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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 (ECA Exam), 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: When are the exams offered?

A: Exams are offered in week-long, preset exam windows in November and May. 

Q: How long does it take to obtain certification?

A: The minimum time between initial registration and completion of the 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 the ECA Exam, and CEPI levels 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: Candidates may only register for the next available exam held in May or November of each year, but there is no time limit to advance to the next exam. 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: National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO), and NASPP (The National Association of Stock Plan Professionals). If you are interested in purchasing a prep course in order to prepare for the exam, you can view NCEO's dedicated CEPI Prep Course on their website. While it is not required, many candidates have found it extremely helpful in preparing for the exams. 

Q: What is the cost of the exam?

A: Registration for each level is $1895 ($1899 if outside the US).  Total cost for all three levels is $5685 ($5697 outside the US)

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. Please check with your company's policies regarding Professional Development, as these designations can benefit you and your workplace! 

Q: How do I register for the exam?

A: Registration is a simple two-step process. First, create an account in our CEPICONNECT portal. Once you are in the system, make sure to select and pay for your exam. Then, once you have paid, you will be registered for the exam. Then, you will receive an email from confirming your registration. This email is ONLY sent to those who register.  

Q: What is the exam registration deadline?

A: Please see the Registration Page for up-to-date information regarding exam deadlines. 

Q: Can I register for multiple exams at once?

A: No. Candidates may register for one exam per cycle, with a maximum of two exams per year. 

Q: Where are the test locations?

A: Our tests are hosted at Pearson Vue testing centers, so we have access to their worldwide network of testing centers. There is a testing center in almost every city across the globe. When you register, you will select a location close to you for your exam. Additionally, we offer remote testing via ProctorU, which you can take from the comfort of your home. Both are the same cost, and you will be able to pick your preferred method when you register. 

Q: How do I get a receipt confirming the 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: How do I access the study materials?

A: When you register for the exam, you will be able to access a link through CEPI Connect that contains PDF copies of all required materials. You DO NOT need to purchase any additional texts, as the PDF versions of the materials are included in the cost of registration. Some candidates may want to study with hard copies of the materials. If so, you are welcome to purchase the hard copy versions of the text through NCEO. However, please note that you cannot bring any of the hard copy materials into the exam with you. PDFs of the texts will be provided onscreen during the exam. 

Q: How do I join a study group?

A: The CEPI offers the opportunity for registrants to connect via email with other candidates sitting for the exam. If you would like to provide your contact information for these study groups, please 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. 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. As well, the candidate may have to pay an additional no-show fee to the Pearson Vue testing organization. The candidate must contact the CEPI in order to register for any new exams. 

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

A: You are not required to remain at the testing center for the entire duration of the test. Please follow your testing center's guidelines for finishing and submitting your exam. 

Q: What will the exam look like? 

A: During the test, you will see both the PDF study materials and your exam on your screen. On the left-hand side of the screen,  all study materials will be visible as PDF links. On the right-hand side, the exam questions will appear. You will be able to open as many PDFs as once as you want on each page, and each PDF is searchable by keyword and phrase. 

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

A: 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. 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.


Q: What is the pass rate for each exam?

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

Q: What score is required to pass each exam?

A: All candidates must score a 500 or higher in order to pass the exam. 

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

To allow for consistency and ease of interpretation, candidates’ scores have been changed from a raw score (i.e., number correct) to a scaled score. Specifically, the results are converted to a scale that ranges from 200 to 800.  Scores from 500 to 800 are passing scores. Your score report, which breaks down your numerical, scaled score, will be sent to you via email a week following your score reveal in CEPI Connect.  

What is scaled scoring?

To allow for consistency and ease of interpretation, candidates’ scores are changed from a raw score (i.e., number of test questions answered correctly) to a scaled score. Scaled scoring simplifies the interpretation of candidate scores on different certification tests. It enables the scoring of tests with different numbers of questions, difficulty levels, and pass points to be reported in the same way to test takers.

Specifically, a candidate’s raw score is changed to a scale that ranges from 200 to 800, where 500 is the pass point. Therefore, regardless of how the test difficulty changes over time (e.g., May exam versus the November exam), the scores are reported and interpreted in the same way. That is, a score from 500 to 800 will always indicate a passing score, and a score from 200 to 499 will always indicate a failing score.

Why are the scores scaled?

Scaled scoring is important because in order to maintain the programs’ accreditations, the tests’ content must be kept up to date and must reflect the current state of the industry. Doing so is accomplished by changing test questions periodically to prevent candidates from taking the same test repeatedly. Therefore, all of an agency’s tests change over time. With each change, the exact content of each test is modified slightly. After each test is updated, the pass point is assessed to see if it needs to be adjusted to ensure that only qualified individuals are certified.

How do I interpret my test score?

The CEPI exams are now reporting candidates’ scores as scaled scores. The scores range from 200 to 800, with 500 being the minimum score required to pass. That is, if you answer every item incorrectly, your score will be 200, and if you answer every item correctly, your score will be 800. If you have a score from 500 to 800, you pass. If you have a score from 200 to 499, you fail. This way, you can interpret your scores on any test in the same way, regardless of which test you take or when you take it.

Q: Do you offer continuing professional education 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 website. 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 - CEPI Connect - 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: The exam is offered twice a year, and candidates may only sit for one exam per testing period. So, in order to pass all three levels, a candidate will take at least 13 - 14 months to earn their CEP designation. 

Q: How will I receive my score?

A: All scores are uploaded to CEPI Connect 6-8 weeks following the exam. When the results are uploaded, all candidates will receive an email notifying them that the scores have been posted. Additionally, all candidates will receive a score report via email, that further breaks down how each candidate fared per section.