also outlines a list of five (5) enabling competencies:

  • Strategic and Systems Thinking;
  • Professional and Ethical Practice;
  • Critical Problem-Solving and Analytical Decision Making;
  • Change Management and Cultural Transformation; and
  • Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Relationship Management.

Knowing and understanding the competency framework can serve as a guide to prepare and study for the NKE exam.

Once you have passed your NKE exam, you may still need to meet a few requirements, such as work experience, before you can obtain the CPHR (CHRP in Ontario) certification. Please refer to your provincial member association for more details on receiving your professional designation.


    View All Comments

  1. Maria Bychkova says:

    Hi Gurveer,
    Please find all the information about the Human Resources Management Diploma program here:
    Also feel free to contact our admissions officer if you have any further questions or if you are ready to proceed with your application: [email protected]
    Thank you!

  2. Gurveer says:

    Please provide me program details for online n full time preparation for CPHR.

  3. Maria Bychkova says:

    Hi Buntu,
    Please refer to our policy on transfer credit:
    Also, please contact our admissions officer if you have any further questions or if you are ready to enrol [email protected]

  4. Meeta Sangha says:


    I will be writing the NKE exam in the next few months. I was wondering what are some classes I can take in order to be prepared for the test.

    Thank you,

  5. Buntu Hungana says:

    I have 249 credits on HRM, I need 360 points with your institution


    I have completed my Bachelors of Business Administration from India and I have 7 years of HR experience as I worked for Avis Rent A Car in the Middle East region was an HR officer – heading the HR . I would like to know the requirements for CPHR related to my case and do I have to do the National Knowledge exam. I am not very good in math but basic math is ok . Does this course(CPHR require a lot of calculation etc – just wanted to know before I get started – If u need a copy of my BBA and other academic certificates let me know – let me know the exact cost for the cost and study material asI would like to go for the online part time course as I currently work so I cannot take a student loan but can I pay it in installments or do I have to pay the whole amount at one time. I would like to know the duration of the part time on line course.

    Thank you.


  7. Maria Bychkova says:

    Hi Buntu,

    Please contact our admissions officer if you have any questions regarding the transfer credits at [email protected]

    Thank you!

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