CPCE Exam Application Overview

To download a drafting form of the application please click here.

CPCE Exam Content Outline

The CPCE exam consists of 175 multiple choice questions designed to emphasize the core competencies of the catering and event industry: Accounting, Beverage Management, Catering Services, Contracts and Agreements, Event Management, Food Production, Human Resources and Sales and Marketing. Each exam offered is a different exam representing a new selection of items from the CPCE Test Item Bank. The numbers in parentheses designate the number of questions that may be included in an individual examination.

Accounting (16)

  • Define the elements of financial statements, including statement of cash flow, balance sheet and income statement.
  • Define basic accounting terminology for catering executives.
  • Define accounting and inventory valuation methods.

Beverage Management (28)

  • Describe fundamental characteristics of various types of spirits and wines.
  • Identify the primary legal considerations with regard to alcohol service.
  • Explain how to calculate beverage cost and pricing for profit.

Catering Services (28)

  • Describe basic characteristics of various styles of food service.
  • Distinguish table service from buffet service, station service and other types of food service.
  • Estimate staffing needs for typical catered events using a particular style of service.

Contracts and Agreements (16)

  • Identify the components of a contract.
  • Explain essential clauses for receiving and products and services.
  • Explain "truth in menu" laws.

Event Management (28)

  • Describe and identify various event functions and the appropriate sequences of events for those functions.
  • Calculate the appropriate square footage requirement for different types of room setups.

Food Production (28)

  • Describe commonly used methods of food preparation for various styles of service.
  • Apply standard measurement systems for liquids and solids to convert recipe ingredients.
  • Calculate the number of portions necessary to prepare for various types of catered events.
  • Describe safe procedures for food preparation, storage and handling.

Human Resources (15)

  • Describe the steps in the hiring process.
  • Describe the goals and information provided during the onboarding process.
  • Describe the stages of the training cycle.
  • Identify the basic functions and legal considerations involved in employee performance appraisals.
  • Identify guidelines for an exit interview program.

Sales and Marketing (16)

  • Describe and explain how to target market segments typically served by a catering operation.
  • Identify strategies in developing a marketing plan.
  • Identify elements of the sales forecasting process.

Exam Eligibility

To be eligible to sit for the CPCE exam, applicants must have a minimum of 60 points as outlined by the eligibility requirements below. Documentation must be attached to receive points (this includes NACE-related activities). Your application cannot be approved until you have submitted your documentation. Documentation should be submitted within 30 days of application submission.

Documentation Guidelines (Please review before completing application)

  • If documentation is in the form of a letter, it should be on official letterhead from the organization providing it
  • Documentation must include the date(s) of the achievement
  • Documentation for continuing education must include the number of hours of the educational session

Point Allotment Guidelines

Experience in the Catering and Events Industry (maximum of 10 points)

To be calculated with one point per year, to include:

  1. Option One: Full-time position(s) as a professional in the catering and events industry, with the following requirements:
    1. A minimum of 36 months of full-time experience OR 24 months of full-time experience in addition to a hospitality degree
    2. Candidate must have been employed full-time in the catering and events industry within the past 12 months
    3. Experience within the past 10 years may be listed
  2. Option Two: Full-time positions as an instructor of catering and events, with the following requirements:
    1. A minimum of 36 months of full-time experience in academia
    2. Candidate must have been employed full-time in academia within the past 12 months
    3. Experience within the past 10 years may be listed
    4. One year of professional experience in the catering and events industry. Experience may have taken place through a professional catering and events company or through candidate's position in academia. There is no restriction on when this experience occurred.

*Note: The CPCE exam tests the expertise of professional caterers and event planners. Other industry professionals are eligible to apply for the exam however, additional exam preparation will likely be required.

Formal Education (maximum of 10 points)

Please list school name, address, degree and date issued. Documentation must be included (e.g., transcript, diploma, etc.). You will only receive points for the highest level of education achieved.

  • High School Graduate (1 point)
  • Some College (2 points)
  • Associate's Degree (2 points)
  • Bachelor's Degree (4 points)
  • Master's Degree (8 points)
  • Bachelor's Degree or higher in hospitality management (10 points)

Continuing Education (no point maximum; 1 hour of continuing education = 1 point)

Candidates may list continuing education programs related to one or more of the CPCE core competencies (from the past 10 years). You will receive one point per hour of training. Documentation must be attached and should include how many hours of educational instruction you received (e.g., copies of certificates or letters on official letterhead). Types of accepted trainings include:

  • Company/organization sponsored continuing education or training
  • Local professional development (including certificate programs)
  • NACE education programs (chapter educational programs, Experience! Conference, Leadership Summit, webinars, seminars)
  • Allied association education programs (based on acceptance by NACE)

Industry Membership (maximum of 10 points, 1 point per year)

Candidates may receive one point per each completed year of professional membership within the past 10 years in recognized organizations that are directly related to the catering and events industry. Documentation must be included (e.g., letter from organization (on official letterhead), copy of membership certificate(s)/card(s) or proof of payment(s)).

