FAQs: NALA Membership, Certified Paralegal Exam and Advanced Certified Paralegal Programs
Note: All of the information below has been compiled for your convenience from NALA.org. The information is subject to change at any time.
Is there a question about NALA, CP or ACP you’d like see included in this information? If so, e-mail me at email@example.com and I’ll add it.
Joining NALA vs. becoming Certified by NALA
Keep in mind that you can join NALA as a member and NOT be certified by NALA. You can also be certified by NALA and not be an actual member of NALA. If you are a NALA member, you will save $25 on the exam, but, membership costs $140 for the first year plus a non-refundable initiation fee ($15). So, don’t join NALA just to get a discount on the exam. If you are planning to take the exam, just wait on joining. Upon successful completion of the CP exam, you get a one year NALA membership for free. Once you are a member, consider doing some of the ACP programs during your membership as that discount can really add up.
Learn more about applying for membership to NALA HERE.
The previous format for the CP Examination that you are probably familiar with consisted of a five part examination on the subjects of Communications, Ethics, Judgment & Analytical Ability, Legal Research, and Substantive Law. The Substantive Law section consisted of a test on the American Legal System plus four additional tests based on specialty practice areas. Examinees could select the four areas from a list of nine practice areas.
But in April of 2013, NALA announced new specifications for the Certified Paralegal examination begininng with the September 2013 testing window. The changes included adjustments to the number of points per subjects within all sections of the examination. And while no new subjects were introduced in any examination area, some sections were removed. Several practice area tests under the Substantive Law section were removed. Through a job anaylysis study, NALA determined that few paralegals utilize the knowledge and skills tested by these practice area examination sections on a regular and routine basis in the workplace.
In addition, the option to select questions from certain specialty practice areas will no longer be available to examinees. All examinees will take the same Substantive Law section of the examination, as is the case with all other sections of the Certified Paralegal examination. The sections included are: American Legal System, Civil Litigation, Business Organizations , Contracts.
To get an idea of the pass/fail rates, take a look at this information from the January 2015 testing window.
Click here for an explanation of how passing scores are determined and the passing scores for each examination section.
The Certified Paralegal examination is divided into five sections. Examinees are asked to demonstrate knowledge by responding to true/false, multiple choice and matching questions requiring knowledge of the subject and reading comprehension skills. Analytical skills are further tested by an essay question on the Judgment and Analytical Ability section. Any form of test question (true/false, multiple choice, essay) may be used at any time on the Certified Paralegal examination. Sections of the examination are:
- Legal Research
- Judgment & Analytical Ability
- Substantive Law
- American Legal System
- Civil Litigation
- Business Organizations
CP Exam Study Resources
As of March 2015, there are 18,289 Certified Paralegals and over 3,400 Advanced Certified Paralegals in the United States. Over 28,000 paralegals have participated in this program. Click here to see the distribution of Certified Paralegals across the United States. For the distribution of Advanced Certified Paralegals click here.
Qualifications to take the Certified Paralegal (CP) Exam
To be eligible for the Certified Paralegal examination, a paralegal must meet one of the following requirements listed below. The NALA Certifying Board and NALA do not provide nor approve any education that is required for initial certification.
1. Graduation from a paralegal program that is:
- (a) Approved by the American Bar Association; or
- (b) An associate degree program; or
- (c) A post-baccalaureate certificate program in paralegal studies; or
- (d) A bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies; or
- (e) A paralegal program which consists of a minimum of 60 semester hours (900 clock hours or 90 quarter hours) of which at least 15 semester hours (225 clock hours or 22.5 quarter hours) are substantive legal courses.
NOTE: Under Category 1(e), an applicant may combine college hours from more than one institution. The applicant must have graduated from a legal assistant/paralegal program consisting of a minimum of 15 semester hours (or 225 clock hours or 22½ quarter hours.) Evidence of the minimum hours required under Category 1(e) must be provided with the application form.
2. A bachelor’s degree in any field plus one year’s experience as a paralegal. Successful completion of at least 15 semester hours (or 22.5 quarter hours or 225 clock hours or equivalent CEU hours) of substantive paralegal courses will be considered equivalent to one year’s experience as a paralegal.
