Certified Payroll Professional Exam Secrets


The American Payroll Association (APA) sponsors the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) designation, enabling payroll professionals to stay abreast of important changes in the occupation. If you are a payroll professional or plan to enter the occupation, taking the CPP exam and seeking the designation can boost your career. The secret to passing the exam is to study the most important topics in each section, allocating more time to the sections that carry more weight, percentage-wise.

Core Payroll Concepts

This section of the CPP exam carried a 27.5 percent score weight as of 2011. As a CPP candidate, pay close attention to employment taxes, such as Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes. Know how to calculate them. Spend time on the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that established minimum wage, overtime pay and child labor standards. Other topics in the Core Payroll Concepts section include employee benefits, methods and timing of pay, professional responsibility and customer service.


The Compliance section of the CPP exam carried a score weight of 23 percent as of 2011. To pass this section, focus on the various regulations that affect pay practices. These include directives from government agencies, such as U.S. Department of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Also keep in mind reporting and record-retention requirements as well as various penalties for noncompliance with employment laws.

Principles of Paycheck Calculations

As a future CPP, you must know how employers calculate workers' take-home pay. The Principles of Paycheck Calculations part of the CPP exam carried a score weight of 20 percent as of 2011. To receive a successful score on this section, study topics such as compensation and benefits, involuntary deductions and voluntary contributions. Pay attention to employer taxes and make sure you know how to calculate them.

Payroll Process and Systems

In this section, the APA tests a CPP candidate's knowledge of corporate payroll mechanisms. These include the state-of-the-art technology, tools and equipment that a company relies on to process pay information accurately and on time. Make sure you know what a disaster recovery plan is and how its affects an organization's payroll practices. The Payroll Process and Systems section of the CPP exam carried a score weight of 8.5 percent as of 2011.


At 6 percent, the accounting section of the CPP exam carried the lowest score weight as of 2011. In this section, the APA tests a CPP applicant on topics such as accounting principles, general ledger account classification and payroll journal entries. To pass the accounting part, make sure you are familiar with accounting norms, such as generally accepted accounting principles and international financial reporting standards. Know also the differences between assets and liabilities as well as revenues and expenses.

Management and Administration

The Management and Administration section of the CPP exam carried a score weight of 15 percent as of 2011. To pass this section, familiarize yourself with the way companies set policies and procedures and learn about auditing. Other topics you must study include communication, staffing and management skills.

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