Become a CFP® Professional

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CFP® Exam Requirement

The CFP® Certification Examination is designed to assess your ability to integrate and apply a broad base of financial planning knowledge in the context of real life financial planning situations. By passing this exam, you demonstrate to the public you have attained a competency level necessary to practice independently as a financial planner.

Apply Online for the CFP® Exam

Eligibility

You can register for the CFP® Certification Examination when you have successfully fulfilled the education coursework requirement. (The bachelor’s degree education requirement does not need to be completed before you register for the exam.)

View acceptable qualifying documentation for the education coursework requirement

Before determining an exam preparation strategy and applying for the exam, all individuals considering taking the CFP® Certification Examination should review the currency and completeness of their education against the current lists of Principal Topics and Job Task Domains.

Though it is not required, many candidates find that taking a review course is helpful in preparing for the CFP® certification exam. For the convenience of those pursuing certification, CFP Board has compiled a list of exam review course providers.

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Development

To develop exams that reflect the current practice of financial planning, CFP Board conducts regular job analyses to identify the important tasks performed by planners and assess the knowledge and skills needed to perform these tasks.

Exam questions are written by volunteer CFP® professionals that include practicing financial planners and financial planning educators. The exam questions are subjected to a rigorous, multiple stage review process, including a final review by the Council on Examinations. If you are interested in volunteering your time and knowledge for exam development activities, please fill out the volunteer application form.

Samples of retired exam questions are available for review. The sample multiple-choice questions provide you with an understanding of question format, but should not be used as a practice exam or indicator of exam preparedness.

As a general policy, the CFP® Certification Examination tests current tax law. However, changes signed into law less than 6-months prior to an examination administration date will not be tested. Any special exceptions to tax law coverage will be posted on CFP Board’s Web site approximately two months prior to the exam administration date, and registered candidates will receive notification about the coverage with their exam Admission Ticket.

A document with the tax tables and other indexed numbers provided to examinees with the exam booklets, with an indication of the exam administration(s) to which it applies, is available for download.

Questions and Case Scenarios
The CFP® Certification Examination is delivered in a pencil-and-paper format, and all questions are presented in a multiple-choice format. There are two primary types of questions, including stand alone multiple-choice and scenario-based questions. Scenarios can be brief, with a few accompanying questions, or more extensive, with 10-20 associated questions.

Balance of Emphasis
The CFP® Certification Examination will test your ability to apply and integrate knowledge from all of CFP Board’s specified content areas. Questions may focus on discrete content areas or may require application, integration, synthesis, or evaluation across several content areas. The exam is composed of questions distributed across the eight domains, based upon the targeted percentage allocations for each domain.

Cognitive Level
The cognitive levels that are tested on the CFP® Certification Examination are:

  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension/Application
  • Analysis/Synthesis
  • Evaluation

The CFP® Certification Examination measures your critical thinking and problem-solving ability, with less emphasis on factual recall or recognition. The exam does not test textbook theories; rather, it assesses one’s ability to apply financial planning knowledge in an integrated approach to real-life financial planning situations.

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Logistics

Test Dates

The CFP® Certification Examination is a one and a half day, 10-hour exam and is held three-times a year, generally on the third Friday and Saturday of March, July and November. The exam consists of one four-hour session on Friday afternoon, and two three-hour sessions on Saturday. Exam locations are available in 50 locations around the U.S. Exact location sites are not secured until after the Registration Deadline so that we may accommodate all examinees. Information about exact exam location sites is provided to examinees approximately two weeks prior to the exam dates through an Admission Ticket sent by email.

Exam Registration
If you have completed the education requirement for CFP® certification and are ready to register for the CFP® Certification Examination, you may register online.

Registration for the exam must be completed online no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Time on the Registration Deadline. Late registrations will not be accepted under any circumstances. Only complete exam registrations will be processed. The following constitutes a complete exam registration:

  • A completed online application
  • Payment of exam fee
  • Documentation of education coursework requirement. (Individuals reporting Registered Program completion will have documentation submitted to CFP Board by their program. Individuals reporting Challenge Status, Multiple Registered Programs or Transcript Reviews will need to submit appropriate qualifying documents, such as a transcript, certificate, diploma or license, as well as proof of having completed a capstone course, if applicable.)

