Exam Background and Scoring

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MCHES® Exam Background and Scoring 

The MCHES® examination contains 165 items; 150 of the items are scored and 15 of the items are used as pilot items and do not contribute to the final score on each exam. Examinees are informed that there are pilot items on the exam, however, the candidate is not told which items are being piloted and which items are being scored. NCHEC pilots new items on the MCHES® exam to ensure high statistical integrity of this certification examination. Item piloting is used to determine the psychometric properties of an item before the item is actually included as a “scored item” on an examination. This also allows for the removal of items that do not perform at acceptable levels for certifying examinations.

Determining the Passing Point on the MCHES® Exam

Determining the passing point for a multiple-choice examination involves the conduct of a standard-setting study, typically conducted each time the content outline for the exam is updated.  A representative panel of subject-matter experts develops a standard of performance for minimally-qualified candidates (also known as borderline candidates – those who know just enough to have earned the certification).  Panel members then rate each test question as to how well minimally-qualified candidates will perform on each question.   Questions with disparate ratings are discussed at length, and the panel comes to agreement on a recommended cut score for the organization’s decision makers to review and make a final decision.

The goal of the standard-setting study is not to determine how many candidates will pass and how many will fail.  The goal is to determine how much of the test has to be answered correctly in order to pass, taking into account the difficulty of the questions for minimally-qualified candidates.  With the cut score determined in this way, all candidates who meet the minimally-qualified standard will pass.  There is no pre-determined “curve” for scoring in which a certain percentage of candidates must either pass or fail.  Technically all candidates could pass, or all candidates could fail, but the usual passing rate is somewhere between and can vary from testing window to testing window.  The standard of performance on which the cut score is based remains the same until changed by a new standard setting study, usually 5-7 years after the first.  What determines any variation in passing rate from one testing window to the next is the ability of the group of candidates taking the test in each window to meet the minimally-qualified standard.

Receiving Your Results

Due to the smaller number of eligible MCHES® candidates, the MCHES® exam is officially scored after all candidates have completed the exam in order to provide the most reliable scoring results as advised by expert psychometricians and to protect the accuracy and validity of the MCHES® exam. Official notification of complete scores (for both pass and did not pass candidates) will be mailed, four to six weeks after the exam testing window closes. To protect confidentiality, results will not be provided by e-mail, phone or fax.

Reliability and Validity of the MCHES® Exam 

Item analyses are conducted and the results are reviewed for each examination form administered. Reliability of the examination is calculated using the Cronbach’s coefficient alpha. Reliability coefficients above 0.80 are considered satisfactory for credentialing exams. The MCHES® exam reliability coefficient, as determined by the Cronbach’s alpha, has consistently met or exceeded the standard over the years.

Reading Your Score Report

Candidates will receive an official scaled score report showing each candidate’s overall pass/fail status, as well as diagnostic information about the candidate’s performance in each area of responsibility or domain. A diagnostic level of “proficient,” “moderately proficient,” or “below proficient” will be presented for each Area of Responsibility. This information is provided to aid in self-assessment and can help candidates to focus on areas in which they need to pursue further study or professional development. It is important to note that the Area of Responsibility proficiency information is provided ONLY to inform decisions regarding further studying and professional development purposes. Please note that each MCHES® candidate’s pass/fail status is determined solely by their performance on the entire examination, not on performance in individual Areas of Responsibility.

Confidentiality Policy for Exam Scores

The exam score is confidential and will not be disclosed unless NCHEC receives a written request to do so from a candidate or is directed to do so by subpoena or court order. A candidate wanting scores released to another entity must indicate in writing which particular scores may be disclosed and identify specifically the person or organization to which the scores should be revealed. No candidate scores will be given by telephone, facsimile or e-mail for any reason.

Statistical Information Regarding the MCHES® April 2022 and October 2022 Exams


More Resources

Learn about health education specialist job settings, the differences between CHES® and MCHES® certifications, and why employers benefit from hiring certified individuals.

Final registration for the April 2023 exam closes on February 28, 2023. 


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MCHES® Exam Analysis: April 2022 - October 2022

The below table shows the average score for each Area of Responsibility for the April and October 2022 MCHES® exams.


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