CPCU® Exams Ranked by Difficulty (from easiest to hardest)

I earned my CPCU® designation in 2016. Since then, I have been coaching, teaching, and helping insurance industry employees earn their CPCU®.

I have written more than 16 CPCU® courses and have personally helped more than 10,000 students earn their CPCU® certification. So, it’s safe to say I know a bit about these exams and their difficulty!

In today’s blog, I am going to break down the CPCU® exams ranked by difficulty.

This is based on my experience taking these exams, and my experience coaching students through the process to pass these difficult exams.  I personally re-take these exams each time the exam content changes, so I am up to date on the difficulty of each exam.

CPCU® exams ranked by difficulty (from easiest to hardest)

Here is my breakdown of the CPCU® exams ranked by difficulty, from easiest to hardest:

9) CPCU® 500 (easiest)

CPCU® 500 – The CPCU® 500 is widely considered one of the easiest of the CPCU® exams. The pass rate is typically around 75% or higher. This means, out of everyone that attempts the CPCU® 500 exam, 3 out of 4 pass. The content of the CPCU® 500 is easy. The hardest part is getting used to the types of questions asked on the CPCU®. If the CPCU® 500 exam is your first Institute’s administered exam, you will be in for quite the surprise. The questions on these CPCU® exams will be much different than what you may have experienced on a typical exam that you took in high school or college. If you have experience in the insurance industry, you should not have trouble with the concepts of the CPCU® 500 exam. The only challenging aspect will be preparing for the tricky situation-based case questions that are standard to the CPCU® virtual exams.

8) CPCU® 550

CPCU® 550 – The CPCU® 550, the newest CPCU® exam, is one of the easiest exams on the list. The hardest part of the CPCU® 550 exam is the new and unique content, combined with the difficult format of the CPCU® exams. This content will feel new to you (unless you are a data scientist). Topics like supervised data mining, entropy, holdout data, cluster analysis, change analysis, and energy transfer theory. Combine that with the difficult exam question format that puts you in the shoes of a data scientist to answer the given case question, and you have yourself quite a difficult exam! The good news is, the topics are relatively simple, straightforward, and easy to comprehend. Although it will be new, you should have no problem reading through the course and understanding exactly what each topic is about.

7) CPCU® 551

CPCU® 551 – According to nationally published CPCU® pass rates, the CPCU® 551 is right in the middle in terms of difficulty. The pass rate is typically around 75%. This means, out of everyone that attempts the CPCU® 551 exam, 75% pass. This exam is tough because there is so much content to memorize. In particular, there are a ton of different insurance products and coverages that you need to memorize. We have personally reviewed the content and counted over 20 different commercial insurance products (such as flood coverage, equipment breakdown, and ocean marine) that you need to be familiar with for this exam. Almost every single question on the CPCU® 551 exam will be based on some type of coverage, exclusion, or endorsement.

6) CPCU® 552

CPCU® 552 – If you pass the 551 exam, you will have no problem with the 552 exam. Similar to the 551, this  exam is tough because there is so much content to memorize. In particular, there are a ton of different insurance products and coverages that you need to memorize. We have personally reviewed the content and counted over 20 different commercial insurance products (such as environmental insurance, professional liability, and aviation insurance) that you need to be familiar with for this exam. Almost every single question on the CPCU® 552 exam will be based on some type of coverage, exclusion, or endorsement.

5) CPCU® 555

CPCU® 555 – The CPCU® 555 exam is one of the most difficult exams. I see a lot of students struggle with the content of this exam. The reason this exam is tougher than most is because there is so much content to memorize. In particular, there are a ton of endorsements and coverages that you need to memorize. We have personally reviewed the content and counted over 80 endorsements and 11 different personal insurance products (such as dwellings, snowmobiles, and antique automobiles) that you need to be familiar with for this exam. Almost every single question on the CPCU® 555 exam will be based on some type of endorsement or coverage.

4) CPCU® 520

CPCU® 520 – I have had to change my opinion on the CPCU® 520 over the years. I used to consider this the easiest of the CPCU® exams. Now, after a few revisions to the exam content, I consider this one of the hardest exams! There are a lot of math formulas to memorize, and with the new virtual exam testing format, these questions are much more difficult because you must understand how to apply your knowledge in a real-life scenario.

3) CPCU® 556

CPCU® 556 – The CPCU® 556 is one of the most difficult of the exams. This gives students a lot of trouble. The exam focuses on personal finance, including topics such as investing, social security, retirement saving, healthcare, and disability insurance. The reason this exam is tougher than most is because the concepts are so new. Unless you have studied finance or worked in the finance industry, these topics will be brand new. In the personal insurance property casualty industry, we do not commonly deal with topics such as postsecondary education funding, healthcare, life insurance, retirement investing, and taxation.

2) CPCU® 530

CPCU® 530 – According to nationally published CPCU® pass rates, the CPCU® 530 has one of the lowest success rates out of all the CPCU® exams. The pass rate is typically around a 70% pass ratio. The numbers don’t lie! In my opinion, the CPCU® 530 was one of the toughest of all the CPCU® exams. For my non-lawyer brain, the CPCU® 530 content just didn’t click. It took a lot of reading and re-reading to drill down the complex legal concepts.

1) CPCU® 540 (hardest)

CPCU® 540 – According to nationally published CPCU® pass rates, the CPCU® 540 is the hardest CPCU® exam. The pass rate is typically around 65% to 70%. The numbers don’t lie; the CPCU® 540 exam is the largest in terms of content and is by far the most math intensive of all the CPCU® exams. This exam will test your will to complete the CPCU®; many students get stuck on the CPCU® 540 and give up after failing a couple of times. Prepare yourself now and set aside a little extra study time for the CPCU® 540 because there are a lot of new concepts to grasp and a lot of formulas to memorize.

Do I have to take the CPCU® exams in order?

Nope! You can take these exams in any order that you want. For me personally, I took the CPCU® 556 as my first exam (because I was pursuing the API™ Designation first).

What is the CPCU® exam pass rate?

The CPCU® exams are tough; the average pass ratio of a CPCU® exam is around 74%. That means on average 1 out of every 4 will fail the CPCU® exam.

You can see the pass rate of each CPCU® exam here.

Free Practice Exam

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

 

Disclaimer

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.

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