CFP Board must receive all appropriate documentation no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Time on the Registration Deadline.

Beginning in 2012, the education requirements for CFP® certification includes completion of a financial plan development course (capstone course) registered with CFP Board. Completion of the capstone course is also required for those who register under Challenge Status, Multiple Registered Programs or Transcript Reviews for the March 2012 or later administrations of the CFP® Certification Examination, and for students of CFP Board-Registered Programs whose initial dates of matriculation (initial enrollment) occur on or after January 1, 2012. 

Learn more about the capstone course requirement

Alternate Test Dates and Special Accommodations
If you cannot test on Fridays and/or Saturdays because of religious beliefs, CFP Board will make alternate testing arrangements. A written request for such accommodations must be included with the application, along with a letter from your religious leader.

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), all requests for special testing accommodations must comply with CFP Board's detailed documentation requirements, as outlined in the Special Accommodations Request Form (PDF, 60KB). Candidates who require special testing accommodations must register for the exam and submit the required documentation a minimum of six weeks in advance of the Registration Deadline of their desired exam administration.  As part of the special testing accommodations review process, CFP Board may request additional documentation.  In order for this additional documentation to be considered, it must be received by CFP Board no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Time on the Registration Deadline.

International Test Sites
CFP Board will establish international test sites for the CFP® Certification Examination on a case-by-case basis for a site fee of $1,475 in addition to the regular exam fee.

Fee
The fee for the CFP® Certification Examination is $595 and must be paid in full by the Registration Deadline. Provisions for refunds and conditions of forfeiture of fees are described in the "Withdrawal" section below.

Veteran Affairs
The fee for the CFP® Certification Examination is eligible for Veteran Affairs (VA) reimbursement through the License and Certification Approval System (LACAS) under United States Code Title 38, Chapter 3689. Go to www.gibill.va.gov/pamphlets/lcweb.htm (Licensing and Certification section) for more information.

Scheduling Confirmation
You will receive an email confirmation once you become registered. You can also log in to CFP Board's website to confirm your registration status.

You will be sent an Admission Ticket by e-mail approximately two weeks before the exam dates. The exact reporting time and location of the exam are printed on the ticket. You must bring the ticket with you to the exam on both days. In general, you must report to the testing facility by 12:30 PM on Friday and 8:30 AM on Saturday. A valid government issued photo ID, matching exactly the name under which you registered, must be presented to the proctor(s) during check-in at the exam center or you will be denied entry to the testing room(s).

Withdrawal
If you are unable to take the CFP® Certification Examination for which you are registered, you have the following options before the Withdrawal Deadline:

  • Immediately re-register for a later exam.
  • Request a refund, or
  • Maintain a credit with CFP Board of the refundable portion of your exam fee.

    All Withdrawals are subject to a $50 non-refundable fee.

In order to use this credit you must re-register or request a refund within 24 months from the date of the exam for which you last were registered. If you fail to re-register or request a refund within this 24-month period, the entire credited amount will be forfeited.  Please contact CFP Board at 800-487-1497 or examinations@cfpboard.org to process your withdrawal and refund or credit.

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Exam Date Registration Deadline Withdrawal Deadline Registration
July 18-19, 2014 June 10, 2014 June 10, 2014 Open

(Beginning with the November 2014 exam, the CFP® exam will transition to a computer-based testing format.  The final paper-based CFP® exams will be administered in March and July 2014.  Learn more about the computer-based CFP® exam.)


Requests for withdrawal or re-scheduling received after the Withdrawal Deadline dates listed above will not be honored.

Failure to Appear
If you fail to appear for the exam, you will forfeit the entire exam fee. Certain allowances are made for medical or other emergencies.

Medical or Other Emergencies
CFP Board will consider waiving the fee forfeiture in the case of a medical or other emergency. Your request for such a waiver must be made in writing and supported by verifying documentation from a third party. For example, in the case of a medical emergency, a written statement from your physician which clearly states that you were physically unable to appear for the exam due to personal or immediate family medical issues is required. If another type of emergency, then you must provide third party verification as to the reason you were unable to sit for the scheduled exam.

Your request must be received within 10 business days after the exam dates. Requests received after the 10 business day timeframe, or not supported by verifying documentation, will not be reviewed.

