CPCU® 520 Difficulty

The CPCU® 520 exam is the second CPCU® exam in a series of eight required exams to complete your CPCU® designation.

The CPCU® 520 exam is a 65-minute virtual exam consisting of 50 multiple-choice questions. Exams are virtual, and non-proctored, meaning you take the exam alone online directly from your computer. All questions on the virtual exam will be application-based scenario questions. These are tricky questions that require you to apply your knowledge to a real-life scenario to choose the appropriate answer (you will not be repeating a definition or concept). You will be given a real-life scenario; your job will be to select the best recommendation to solve the given scenario.

You can download one of our free practice exams to see what these questions look like.

In this blog, we will break down the most difficult aspects of the exam. We will detail exactly what you should focus on when studying to pass this exam. This blog comes straight from our CPCU® 520 online course where we break down the difficult concepts and convey the topics in simple terms and plain English.

Important Note: I recommend completing the CPCU® 500 exam before moving on to the CPCU® 520. Although there is no required order to complete the CPCU® exams, a lot of material from the CPCU® 500 carries over to the 520 (such as risk control, risk management, and insurance basics). If you have not passed your CPCU® 500, see here for insight on the CPCU® 500 difficulty.

CPCU® 520 Difficulty (Don’t Stress)

According to nationally published CPCU® pass rates, the CPCU® 520 historically has one of the highest success rates out of all the CPCU® exams. The pass rate is typically around 78%. In my opinion, the CPCU® 520 was the easiest of all the CPCU® exams simply because I was better prepared for the exam format after passing the CPCU® 500 and the material directly related to my experience and training from working in the insurance industry.

The CPCU® 520 exam focuses on insurance operations, such as insurance regulation, underwriting, premium auditing, and claims. The reason this exam is easier than most is because insurance professionals gain a solid understanding of the core material from on-the-job training and experience, meaning you won’t have to learn something completely new. This background knowledge is a HUGE help for understanding the basics of each core insurance operation but unfortunately, the CPCU® 520 will test you on much more than just the basics.

For more insight, see our blog about the CPCU® 520 exam format.

CPCU® 520 Most Difficult Topics

In our opinion, the three hardest parts of the CPCU® 520 exam include:

  • Minor Details – The hardest part of the CPCU® 520 will be learning the minor details and complexities of each insurance function. Even if you’re an expert on the topic, you’ll need to fully study each section because the CPCU® exams are known for testing you on the most minor little details; missing one detail can cause you to choose the wrong answer.
  • Formulas – There is a bit of math and formulas required to pass this exam. This is one of the hardest parts of this exam. These formulas are all related to the “financial reports” section of your course. These formulas include gross profit, gross margin, operating income, and paid-in-capital.
  • Financial Statements – One chapter in the CPCU® 520 covers the topics of commercial lines underwriting, which involves the analysis and understanding of financial statements. This is a difficult section if you do not have a finance background. If you do not have a background in finance, then this is likely your first time reviewing and analyzing a financial statement. These financial statements include the balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, and statement of shareholders equity.

Although this exam has one of the highest pass ratios, DO NOT take it lightly. All CPCU® exams are tough and require you to fully study the online course. Be sure to fully study each chapter for the best results on your exam, even if you consider yourself an expert on one topic.

For more insight, see our blog about the CPCU® 520 Exam Questions

Three Study Tips

1) Read the entire online course and focus on the details: This is by far the most important tip. As mentioned above, you’ll probably have a general knowledge about each insurance operation but it’s the minor little details that will cause you to fail.

2) Make a study guide: Taking notes and making a personal study guide is a great way to improve your ability to recall information on the exam. Make sure your study guide is short and easy to quickly review; this will help you keep track of those minor details and create a reference sheet for you to review rather than re-reading the textbook.

3) Practice, practice, practice: Take as many practice exams and quizzes as you possibly can. This will help you familiarize yourself with the CPCU® 520 question format and help you determine which topics you need to re-study. Once you go through a few practice quizzes and exams, return to your notes and review any section that you failed.

Free Practice Exam

Ready to get started studying? We’re here to help (for free). Download our free CPCU® 520 practice exams to get a feel for the type of questions you will see on the exam.

Download: Free Practice Exam (CPCU® | ARM™ | AINS™ | API™)

More Information

For more information about the CPCU® 500 exam, check out some of our other free resources:


Remember, every CPCU® exam is different. No single exam is the same. Be sure to study ALL topics (not just our recommendation). This resource is intended to provide you with a general idea of where your focus should be. Make sure to thoroughly study every topic of this exam.

Difficulty rank, importance rank, and the advice provided in this resource are solely the opinion of AssociatePI. This resource is intended to provide you with a general idea of where your focus should be. Each exam administered by The Institutes is different. AssociatePI is not affiliated with The Institutes or involved in the exam writing process. Please be sure to thoroughly study every chapter and every topic of this course.

CPCU® exams are administered by the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (“The Institutes”). AssociatePI does not administer the actual exams, we are an independent resource of free content, advice, and study material for professional insurance education. This blog is intended for informational purposes only, to inform prospective students of the benefit of the CPCU® designation.

CPCU® and API are trademarks of the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (“The Institutes”). AssociatePI LLC is not affiliated with, associated with, endorsed by or otherwise supported or recognized by The Institutes in any way. AssociatePI LLC is not authorized by The Institutes to offer courses, practice examinations, or any other resources related to the Institutes’ designations or other programs.

For further information, please email contact@associatepi.com.


Download your free CPCU®, ARM™, or API™ practice exam.