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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Q: What are the benefits of certification?

A: Certification indicates an individual has demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the equity compensation body of knowledge. Organizations and individuals use Institute exams as a measurement of basic (Level I), intermediate (Level II), and advanced (Level III) knowledge, skills, and abilities related to equity compensation administration.

The median salary of Certified Equity Professionals is 24% higher than equity compensation professionals as a whole. A survey of Certified Equity Professional designees found they gained greater confidence and recognition, grew professionally with their company and earned more responsibilities and technical knowledge as a result of certification.

Q: What is the difference between an "exam" and a "course"?

A: The terms are used interchangeably throughout CEP Institute literature. The CEP certification process is structured as a series of three independent-study courses that include all reference texts and syllabi. Each course concludes with an exam, which must be passed in order to progress to the next higher course/exam level.

Q: How much time does it take to prepare for each exam?

A: Study time depends on educational background, time in the field and other factors. A survey of CEP designees found their average study time per exam was between 40 and 50 hours.

Q: Where and when are the exams offered?

A: Exams are offered on preset exam dates in November and June. We have exam locations in over 20 cities nationwide and can accommodate candidates in foreign locales on an individual basis.

Q: How long does it take to obtain certification?

A: The minimum time between initial registration and completion of CEP Institute Level III exam is 14 months.

Q: What are the pre-requisites for the program?

A: While we have no formal educational requirements, we recommend 1, 2 and 3 years of equity compensation experience for CEPI Levels I, II and III respectively. For more information, please see the program description.

Q: What is the relationship between Santa Clara University and the Certified Equity Professional Institute?

A: The CEP Institute is a program of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business and Administration.

Q: After initial registration, how long do I have to complete the program?

A: There is no time limit. See the certification information handbook for more information.

Q: Who writes test questions?

A: Members of the CEP Institute item development panel, who are expert equity compensation practitioners selected by nomination and invitation.

Q: What is involved in test development?

A: Test development is a rigorous process, beginning with a Job Analysis Survey. Psychometricians and subject matter experts (SMEs) use the information gained in the survey to determine the domain specifications, from which they create the domain sampling, and finally the task and knowledge statements, which are used to determine the minimum knowledge base for each level.

Psychometricians then work with SMEs to synthesize all the information into the test specifications, the map which guides all aspects of item (exam question) development.

Once item development is complete, psychometricians review and analyze the items, which are then reviewed by at least 3 SME panels and finally by the certification council.

Materials are updated from the sourcing information SMEs provide in the item development process.

After the exams are scored, the psychometricians perform statistical analyses, the results of which are used in the SME standard setting panel, along with all candidate comments, item sourcing, and any other pertinent information.

Q: Does the CEP Institute provide sample study questions?

A: At this time, the CEP Institute does not provide sample study questions with the study materials. However, several outside sources offer study guides and sample questions that many candidates find helpful. The following companies currently provide sample questions and/or practice exams: FatRabbit Services, National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO). NASPP and   These and other educational resources are listed on the resources and links page.

Q: What is the cost of the exam?

A: Registration for each level is $1495 ($1695 if outside the US).  Total cost for all three levels is $4485 ($5085 outside the US)

 Q: How much do the books cost? 

A: For 2018, the costs are: Level 1: $117, Level 2: Level 1 plus $47, Level 3: Level 1 plus Level 2 plus $84.  All prices are US dollars and do NOT include tax or shipping.  Costs are cumulative (i.e. for Level 2, the total cost is $164 or Level 1 plus Level 2).

Q: How much is tuition?

A: Refer to the registration page for all fees. Tuition includes the self-study binder, syllabus, and registration for the next scheduled examination.

Q: Will my company pay for CEPI tuition?

A: 92% of Certified Equity Professional designees reported their companies paid all CEP Institute fees. Check with your company's policies.

Q: How do I register for the exam?

A: Every CEP candidate begins with Level 1. Candidates may register online.

Q: What is the exam registration deadline?

A: Approximately six weeks before the test administration. Please see the certification information handbook for specific dates.

Q: Can I register for multiple exams at once?

A: No. Candidates may register for one exam at a time.

Q: Where are the test locations?

A: There are various test locations nationwide which are subject to change for every exam date. View test locations.

Q: How do I get a receipt confirming registration fee payment?

A: A receipt is automatically provided to candidates who pay by credit card through the online registration system. You may also send a written request to the CEP Institute at

Q: Once I register, how long does it take to receive my study binder?