What to Bring to the Exam
You should bring the following items to the exam site:

  • Admission Ticket
  • Valid government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license, exactly matching the name under which you registered
  • #2 pencils (or other comparable soft graphite or mechanical pencils)
  • One or more battery-powered, non-programmable, dedicated financial function calculator(s) (See Calculator Policy below)

Food and drink (including water) are not permitted in the exam room. Individuals who require access to food or liquids for medical reasons during any of the exam sessions are required to file a Special Accommodations Request Form (PDF, 60KB). All exam sites provide access to water fountains located outside of the exam room.

No notes of any kind are permitted in the testing room(s).

While testing is in session, examinees are prohibited from accessing electronic devices other than an acceptable calculator.

Calculator Policy
You need a dedicated, non-programmable financial calculator to assist with examination questions that may require calculations of the time value of money, unequal periodic cash flows and internal rate of return (IRR).

Calculators with alphabetic keys or paper tape printing capabilities are prohibited. No notes of any kind are permitted in the testing room(s), including manually programmed formulas. You are required to clear your financial calculator's memory prior to each session of the exam. If your calculator has notes/formulas printed on the back of the calculator, includes pull-out cards or contains other supplemental material, this information must be removed or masked by solid color tape before entering the testing room. Calculators are subject to inspection by proctors.

Cell phones or other electronic devices that have multifunction capabilities cannot be used as a calculator. While testing is in session, examinees are prohibited from accessing electronic devices other than an acceptable calculator.

Reference Materials Provided
The exam booklets contain information needed to answer exam questions including:

  • Income tax rate tables for individuals, corporations and estates and trusts
  • Income tax standard deductions, phaseout thresholds for itemized deductions and personal exemptions
  • The estate and gift tax table and a table of applicable credit amounts
  • Investment formulas (PDF, 41KB)
  • Scratch paper
View the provided tax tables for the next exam administration

Misconduct
You are expected to conduct yourself in an ethical manner before, during and after the CFP® Certification Examination. Actions such as, but not limited to, using any prohibited aids in connection with the exam including violations of the Calculator Policy, attempting to give or receive assistance, or to otherwise communicate in any form with another person about the exam during the exam administration, will result in investigation by an independent entity and/or CFP Board. In some cases, CFP Board may take disciplinary action, if appropriate.

Before taking the exam you will sign a statement prohibiting you from sharing exam questions with any entity other than CFP Board. Revealing questions may result in disciplinary action including, but not limited to, monetary restitution, being permanently barred from taking any CFP Board exam or prosecution under copyright law. If any individual or entity (including a review course provider or academic program) asks you to reveal contents of the examination, please report the incident to CFP Board.

If CFP Board or the exam proctors find reason to believe that you are involved in examination misconduct or any other testing irregularity that could compromise the integrity of the exam, your exam may not be scored, the exam fee may be forfeited and you may be barred from taking future CFP Board exam administrations.

Examinee Agreement
Please familiarize yourself with the Examinee Agreement. Examinees are required to sign this agreement before the start of each exam session.Signing this agreement is a commitment to behaving ethically before, during and after the exam.

Exam Integrity Tip Line
CFP Board's confidential, toll-free Exam Integrity Tip Line – 1-855-EXAMTIP or 1-855-392-6847 – is available for examinees to report any type of exam-related security issue or misconduct.

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Acceptable Qualifying Documentation

The CFP® Certification Examination registration must be accompanied with documentation verifying your qualification (see below for acceptable documentation for each qualification type) and, if applicable, documentation of your completion of a financial planning capstone course registered with CFP Board (transcript, score report or letter of completion from the CFP Board-Registered Program where you completed the capstone course). Documentation must be received at CFP Board no later than 5:00 PM Eastern Time on the Registration Deadline.

Please submit the information via fax to 202-379-2299 or by scanning and emailing it to Education@CFPBoard.org. Please be sure to include your CFP Board ID number and proof of the completion of your Capstone Course. Late registration will not be accepted under any circumstances.

Acceptable documentation for each qualification type:
  • CFP Board-Registered Program

    Your CFP Board-Registered Program will provide CFP Board with documentation verifying your completion of the education program, and you will receive email confirmation when CFP Board receives that documentation. If you have questions about the status of your education documentation, please contact your Registered Program.

