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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Earning an ECA or CEP designation 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 CEP Institute's literature uses the two terms interchangeably. 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.

Study time is determined by an individual's educational background, time in the field, and other variables. When asked, CEP designees stated that each exam required an average of 40 to 50 hours of study time.

Exams are offered in weeklong exam windows that are predetermined in November and May each year.

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

Although there are 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.

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

There is no time limit on advancing onto the next exam; candidates may simply sign up for the exam that is scheduled to take place in May or November of each year. For further details, view the certification information handbook.

Exam questions are created by members of the CEP Institute Item Development Panel who are expert equity compensation practitioners selected by nomination and invitation.

  1. The rigorous process of exam development starts with a job analysis survey. The data gathered from the survey is used by subject matter experts (SMEs) and psychometricians to identify the domain specifications from which they generate the domain sampling, and then the task and knowledge statements from which they derive the minimal knowledge base for each level.
  2. The information is subsequently synthesized by psychometricians in collaboration with SMEs to create the exam specifications, a road map for all aspects of item (exam question) development.
  3. After item development is finished, the items are examined and evaluated by psychometricians before being evaluated by at least three SME panels and the certification council.
  4. Materials are updated from the sourcing information SMEs provide in the item development process.
  5. The psychometricians conduct statistical analyses after the exams are scored, and the findings, along with all candidate comments, item sources, and any other relevant data, are used in the SME standard-setting panel.

The CEP Institute does not currently bundle sample exam questions with its study resources. However, a number of other sources provide study materials and practice exams, which many applicants find useful. The National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) and NASPP (The National Association of Stock Plan Professionals) are two organizations that now offer sample questions and/or practice exams. You can browse NCEO's specific CEPI Prep Course on their website if you're interested in purchasing one to help you study for the exam. Although it is optional, many applicants have found it to be quite beneficial in getting ready for the exams.

Exam Registration

Registration for each level of exam costs $1895 ($1899 if outside the US). The total cost for all three levels is $5685 ($5697 outside the US).

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

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.

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

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

Our exams 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 exams 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.

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

Before the Exam

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. 

Start with the readings from the course syllabi, since exam questions will be based on them. Be a part of a study group. According to a CEP Institute poll, applicants who participated in study groups had, on average, higher scores than candidates who did not. Participate in the webinar on the CEP Institute Exam Overview. Attend meetings of software user groups and associations and ask questions there. Throughout the year, industry organizations frequently offer course reviews.

During the Exam

If you arrive late to an exam, 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 exam 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. 

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

During the exam, 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. 

After the Exam - Procedures & Resources

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.

These are the average pass rates for each exam (excluding retests and deferrals):

  • Level I (ECA Exam): 67.4%
  • Level II: 64%
  • Level III: 65.8%

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

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 exam questions answered correctly) to a scaled score. Scaled scoring simplifies the interpretation of candidate scores on different certification exams. It enables the scoring of exams with different numbers of questions, difficulty levels, and pass points to be reported in the same way to exam 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 exam 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 exams’ content must be kept up to date and must reflect the current state of the industry. Doing so is accomplished by changing exam questions periodically to prevent candidates from taking the same exam repeatedly. Therefore, all of an agency’s exams change over time. With each change, the exact content of each exam is modified slightly. After each exam is updated, the pass point is assessed to see if it needs to be adjusted to ensure that only qualified individuals are certified.

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.

Yes, the job bank is on this website. It also has further information on how to post job openings. For more info, please click here.

Use our online registration system, CEPI Connect, to update your contact information. If you already have an account but don't remember your password, please contact to retrieve your password instead of setting up a new account.

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, they authorize the CEP Institute to release the results to the owner of the code (i.e. the employer). In all other cases, exam scores are confidential and released only to individual candidates. See the certification information handbook for more information.

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.

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. Additionally, any scores that fall within 3 points of passing are automatically rescored and evaluated during this time.

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