Last reviewed 24 January 2012

John Robson looks at the changes that are in store for the CPC examinations.


As a result of the introduction of the Road Transport Operator Regulations 2011, on 4 December 2011, major changes will occur in the examination of candidates for the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification. These changes will take place from the first examination, set by the OCR examining body, on 2 March 2012. The regulation requires the merging of the formerly separate national and international syllabi into one qualification.

This article outlines the key changes that are being made and explains how the new format of the examinations will operate.

Professional Competence and Operator Licensing

The acquisition of professional competence, by individuals, is directly linked to the Operator Licensing regime. To hold a Standard National or Standard International Licence, the holders must demonstrate that one or more professionally qualified individuals are employed by the organisation. This requirement was established by EU law way back in 1978. Various amendments to the qualification requirements have been made over the years, the last significant one, in 1999, when case studies were introduced as part of the examination.

As stated, OCR is the awarding body for the Certificate of Professional Competence qualification. There are other ways that candidates can demonstrate professional competence, but taking the OCR examinations is by far the most common method.

Acquiring the New CPC Qualification

It is useful to contrast the qualification structure pre-4 December 2011 and that which will follow (see Table 1).

Table 1: Examination Structures

Acquisition of Full CPC Qualification prior to 4 December 2011

Acquisition of Full CPC Qualification post 4 December 2011

Separate National/International Exams

Combined National/International Exams


Unit 1 Multiple choice

Unit R1

Multiple choice


Unit 2 Multiple choice

Unit R2

Case study


Unit 4 Case study


Unit 6 Short answer

Total examination time (4 papers)

4 hours 45 minutes

Total examination time (2 papers)

4 hours


R1 and R2 are the OCR exam reference numbers used when booking the exams.

From Table 1, it can be seen that the total number of papers has reduced from four to two. Consequently the examination time has been reduced by 45 minutes from 4 hours 45 minutes to 4 hours.

It is worthwhile noting the significant differences between the new and old examinations. With regards to the multiple choice question paper, it will last for 2 hours and consist of 60 questions assessing both national and international elements of the syllabus. From June 2012, it is intended to offer this paper on screen and on demand. This means that candidates will be able to sit, or re-sit, an examination at a time convenient to them and not have to wait for the quarterly examination rounds (these will be held in March, June, September and December each year). Tackling the assessment by computer-generated papers will enable the results to be assessed more quickly than was previously the case.

Changes are also going to be made to the case study paper. The publication of a pre-released scenario is being abandoned. The scenario, in a shorter form, will now be set out at the beginning of the question paper for the case study examination. The pass mark for the case study is also being simplified. Candidates will now be required to achieve a mark of 50% over the whole paper in order to pass. Previously, the case study was split into two parts, one of which required a pass mark of 65%.

Another substantial change being brought in is that candidates will be able to take notes and workbooks into the case study examination.

Both national and international elements of the syllabus will be tested in the case study examination. OCR has stated that certain syllabus areas will be tested in every case study examination. These are:

  • drivers’ hours, working time and drivers’ records

  • transport operational costing

  • operator licensing.

The awarding body has also stated that they reserve the right to test subject areas discretely (on their own) or, where appropriate, in combination with other subject areas. For example, a question on Operator Licensing may also test candidates on vehicle maintenance.

Table 2 provides a summary of the key features of the multiple choice and case study papers.

Table 2: Structure of Examination Papers from March 2012


Multiple choice paper

Case study paper

Length of examination

2 hours

2 hours

Number of questions


Between 5–8

Each question worth

1 mark

Between 7–12 marks

Total marks available



Required pass mark

42 (70%)

30 (50%)

Open book



Transition arrangements

OCR has clarified what the transition arrangements will be for candidates who have partly completed the examinations based on the recently expired system. The basic requirements are as follows.

For candidates who hold the full CPC National qualification but who have not passed the International examination. A stand-alone International module can be taken separately to enable candidates to meet the Standard International Operator Licence requirements. This facility will last until at least the December examination round in 2012 (it is possible this time limit may be extended).

It should be noted, at this point, that a person in possession of the CPC National qualification who believes they are unlikely to have to meet the CPC requirements for a Standard International Licence is not required to take the International examination. They will continue to meet the requirements for the National Licence with their existing qualification. However, if they find that they do need the International CPC qualification after the deadline set for completion has passed, they will have to sit and pass the whole of the new qualification.

For candidates who have passed some, but not all, of the three National CPC Units. OCR has stated that individual Units cannot be transferred over to the new qualification. Candidates are, therefore, required to sit and pass the new qualification.


The changes that have been made to the CPC qualification are significant. Time will tell if attaining the CPC has become harder or easier. Having an open-book examination for the case study should, on the face of it, make things easier. However, as the scenario will not be released prior to the examination this could make it more difficult. Changes to the multiple-choice paper, especially the inclusion of international transport subjects, will mean that there will also be positives and negatives. As ever, being well-prepared for sitting the examination will serve the candidate well, regardless of the changes.