What is the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam?

The Paralegal CORE Competency Exam is one of two certification exams aimed at testing the skill, knowledge, and competency of paralegals. While the first exam, the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE®), was designed to determine the paralegal’s general knowledge of paralegal practice, the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam™ (PCCE™) was designed to test the competency of paralegals early in their careers. PCCE certification can be used to enhance a paralegal’s resume and make them more marketable to potential employers.

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What is the PCCE?

The PCCE™ is an exam available to paralegals starting off in their careers. Unlike the PACE, which determines a paralegal’s knowledge of basic paralegal practices, the PCCE is an advanced exam to show the competency of individuals already working as paralegals even if at the beginning of their careers. Paralegals who successfully pass the exam earn the CORE Registered Paralegal™ and can use the letters CRP after their names. The PCCE™ is a computer-based test that is taken at one of several Prometric Test Centers located throughout the United States.

Overview of the Exam

Developed by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), the PCCE™ is a multiple-choice test consisting of 125 questions, and applicants have four possible choices for each question. The 125 questions consist of 110 scored questions and 15 unscored or pretest questions. The final score is determined by the 110 scored questions. The PCCE™ covers two main areas: paralegal practice (52%) and substantive areas of law (48%).

The exam must be completed in two and one-half hours. The cost to take the exam is $215 for NFPA members and $350 for non-members. Candidates applying to take the exam must also pay a $25 application fee. Candidates must take the exam within 90 days of the date the application was accepted. Paralegals who do not pass the test can retake the test in six months. Certification is valid for two years.


Candidates must meet certain education and work experience requirements in order to be eligible to take the exam. There are several different ways to meet eligibility requirements. In most of the cases, the candidate must have either a certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. If they have a degree in another field, they can still take the exam if they have a paralegal certificate, continuing legal education or paralegal work experience.

Career Outlook for Paralegals

Paralegals are in demand because they take on many of duties typically done by the attorneys, thus allowing the attorney to cut back on costs, save money and see more clients throughout their days. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that paralegals could see an employment growth of 15% during the decade 2016-2026 with about 327,400 new paralegal jobs created in that time. According to a May 2017 report by the bureau, paralegals and legal secretaries earned wages ranging from $31,130 to $81,180 with the average wage at $53,910.

Paralegals are a valuable part of the legal profession because they allow lawyers to see more clients in less time. Working as a paralegal is exciting and challenging. Taking the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam™ not only helps paralegals determine their strengths and weaknesses but also demonstrates a commitment to their careers to employers.