Accepted industry organizations include:

  • American Culinary Federation
  • American Hotel and Lodging Association
  • American Society of Association Executives
  • Association of College Conference and Events Directors
  • Association of Destination Management Executives
  • Event Service Professionals Association
  • Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International
  • International Special Events Society
  • Meeting Professionals International
  • National Association for Catering and Events
  • Professional Convention Management Association
  • Other industry organizations based on acceptance by NACE

Volunteer Industry Participation (maximum of 10 points)

Candidates may receive points for volunteer roles held for companies or organizations related to the catering and events industry within the past 10 years. Your term / role must be completed by the date of your application submission. Documentation must be included (e.g., letter, committee list or certificate of recognition (on official letterhead)). Points are assigned as follows:

National Volunteer Role Points
Officer of Board of Directors 6 per term
Board Member 5 per term
Committee Chairperson 4 per term
Committee Member 3 per term
Company-Sponsored OR Chapter Volunteer Role Points
Officer of Board of Directors 5 per term
Board Member 4 per term
Committee Chairperson 3 per term
Committee Member 2 per term
Event/Project Support 1 per event/project

Professional Achievements (maximum of 10 points)

The achievements must be related to one or more of the CPCE core competencies and must have been completed within the past 10 years. Documentation must be included as proof of completion (e.g., articles, certificates or letters on official letterhead).

  • Seminar presenter (2 points)
  • Seminar panelist (1 point)
  • Teacher, facilitator/trainer or instructor (2 points per class session, maximum of 10 points)
  • Certifications or recertifications (2 points per certification/recertification)
    - CAE, CHME, CMM, CMP, CSEP, etc.
  • Awards/recognition for professional accomplishment (2 points)
  • NACE Professional Reference Guide contributor (5 points)
  • Author of professional article (2 points per article)
  • Author of chapter in book (5 points)
  • Book author (10 points)
  • Author of a professional blog for a company or organization related to the catering and events industry (1 point)

Exam Preparation

Professional experience and studying are both required in order to successfully achieve the CPCE designation. Please review the following study methods:

  1. Review The Professional Reference Guide for the Catering and Event Industry and Food Safety Management Principles

    All candidates are required to purchase The NACE Professional Reference Guide for the Catering and Event Industry, which serves as the exam study guide. The Reference Guide is included in the application fee, but can also be purchased separately at the NACE store. Please include your receipt with your application and the price for the Reference Guide will be deducted from your application fee.

    Food Safety Management Principles serves as suggested reading to prepare for the food production section of the exam. This book can be purchased by visiting the CPCE page at

  2. Participate in the CPCE Fast Track Study Review Program

    When used in combination with The Professional Reference Guide and Food Safety Management Principles, the CPCE Fast Track program has proven to be a very successful review method to assist candidates in passing the exam. Self-study materials include flash cards, as well as online access to trainer-led videos covering each CPCE core competency and a companion workbook (worth 8 continuing ed. points). The Fast Track is also offered as a live seminar at several industry conferences. For more information about the Fast Track, visit

  3. Join an online CPCE study group

    NACE offers online study groups each spring and fall. These 10 week courses are a great way to engage yourself in a committed study program. Earn 10 contact hours toward your application! Register at (events page).

  4. Review the CPCE additional resource books:

  5. Accounting

    Off-Premise Catering Management
    Bill Hansen and Chris Thomas
    Chapter 14 - Budgeting, Accounting, and Financial Management

    Hospitality Management Accounting
    Martin Jagels
    Chapter 2 - Understanding Financial Statements
    Chapter 3 - Analysis and Interpretation of Financial Statements

    Beverage Management

    The Bar and Beverage Book
    Costas Katsigris and Chris Thomas
    Chapter 2 - Responsible Alcohol Service
    Chapter 4 - Bar Equipment
    Chapter 5 - The Beverages: Spirits
    Chapter 6 - Wine Appreciation; types of wine
    Chapter 7 - Wine Sales and Service
    Chapter 8 - Beer Types
    Chapter 9 - Sanitation and Bar Setup
    Chapter 13 - Purchasing, Receiving, Storage, and Inventory
    Chapter 14 - Planning for Profit; Breakeven point

    Catering Services and Event Management

    Off-Premise Catering Management
    Bill Hansen and Chris Thomas
    Chapter 3 - Menu Planning
    Chapter 4 - Beverage Service
    Chapter 5 - Catering Equipment
    Chapter 6 - Logistics of Off-Premise Catering
    Chapter 8 - The Show
    Chapter 13 - Accessory Services and Special Requirements

    On-Premise Catering: Hotels, Convention & Conference Centers and Clubs
    Patti Shock and John Stefanelli
    Chapter 4 - Meal Functions
    Chapter 6 - Function Room Selection and Setup

    Contracts and Agreements
    Hospitality Law
    Stephen Barth
    Chapter 2 - Hospitality Contracts

    Off-Premise Catering Management
    Bill Hansen and Chris Thomas
    Chapter 2 - Getting Started—Laws, Locations, and Contracts

    Sales and Marketing

    Hospitality Marketing Management
    Robert Reid and David Bojanic

    Chapter 5 - Developing a Marketing Plan
    Chapter 11 - Promotion and Advertising
    Chapter 12 - Advertising and Media Planning
    Chapter 14 - Personal Selling
    Chapter 15 - Pricing Strategy
    Chapter 16 - Using Menu Design as a Marketing Tool

    Note: All documentation must be submitted to or via fax to 410-630-5768 (attn: CPCE) following online application submission. Your application cannot be approved until you have submitted your documentation.