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The CDA Exam... How Does It Work?

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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The computer-generated CDA Exam is taken at a Pearson VUE Testing Center. A location near you can be found by using the Pearson VUE Website at: http://pearsonvue.com/cdaexam. You can make your appointment online or by calling 1-866-507-5627. 

If you will require special accommodations related to a disability, you will need to locate and download a “CDA Exam Special Accommodations Request Form” from the Council’s website. This can be found in the Downloadable Forms and Brochures section. 

This must be completed and sent to the Council BEFORE you apply for your CDA. You will indicate what type(s) of accommodations you will require and also include documented proof of your disability.

Some accommodations that are typically provided include:

  •  A separate testing room
  • Extra testing time
  • A Reader or Recorder, for individuals with mobility or vision impairments and cannot read or write on their own 

When the form is completed, it is sent to the Council for approval. You will receive a   response through the mail either accepting or denying your request. If it is accepted, you will mail in the Acceptance Letter along with your paper Application Form (you will not be able to apply online). 

Taking the Exam costs $65. It can be canceled and rescheduled, but no later than 24 hours prior to the original appointment time. Otherwise, you will have to pay a  rescheduling fee. If you happen to miss your appointment, you forfeit the fee altogether. 

Remember, you cannot schedule your CDA Exam or the Verification Visit/Observation by the PD Specialist until the Council receives and approves your Application and sends you a “Ready to Schedule” email. This should not be confused with the automated email you will receive that indicates your Application was successfully submitted.


If you’re feeling a little anxious about using the Pearson VUE system to take your Exam, spend a few minutes reviewing a tutorial the Council has provided.

Knowing what to expect will help you keep your cool on Exam Day! This tutorial can also be found in the “Downloadable Forms and Brochures” section of the Council’s website. 

The questions on the new exam have been revised. Although some questions are similar to those from the previous CDA process, most are more “situational” in nature. This enables you to read a short scenario or situation and then choose the best answer that describes how you would deal with it, based on your training and experience.

It is important to remember to answer the way YOU believe is appropriate, not the way your employer or director would expect you to respond. Although administrative staff should have a good understanding of developmentally appropriate practice and have had experience themselves working in an early childhood classroom, we all know this may not always be the case!

If you are a CDA trainer, a valuable exercise would be to have your students consider a number of common early childhood situations, based on the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct. A good source with a wide variety of such situations can be found in the book "Ethics and the Early Childhood Educator: Using the NAEYC Code" (NAEYC). These common situations are in a card format and are excellent for group discussion. 

What About My Score? 

Remember, your performance on the CDA Exam is only one piece of key evidence of your competency the Council uses to make their credentialing decision. Because the Council considers your Exam results along with the PD Specialist’s evaluation of your observation and documentation collectively, you will not receive your Exam score or information on any other part of the evaluation process. The decision will be made and you will receive an email notification one way or the other. If you took the time to review and to prepare, you should have nothing to worry about, except how to celebrate your success in earning a CDA!

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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 7 and Radley, 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

  • Guest
    Debora Saturday, 21 November 2015

    is their a CDA practice test they you can practice before you take the test can not find one at all

  • Guest
    debora Saturday, 21 November 2015

    do you have a practice test that you can practice on line with for the cda

  • Guest
    debora Saturday, 21 November 2015

    is their a practice cad book you can order with practice test in it to practice with before you take the cda

  • Guest
    Deb Pierce Sunday, 23 October 2016

    You can order the CDA Prep Guide or the CDA Prep Workbook with practices texts from my website. There are also flashcards availablae there. easycda.com
    Deb Pierce

  • Guest
    Charlisa Friday, 14 October 2016

    I took my test & my verification visit over a month ago and still haven't heard back from the council ?

  • Guest
    Judy Price Saturday, 22 October 2016

    Can you take a renew CDA exam at home on computer

  • Guest
    Deb Pierce Sunday, 23 October 2016

    There is no exam for renewal. You can apply for renewal online.
    Deb Pierce

  • Guest
    Tiffany Beachel Monday, 05 December 2016

    If you fail can you retake test or do u have to start over again

  • Guest
    gina Friday, 02 June 2017

    I can not for the life of me find how much just the exam is. I missed mine due to being in the hospital. I just have to reschedule to take the exam but want to know the price any idea.

  • Guest
    Purvi Javia Monday, 15 January 2018

    any idea about the price to reschedule?

  • Debra Pierce | @easycda
    Debra Pierce | @easycda Tuesday, 06 June 2017

    It depends on how long it has been since you missed it. If it has been more than 6 months, you can not just reschedule it and pay for the Exam. You have to re-do the whole assessment for $425.

  • Guest
    neelam Thursday, 28 September 2017

    i didn't received any email ready for schedule.its almost 6 to 7 weeks but 3 weeks i called the council.the machine ask some question than they told your application assessment approved and u ready to schedule for exam and pds visit.what is that mean because i didn't receive any email from.can i do do exam and observation am very worried.

  • Guest
    neelam Thursday, 28 September 2017

    i didnt recieved any email ready for schedule.its almost 6 to 7 weeks but 3 weeks i called the council.the machine ask some question than they told your application assesment apprroved and u ready to schulde for exam and pds visit.what is that mean because i didnt receive any email from.can i do do exam and obseravtion.i am very wooried.

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Guest Sunday, 17 February 2019