You are a young, aspiring student who wants to jump right into the world of medical sciences. Or maybe you have spent a long time interning and training with other medical professionals. Or perhaps you were out of class for a while but felt the strong need to become part of the same industry. If any of these descriptions fit you, then your most significant hurdle so far must be the CPHQ Exam.
But just how difficult is the CPHQ Exam? What do you need to learn and force yourself to do and achieve to ace this test? Let’s find out.
What’s on the CPHQ Exam?
The Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality Exam, or more simply the CPHQ Exam, consists of 140 questions that you have to complete in only three grueling hours. However, only 125 of those questions are graded. Fifteen questions are “pre-test questions” designed to be inserted into a possible future exam. Those questions do not count for your overall grade. How can you tell whether a question is graded or not? While you can get a hint if you have an excellent eye for the subject, ultimately, the questions are indistinguishable.
But enough about what the exam is, what is it about? The CPHQ Exam can be safely broken down into four distinct topics.
The first topic is “Organizational Leadership.” The skill and proficiency in leadership and helping establish goals and motivate the individuals within a team or group. Thirty-five questions deal with the topic of Organizational Leadership.
Health Data Analytics
The second topic, “Health Data Analytics,” revolves around your ability to analyze existing data through quantitative and qualitative techniques to identify relevant trends and patterns. Thirty questions are focused on Health Data Analytics.
Performance and Process Improvement
The third topic is “Performance and Process Improvement.” This topic involves understanding the processes and tools you use to evaluate and execute growth opportunities as a healthcare professional. Forty items on the test are dedicated to Performance and Process Improvement.
The fourth and final topic involves “Patient Safety.” Patient Safety is a form of discipline that emerged with the evolving complexity in healthcare systems and the resulting rise of patient harm in healthcare facilities. It should seem obvious that the CPHQ Exam would want to know if you have the patient’s best interests in mind. Twenty questions are about Patient Safety.
It is important to note that these four sections, as we listed them, are what is defined by the most recent update by the NCCA since January 2018. If you research older material and exams, they will refer to them with different names; for example, “Organizational Leadership” may be instead referred to as “Management and Leadership.”
Each question may also require the test taker have a specific “cognitive level” for the proper response and answer: the three cognitive levels are “recall” (23% of the questions in the exam), “application” (57% of the questions), and “analysis” (20% of the questions). In essence, these cognitive levels test your knowledge of a specific fact or concept, your ability to interpret and apply said knowledge to a given situation, and your ability to evaluate and solve a problem under the correct and informed judgment.
We have detailed what the CPHQ Exam is, but how do you start taking it? What are the requirements?
What are the Requirements for the CPHQ?
The neat part about the CPHQ Exam is that there are no requirements to take it—no burdensome requirements, anyway. The proctors will take any newcomer who believes that they will be able to ace the exam—and even some newcomers who think they can’t. All so long as the test takers take a fee, because of course there’s a fee!
While we said there are no harsh requirements, the fee you need to pay to apply is still rather significant and not for the faint of heart. Taking the exam costs $400 upfront. Every time you retake the test, you must pay the same fee to enter. Your total payment becomes higher if you decide to apply for the exam through the mail. However, if you are a member of the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ)–which is rather unlikely–you have a reduced fee.
So long as your pockets are lined with cash, you should have no problem applying for the CPHQ Exam. But don’t just jump at this excellent opportunity: just because you can take it doesn’t mean you will pass. We want you first to find out what it will take to pass the CPHQ Exam, starting with how long you need to study to be prepared.
How Long Does it Take to Study for the CPHQ Exam?
“How long does it take to study for the CPHQ Exam” is an excellent question. As the CPHQ Exam focuses itself on the knowledge and application of medical sciences, which is often a field wrought with dangerously complicated material, both theoretical and practical, you need to dedicate a lot of time in your life to achieve a passing score.
Your overall study time will include not just the tedious and lengthy act of sitting down behind your messy desk and piles of textbooks but attaining the hands-on experience and training expected of a healthcare professional.
As a regular exercise, it may take you several hours a day of just sitting down and going through textbooks for technical information and exercises to beat all of that complicated and involved information into your head. These exercises by themselves are not easy tasks you can take lightly.
For students already taking a wealth of curated, exam-designed knowledge in the subject, this may not take so much time, or at least not any more time than you already have put in for your related medical sciences courses. Of course, you will still need to set aside the time to dedicate yourself specifically to studying for the CPHQ Exam.
