Certified Health Education Specialist Exam

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Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)


The need to develop competency standards for professional health educators led to the formation of a task force to establish formal guidelines for knowledge, skills and responsibilities for the health educator. In 1985, the task force published the first comprehensive, research-based review of the education and training needed to prepare entry-level health educators to fulfill their roles – “A Framework for the Development of Competency-Based Curricula for Entry-Level Health Educators”. In 1988, the scope of the task force expanded to include credentialing of health education professionals, and it incorporated as the not-for-profit National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC). [1] Since its inception, the NCHEC has awarded certification to over 10,500 professional health education specialists. The CHES certification became accredited by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCCA) in 2008, and in 2013 was re-accredited for a five year period. The advanced credential, Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) was also accredited at this time.[2]

Function of the Test

CHES Study Guide

The Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential is awarded to professional health educators who have demonstrated through their performance on the CHES exam that they have the specialized knowledge and skills required to provide competent preventive health education services at the individual, family and community level. These professionals apply their skills in health care settings, educational institutions, nonprofits, and government health departments.[3] In order to take the exam, candidates must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, and have completed at least 25 semester hours (or 37 quarter hours) of classwork covering the “Seven Areas of Responsibility of Health Education Specialists.”[4] These areas of responsibility include:

  • Needs assessment,
  • Education planning,
  • Education/training performance,
  • Program evaluation,
  • Health education administration,
  • Consulting, and
  • Communication and advocacy.[5]

The CHES credential provides employers, clients, and the community at large with the assurance that a health education specialist has met a national standard of knowledge and competency in the field.[6] In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 2131 candidates took the exam and 1525 of these passed. On average, about 71% of those who took the exam passed.[7]

Test Administration

CHES Flashcards

The CHES exam is given twice a year, in April and October. Fees to take the exam are graduated to provide discounts for early registration. Those who register during the late registration period (which closes one month before the exam date) are charged the full fee of $330, which includes a non-refundable $100 processing fee. Depending on how far in advance a candidate applies, the exam cost may be as low as $240. Students who qualify to register for the exam are those who submit written proof of planned graduation within 90 days of the exam date may pay as low as $210 to take the exam ($265 for late registration).[8] Those who are unsure of their eligibility may apply for an optional prescreening service at any time up to the late registration period for a cost of $25; if such candidates are deemed eligible, the $25 will be applied to the examination fee. Those who are found not to be eligible will receive guidance on what is needed to make up any educational deficits in order to become eligible in the future.[9] There are multiple exam locations on college and university campuses in most US states, at Professional Examination Service (PES) sites in Manhattan, and at the annual Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) annual meeting.[10] Exam results are provided within 8 weeks for most candidates. Those who apply while still attending school will receive their results once NCHEC receives proof of graduation. Candidates who do not pass the exam may reapply for the next scheduled exam session only and pay a reduced rate of $150 for their second attempt.[11] Candidates who require special accommodations must request them in writing along with documented proof of necessity. Special accommodations may include up to 3 hours additional time in which to take the exam.< ref>Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) Exam Application Handbook March 29, 2015</ref>

Test Format

Sections of the CHES Test
CHES Test Subject Areas Percentage
Assess Needs, Assets, and Capacity for Health Education 12%
Plan Health Education 15%
Implement Health Education 24%
Conduct Evaluation and Research Related to Health Education 15%
Administer and Manage Health Education 11%
Serve as a Health Education Resource Person 16%
Communicate and Advocate for Health and Health Education 7%
Total 100%

Test Structure

The Certified Health Education Specialist Exam is made up of seven major areas: Assess Needs, Assets, and Capacity for Health Education; Plan Health Education; Emplement Health Education; Conduct Evaluation and Research Related to health Education; Administer and manage Health Education; Serve as a Health Education Resource Person; and Communicate and Advocate for Health and Health Education. There are 165 multiple choice questions that have to do with these seven major topics, along with 15 unscored, pretest questions. The exam takes place in pencil and paper format.[12]

Test Environment

On test days, the testing period is usually 8:30 to 11:30 in the morning, but candidates are expected to arrive at least thirty minutes before the exam begins. For entry, aphoto identification is required, such as a driver's license, or a student ID. The test is a paper and pencil format, so every test taker is expected to bring their own pencils. Pencils won't be provided by the testing center. Books, papers, cell phones, or any other personal items, are not allowed in the testing center.[13]

Sample Questions

More free CHES practice test questions.


To grade the exam, raw scores are computed by adding the number of correctly answered items out of the 150 scored questions on each exam form. Because only correct answers are counted, there is no guessing penalty, and candidates are encouraged to answer all of the questions on the exam.[14] The number of items that must be answered correctly to pass the exam (the “pass point”) is computed for each exam form prior to administration of the exam. This number will vary based on the overall difficulty of a given exam form, so that individuals are not given a greater or less advantage based on the difficulty of their particular version of the exam. For example, the pass point for the Spring 2013 exam forms was 98 correct out of 150 questions (or 65%) and for the Fall 2013 exam forms it was 101 correct out of 150 questions (or 67%).[15]

Recent/Future Developments

An 18-month job analysis study was completed in August 2014 and results were used to update and reorganize the competency categories used to assess knowledge and skills on the CHES exam. While the 7 major competency areas for health education specialists remained the same, updates within these areas were made to reflect current practice – particularly in the areas of evaluation, advocacy, and use of social media. Adjustments to the CHES based on these findings will be reflected beginning in October, 2016.[16]


  1. ^ History of NCHEC March 29, 2015
  2. ^ NCHEC Receives Distinguished Recognition from NCCA March 29, 2015
  3. ^ What is a Health Education Specialist? March 25, 2015
  4. ^ CHES Exam March 25, 2015
  5. ^ Areas of Responsibilities, Competencies, and Sub-competencies for the Health Education Specialists 2010 March 25, 2015
  6. ^ CHES Exam March 25, 2015
  7. ^ CHES Exam Background and Scoring March 25, 2015
  8. ^ CHES Exam Schedule & Fees March 29, 2015
  9. ^ Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) Exam Application Handbook March 29, 2015
  10. ^ CHES Exam Locations March 29, 2015
  11. ^ Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) Exam Application Handbook March 29, 2015
  12. ^ CHES Exam 22 April 2015
  13. ^ CHES Handbook 22 April 2015
  14. ^ CHES March 25, 2015
  15. ^ CHES March 25, 2015
  16. ^ NCHEC News Volume 26, No. 1 Winter 2015 March 29, 2015

External Links