Certified Payroll Professional Study Guide

The Certified Payroll Professional Exam is a computer-based test that allows examinees four hours to complete 190 multiple-choice questions. Of these questions, 25 will not count toward your score.

In order to be eligible to take this exam, you must meet one of three criteria. 1. Have been practicing as a payroll professional three of the last five years. 2. Have been working in payroll for two years, and within the last two years, have completed specific courses outlined by the American Payroll Association. 3. Have been working in payroll for 1.5 years, have received the FPC designation, and within the last 1.5 years, have completed specific courses outlined by the American Payroll Association.

If you require special accommodations for a medical condition covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you must make this request in writing at least ten days before scheduling your exam.

Some accommodations that can be provided include a separate testing room, extra testing time, and a reader for those who are visually impaired.

What are the categories and topics covered on the exam?

The seven categories assessed are:

  • Core Payroll Concepts – 27%
  • Compliance/Research and Resources – 21%
  • Calculation of the Paycheck – 20%
  • Payroll Process and Supporting Systems and Administration – 9%
  • Payroll Administration and Management – 10%
  • Audits – 7%
  • Accounting – 6%

Core Payroll Concepts

The topics that will be covered under this category include worker status, Fair Labor Standards Act, employee and employer forms, employment taxes, employee benefits, professional responsibility, and pay methods and timing.

Compliance/Research and Resources

The topics that will be covered under this category include escheatment, compliance and accuracy of payroll processing, reporting, the preservation of records, penalties, and global compliance.

Calculation of the Paycheck

The topics that will be covered under this category include compensation & benefits, taxes and deductions that are involuntary, deductions that are voluntary, employer taxes and contributions, and net pay.

Payroll Process and Supporting Systems and Administration

The topics that will be covered under this category include sustain master files, concepts, functionalities, and selection of the payroll process and supporting systems and administration, disaster recovery plans, project management, and implementing, maintaining, updating, and upgrading these systems.

Payroll Administration and Management

The topics that will be covered under this category include policies and procedures, communication and customer service, skills and practices of a manager, and staffing, the development of employees, and core competencies.

Audits

The topics that will be covered under this category include policies and procedures, and controls that are internal, third-party, payroll system, and accounting system.

Accounting

The topics that will be covered under this category include basic principles, general ledger account classification, payroll entries, and account reconciliation.

How do I register for the exam?

Before registering for the exam, you must complete the application for certification by examination. This application can be submitted online or via standard mail. Payment can be made via credit card (using the online option) or mailed check.

Once you have received notice that your application has been approved, you will be given one year to schedule and take your exam. Scheduling the exam can be done online or by calling the testing center.

What is the cost of the exam?

If taking the exam in North America, as a member of the American Payroll Association, the fee is $380.  As a non-member, the fee is $550.

What are the testing dates and locations?

For year 2018, the exam has already been administered. If taking the exam during March 23 – April 20, 2019, you must register by January 15 – April 19, 2019.

There are many testing centers located throughout the world.

What should I do the day of the exam?

Arrive at the testing center 30 minutes early.

Be prepared to present two forms of Identification. One must include your name, signature, and photo, while the other at least has your name and signature.

You are not required, but allow to bring a basic, silent calculator in case you need it. Items that are prohibited from the testing area include a cell phone, books, and purse, among other personal items.

Can I take a break during the exam?

Although the exam proctor may allow you to take a restroom break, this time will lessen the amount of time you have for completing the exam.

What happens after I take the exam?

Before leaving the testing center, you will receive your score report, which indicates whether you have passed or failed the exam.

If you pass the exam, approximately a week after taking the exam, you will receive instructions from the American Payroll Association on how to order your certificate and pin.

What is the minimum passing score on this exam?

300

What happens if I don’t pass the exam?

If you do not pass the exam, you can re-take it during the next testing cycle. You are permitted to take the exam as many times as necessary to pass. Keep in mind, you must pay the fee each time you re-take the exam.

How Can I Prepare for the Certified Payroll Professional Test?

That’s a great question.  We’ve broken down the answer into three parts.

  1. Do yourself a favor and study.  Do not walk in unprepared. We have recommended prep materials below, but that only helps if you actually try.  Plus, studying is actually proven to be the best antidote to test anxiety.
  2. Take care of yourself.  Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping.  All of these things are scientifically linked to brain performance.  If you take care of your body, you’ll be helping your grades.
  3. Get a study guide or set of flashcards.  Some people study better a certain way. Find your study strengths and make the most of them.  We’ve tried to make it easy for you by tracking down the best study guide and flashcard set for your exam.  Below you’ll see links to both!

Study Guide

Flashcards

 

Last Updated: August 14, 2019