3. A high school diploma or equivalent plus seven (7) years’ experience as a paralegal under the supervision of a member of the Bar, plus evidence of a minimum of twenty (20) hours of continuing legal education credit to have been completed within a two (2) year period prior to the examination date.
|Application Filing Deadline**
||Late Application Filing Deadline
(With $25 late filing fee)
|January 1-31||December 1||December 10|
|May 1-31||April 1||April 10|
|September 1-30||August 1||August 10|
- By mail, with documentation
- By FAX (918-582-6772)
- On-line using the form on NALA’s web site
**Additional forms will be required of all candidates if filing applications prior to meeting the eligibility requirements.
The fee for the Certified Paralegal examination application is $250 for NALA members and $275 for non-members of NALA. Retake fees are $60 per section. Personal checks ARE NOT accepted for payment of examination fees. Payment may be made either by cashier’s check, money order, firm check, VISA, Master Card, Discover, or American Express. Withdrawal Fee: If an applicant must withdraw the application, or the application is incomplete or rejected, payment will be refunded less a $25 processing fee for each year the application is active and on file (a maximum of $50).
Testing Center Fees
Testing center fees are NOT included in the examination application fee. Non-PSI centers may also charge a fee.
Appointment fees for PSI testing centers are as listed below. The PSI appointment fees are separate from the examination fees and paid directly to PSI. Payment is required in advance.
- 1.5 hour session – $40
- 30 minutes for check-in and instructions + 1 hour for the Ethics or Legal Research exams
- 2 hour session – $40
- 30 minutes for check-in and instructions + 1½ hour for the Communications exam
- 2.5 hour session – $47
- 30 minutes for check-in and instructions + 2 hours for the Substantive Law or Judgment & Analytical Ability exam
Click here for examination application form in pdf format
Click here to complete and file an on-line application form for the examination.
Click here for application to retake exam sections in pdf format
Examinee Handbook-Application, Rules & Testing Center Details
If you have made the decision to seek the Certified Paralegal credential, this is your area for administrative details and information about taking the examination.
The application process and registering with the testing centers is presented here on several pages under the heading of Examinee Handbook. The pages, with active links, are listed below. In addition, you may download a pdf booklet which includes this information. The booklets are listed below.
- Steps – The Application Procedure and Test Appointments
This page describes the steps to be taken from filing the application form to confirming your appointment at the testing center.
- Applying for the Exam and Form Requirements
This page lists the eligibility requirements for the Certified Paralegal examination, fees, deadline dates, and documentation required. This also states the examinee attestation required of all making application for the exam.
- Applying for the Exam – General Policies
This page lists general policies for examinees, including the retake policy, appeal process if the application form is declined, and the policy regarding cheating and misconduct in the Certified Paralegal program.
- Applying for the Exam – Examination Results and Appeal
This page describes when you may expect to receive examination results, what the report contains, and the appeal process.
- Testing Center Options
There are two options for testing centers. One is through the PSI network of testing centers, and another is through schools and employers. This page describes these options.
- PSI Testing Center Network and Appointments
The PSI testing center network includes centers owned by PSI and those authorized by PSI. This page describes the centers available, the PSI policies related to examinees, fees, and other rules and policies.
- NON-PSI Testing Centers
Many testing centers that are established by NALA are open to the public. This list is current for each testing window. Check this often, there may be a center in your area.
- Testing Center Rules and Policies
This page lists the rules, terms and conditions of testing, and policies that apply to all testing centers. Each examinee must agree to these terms prior to accessing the examination.
- Presentation of Computer Based Exam Questions
Before you take the test, visit this page for a review of what the login and question screens look like. Check this every time you are taking an examination section, sometimes the versions change.
Advanced Certified Paralegal
One of the great things about obtaining the CP designation is that you can continue to an advanced certification in a number of subject matter areas. In addition to earning the ACP, successful completion of each program also gives you a big chunk of CLE credits – 20 in most cases. The ACP programs consist of a number of chapters of information. Each chapter has a quiz at the end. You can take the quiz as many times as necessary until you earn a passing score of 90% or higher.
Note: You can do any of the ACP programs without being a Certified Paralegal BUT you will earn a certificate of completion and NOT an advanced certification.