Certified Pension Consultant (CPC)

CPC Proctored Exam Syllabus  
Course Overview
Exam Details
Required and Supplementary Reading
Supplementary Study Tools
Exam Waivers and Grandfathering Rules
Exam and Publication References and Errata
Continuing Education (CE) Credits

Course Overview

As the culminating designation for the non-actuary ASPPA member, the Certified Pension Consultant (CPC) credential is earned by a diverse group of individuals employed in the fields of plan administration, pension actuarial administration, ERISA consultation, insurance and financial planning.  CPCs work with employers to formulate, implement, administer, and maintain qualified retirement plans and other employee benefit programs.

The world of pensions has been evolving and with increased attention on Fiduciary responsibilities, the implementation of Healthcare Reform and other proposed legislation, the need for professionals who can do more than just administer plans is critical. Understanding all of the nuances with retirement plan rules and the impact on your clients requires the skills of a CPC. The difference between being a CPC versus being a QPA can be likened to the difference between being able to build a house versus being able to design one.

To earn the CPC credential, candidates build upon a foundation of knowledge acquired by passing the examinations required for the QKA and QPA credentials. The CPC designation signifies to colleagues, clients and other members of the retirement industry you commitment to, and knowledge of, our industry, your dedication to understand the many nuances and complicated pension issues, and of your ability to convey this information to clients so that they can make well-informed decisions.

CPC candidates will demonstrate their knowledge and experience through the completion of four (4) specific core and two (2) elective online consulting modules, as well as a single comprehensive proctored CPC short answer examination.  Click here for more information about the online consulting modules.

The materials, modules and proctored exam provide opportunities to analyze and solve consulting problems that might be encountered in real-life client situations. In professional practice, more than one statutory provision or retirement plan consideration often applies, and the pension consultant must be able to recognize, evaluate and provide in depth solutions to potential issues to a client.

All required and suggested reading material, in addition to learning objectives and topic weightings, can be found in the CPC syllabus. Additionally, because ASPPA members with their CPC credential are, or become, leaders in their firms, the topic of ethical performance in one’s professional capacity forms an important part of the CPC course of study. As a result, ethics questions will be a part of each core module and the proctored exam.

The CPC designation is the next step for practitioners who are ready to take their careers to the next level and become recognized retirement plan experts.

All required and suggested reading material, in addition to learning objectives and topic weightings, can be found in the CPC syllabus.

Exam Details

The CPC examination consists of 8 essay questions, and candidates have 4½ hours to complete it. The questions cover the following topics:

  • Business Entities and Related Groups
  • Coverage and Nondiscrimination
  • 401(k) Plans
  • Defined Benefit Plans
  • Distributions and Loans
  • Fiduciary Responsibilities, Including ERISA 404(c)
  • Correction Programs and Ethics
  • Plan Design

The 2017 CPC exam is offered on one day during each exam window. To register, a candidate must have an account with ASPPA. To create an account please click here. Candidates can register online or download the registration form and send via mail or fax to 703.516.9308.

Once registered, eligibility emails will be sent to candidates beginning approximately eight weeks prior to the opening of an exam window. The eligibility email has detailed instructions on scheduling an appointment with Prometric. It is the candidate’s responsibility to schedule an exam. We strongly recommend scheduling an appointment upon receipt of the confirmation letter, as testing centers fill up quickly. To find a Prometric testing center visit www.prometric.com/ara.

2017 Exam Fees - The registration fee is non-refundable.

  • To qualify for early registration, registration forms accompanied by the early registration fee of $334 for members and $361 for non-members must reach the ASPPA office no later than March 31 for the spring examinations and September 15 for the fall examinations.
  • To qualify for final registration, registration forms accompanied by the final registration fee of $415 for members and $443 for non-members must reach the ASPPA office no later than May 26 for the spring examinations and October 27 for the fall examinations.

For more information visit the Exam Schedule & Fees page.

Estimated hours needed to study - Study time depends greatly on the experience level of the student. The average candidate reports it takes 80-120 hours study time per examination.

Grading Process - Notification for examinations will include a score of 9, 8 or 7 (passing grade) or 6, 5 or 3 (failing grade). A score of 3 indicates that no points were credited; rather, the candidate’s performance was below the minimum acceptable standards. The score report contains a topic listing which indicates “needs work” for any topic where the candidate scored less than 70% of the possible points. Raw scores, spreads between scores, pass marks, pass percentages and copies of essay answers are not released. The ASPPA Office is permitted to provide grade information only in writing; grades will not be provided by telephone, email or fax. Candidates who wish to have their grades sent to anyone other than themselves must fill out a Grade Release Form.

Required and Supplementary Reading

All study materials can be ordered by using the online ASPPA Bookstore or by downloading the Publications Order Form and following the instructions to phone, fax or mail your order form and payment.

The required reading for the 2017 CPC exam is:

Recommended Reading:

Supplementary Study Tools

The study tools below are not required preparation for the CPC examination. They are offered as additional study aids.

It is the candidate’s responsibility to review all of ASPPA’s exam policies and procedures, which can be found on Candidate Corner.

Transition Rules for Candidates Who Have Passed C-3 or C-4 Examinations

A candidate who achieved a QPA through the conventional ASPPA program will receive credit for the DOL Topics and Defined Benefit Topics modules since this knowledge was previously tested, and will therefore only have to complete four core modules and two of the three elective modules.

A candidate who achieved a QPA through the ASPPA program prior to 2009 and who passed the C-3 exam only (not C-4) will receive credit for the DOL Topics, Defined Benefit Topics, Investments, Distributions & Loans and Fiduciary Topics modules. These candidates will need to complete the Related Groups & Business Transactions module in addition to two elective modules and the proctored CPC examination.

A candidate who achieved a QPA through the ASPPA program prior to 2009 and who passed the C-4 exam only (not C-3) will receive credit for the DOL Topics, Defined Benefit Topics, Related Groups & Business Transactions and the two elective modules. These candidates will need to complete the Investments, Distributions & Loans and Fiduciary Topics modules and the proctored CPC examination.

Exam and Publication References & Errata

For updates to ASPPA’s publications and examinations please click here. Stop by regularly as new updates are posted. It is the candidates responsibility to check the errata before preparing for and sitting for an ASPPA examination.

Continuing Education (CE) Credits

Candidates who have successfully completed an ASPPA proctored examination can earn up to 20 ARA CE credits depending on the score received. Credits will be applied to the CE cycle in which the score is issued. For more information on ARA examination CE credit click here.

ERPA CE
20 ERPA credits for successful completion of the CPC exam may be awarded.
The final decision as to the number of ERPA credits rests solely with the Internal Revenue Service.