A: Approximately 2-4 weeks.

Q: What is the cost of replacing a reference text?

A: Please see our materials page for current reference texts and binder fees.

Q: How do I join a study group?

A: Indicate your interest by checking "yes" when prompted by the online registration system. If your registration has already been submitted without this notification, contact the CEP Institute at

Q: How do I prepare for CEP Institute exams?

A: Exam questions are based upon the course syllabi readings, so start there. The exams are open book, so it often helps to mark and/or highlight the pages of required readings. Participate in a study group. A CEP Institute survey indicated that study group participants’ scores were higher, on average, than scores for candidates who did not participate in study groups. Participate in CEP Institute Exam Overview Webinar. Attend and ask questions at software user group and association meetings. Course reviews are often offered by industry organizations throughout the year.

Q: What if I arrive late to the test?

A: You will not be admitted to the exam and you will be considered a No Show. A No Show candidate forfeits their exam registration fee and must reenter the program as a new test candidate. The candidate must contact the CEPI in order to register for any exams

Q: What if I finish the exam in less time than the scheduled time?

A: You may leave at any time until fifteen minutes before the end of the exam. During the last 15 minutes of the exam, candidates must remain in their seats until called to turn in the exam by the proctor to respect other candidates still finishing up with the exam.

Q: Do exam questions have listed references to the reading materials?

A: No.


Q: Why does it take 6-8 weeks to get the results of the exam?

A: The exams are mailed in from all over the country before the scoring can begin. One week is allowed for this. Next, we score the exams electronically and convene a standard setting panel to work with a psychometrician on a series of complex statistical calculations to verify that each exam question performed appropriately.....this takes about two weeks. Next, we allow two weeks to investigate any anomalous results that the first statistical analysis found. Finally, we allow two weeks in case any of the results have to be appealed to the Certification Council. If there is a question that an exam item might have been misinterpreted, it goes to the council. Also, any scores that fall within 3 points of passing are automatically rescored and evaluated during this time. Then, we report the results via mail....allow the last week.

Q: What is the pass rate for each exam?

A: Average pass rates since 2009: Level 1: 67.4%., Level 2: 64%,
Level 3: 65.8%. (Rates exclude retests and deferrals.)

Q: What score is required to pass each exam?

A: This is determined by the standard setting committee for each exam administration.

Q: How is the passing score determined for each level?

A: After each exam, the CEP Institute convenes Standard Setting Panels, using the Angoff method to establish the passing points for minimally qualified Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 candidates.

Three panels of CEP designees, one for each exam level, review the examination forms to determine how many test questions a minimally qualified candidate should answer in order to pass the examination.

The Angoff method includes the following steps:

The knowledge of a "minimally competent candidate" is defined for Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3

Panelists individually review examination questions and estimate the percentage of "minimally competent" candidates who will answer each question correctly

Passing scores equal the average of the sum of individual panelist ratings

The Angoff process is the most commonly used approach to set standards on multiple choice credentialing examinations. It ensures that examination passing points are not arbitrarily determined.

Q: Do you offer continuing professional educational credits/units for the CEP designation?

A: The CEP exams are not registered with the NASBA for continuing professional education units.  Your state licensing board may accept the exam as CPE - please check your professional licensing body.  Upon request, the CEP Institute (at will issue a letter of proof of completion and the recommendation for 40 credit hours per exam. The CEP Institute does not guarantee that your licensing body will accept the recommendation and/or proof.

Q: Is there a job bank for CEP designees and CEP candidates?

A: Yes, the job bank is on this web site. It also has further information on how to post job openings.

Q: Is continuing education required to maintain the CEP designation?

A: Yes, please see continuing education for more information.

Q: How do I change my contact information with the CEP Institute?

A: Use our online registration system - MyCEP - to update your contact information. If you already have an account but don't remember your password, be sure to contact to get your password instead of setting up a new account.

Q: Are exam scores released to my employer?

A: Yes - BUT only if the candidate registers for an exam using a payment code provided by their employer. When a candidate registers for an exam with a payment code, the candidate authorizes the CEP Institute to release the results to the owner of the code (ie the employer). In all other cases, exam scores are confidential and released only to individual candidates. See the certification information handbook for more information.

Q: How long does it take to receive the Certified Equity Professional designation?

A: 14 months or more.

Q: Can I receive my exam score report via email?

A: To meet the most stringent security measures, exam results are distributed by USPS mail only.