Suppose you are someone who is pursuing the CPHQ Exam but has been out of school for an extended period, whose only claim to fame is a passion for healthcare and a fondness for shows like Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy. In that case, you need to realize that the time you need to spend studying for the CPHQ Exam will increase tremendously. You need to play catch up to have the mindset to put yourself through this arduous work.
It will take you a hefty amount of time to study for the CPHQ Exam. The best way to study for the CPHQ Exam is to start as early as possible before you even think of applying to the exam. Make it a routine to beat the knowledge into you and make it second nature so that you don’t have to panic and struggle when it comes time to perform the test.
But we have talked a lot about the difficulty of the CPHQ Exam and what it will take to pass without ever once talking about an important detail: what do you need to earn to pass the CPHQ Exam?
What is the Passing Score for CPHQ Exam?
Passing the CPHQ Exam requires earning a score of at least 73% correct. That means you must have, at minimum, 92 out of 125 questions correct in a single run. The grading total does not include the fifteen test run questions. To put it another way, you can only get a measly 33 questions incorrect before your chances of passing the exam become impossible. That already sounds like slim margins.
The average passing rate for participants who take the CPHQ Exam is merely sixty-two percent (or just a little over half) of the participants in a given section. Those are not particularly inspiring numbers. However, as you can retake the exam, you always have another chance to reassess your failings and pass with a higher grade.
We want to get to the point: what do you need to get CPHQ certified? What do you need to pass? That is to say, what is the studying process like?
How Much Do You Really Need to Get CPHQ Certified?
Passing the CPHQ Exam will require a lot of knowledge and understanding of the field, the money to afford the high entry price. You will not pass on guesswork and luck alone. You will not become CPHQ certified if you leave it up to chance. To be CPHQ certified, you need to be a leader, have a keen eye for medical knowledge, learn to grow and improve, and risk everything to ensure the safety of your patients. Healthcare is not a hobby kind of job: this is a field where people can and will get grievously injured if you remain incompetent.
In other words, you need to dedicate yourself full time to your study. The CPHQ Exam wants only qualified professionals, and it is your one chance to prove that you belong with the big boys in the field.
Is the CPHQ Certification Worth It?
If you have been thoroughly reading this entire article, you may have many things going on in your mind. Some of those thoughts may involve whether or not it is worth doing all of this in the first place. What exactly do you get out of becoming CPHQ certified that you wouldn’t get out of any other profession, anyway?
To answer those worries, we have just a few key things we would like to bring up that may reignite your desire to become a healthcare professional.
Opening the Doors of Employment
The first and perhaps most obvious benefit of becoming CPHQ certified is that it will open you to several opportunities for jobs. Many employers and hospitals are looking for more definitively qualified and accomplished applicants in a pretty crowded field of applicants. A certification may seem deceptively simple and small, but others value it a lot, and it can be the difference between struggling through the job market and finally getting the dream job you were always looking for.
But let’s say you already have a well-paying job. What will CPHQ certification do for you then?
If you think that already having a nice and comfortable job–perhaps a paid internship at a pharmacy or working under a doctor or nurse at a hospital–means you cannot benefit from being CPHQ certified, you are thankfully wrong. A certification like this would make your place in this position more valuable, as you are deemed a professional in the eyes of a large agency. It may even help you promote and enjoy more benefits of the company than you ever anticipated. If the company is looking to see that some employees have to go, the CPHQ certification will put you on the bottom of the chopping block.
But there is a bigger world outside of your job or the job you want.
A World of Opportunity
Finally, CPHQ certification opens you to a general world of opportunities where nothing is off-limits. Healthcare professionals, employers or not, will scout and look for potential recruits or someone reliable they can add to the community. They look for certifications and qualifications that would make them stand out, and the CPHQ Exam is one of the easiest ways to do so (though this speaks more of how high the standards are in the world of healthcare). Whether it’s your newfound confidence or the power of actual, physical proof of your achievements and skill, being CPHQ certified will put you over those who are not.
There is absolutely no downside to becoming CPHQ certified. The difficulty of passing the exam is offset by the number of benefits you will receive if and when you pass the exam and become fully-fledged healthcare professional.
Wrapping Things Up: How Difficult is the CPHQ Exam?
How difficult is the CPHQ Exam? It is quite difficult indeed. Passing the exam will not come easy for anyone, no matter how prepared and knowledgeable they are. However, the more prepared and knowledgeable you are, the greater your chance of passing the CPHQ Exam and becoming a successful and accomplished healthcare professional in the future, which is the real reason you are doing this. So steel yourself for the future tribulations, and you will pass the CPHQ Exam like it wasn’t even hard at all!