  • Coursework from Multiple CFP Board-Registered Programs

    If you completed individual courses at two or more CFP Board-Registered Programs but have not completed, or had credits transferred to, any one entire program, you must provide photocopies of transcripts from each CFP Board-Registered Program you attended.

  • CEBS
      One of the following is required:
    • A photocopy of your CEBS designation plus a transcript or score report showing completion of the Personal Financial Planning I and II courses
    • A transcript, score report or letter of completion from the CFP Board-Registered Program where you completed the capstone course registered with CFP Board
  • CFA®
      One of the following is required:
    • A copy of the certificate
    • A copy of the congratulatory letter from CFA Institute
    • A copy of a verification letter from CFA Institute or a printout of charter holder directory from CFA Institute’s website, www.CFAinstitute.org
    • A transcript, score report or letter of completion from the CFP Board-Registered Program where you completed the capstone course registered with CFP Board
  • CLU and ChFC
      One of the following is required:
    • A copy of the certificate
    • A copy of the congratulatory letter from The American College
    • A transcript
    • A score report (only the last score report is necessary as it lists all previous credits/courses)
    • Sylvan test site score report printouts or a printout from the student access center of The American College’s website www.TheAmericanCollege.edu
    • A transcript, score report or letter of completion from the CFP Board-Registered Program where you completed the capstone course registered with CFP Board
  • CPA
      One of the following is required:
    • A copy of your CPA license (must not be expired)
    • A recent printout (not more than 90 days old) from a state board of accountancy website noting your current CPA license status (active) with unexpired expiration date
    • A copy of your inactive CPA license showing unexpired expiration date and a letter of good standing from state board of accountancy noting status (inactive), unexpired expiration date and statement of good standing
    • A recent printout (not more than 90 days old) from a state board of accountancy website noting your current status (inactive) with unexpired expiration date and statement noting status is in good standing (not available from all websites)
    • A transcript, score report or letter of completion from the CFP Board-Registered Program where you completed the capstone course registered with CFP Board

    Important Note: CFP Board will NOT accept CPA certificates, AICPA membership cards and expired, exempt or revoked licenses. State board of accountancy websites may be located through the AICPA website at www.aicpa.org/yellow/ypsboa.htm.
  • Licensed Attorney
      One of the following is required:
    • A copy of your license (must not be expired)
    • A recent (not more than 90 days old) letter of verification from appropriate licensing body noting you are admitted to practice
    • A recent printout (not more than 90 days old) from an appropriate licensing body’s website showing active status and unexpired expiration date
    • Or a letter from an appropriate licensing body noting your license is inactive but in good standing
    • A transcript, score report or letter of completion from the CFP Board-Registered Program where you completed the capstone course registered with CFP Board
  • Ph.D. in business, economics or business administration (DBA)
      One of the following is required:
    • A copy of transcripts (unofficial or student issued are OK)
    • A letter from registrar’s office noting conferment of degree and major.
    • A transcript, score report or letter of completion from the CFP Board-Registered Program where you completed the capstone course registered with CFP Board. 

    Important Note: CFP Board does NOT accept copies of diplomas unless the major of economics, business or business administration is noted on the diploma.

  • International CFP Certification
      One of the following is required:
    • Written documentation verifying that you hold a current CFP certification issued by one of the affiliate organizations of Financial Planning Standards Board, Ltd..
    • A transcript, score report or letter of completion from the CFP Board-Registered Program where you completed the capstone course registered with CFP Board
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Scoring

Answers to the exam questions must be recorded on the answer sheet. No credit is given for answers noted in the exam booklet. Select only one answer for each question. Multiple responses to a single question will be scored as incorrect. Your score is based on the number of correctly answered questions.

Recorded Webinar — The CFP® Exam: Interpreting Your Exam Results and Advice to Re-Takers

Exam Results
Exam results are released approximately five weeks after the exam and are posted to candidates' secure accounts.

CFP Board does not disclose exam results over the phone, email or by fax. All exam books are the property of CFP Board and will not be returned to you.

Pass Score
The CFP® Certification Examination is a pass or fail exam. The primary goal of a certification exam is to separate those who have met the certification standard (passing) from those who have not (failing). Certification exams are generally constructed to provide the best precision at the passing point. They are not designed to rank-order candidates. Therefore, rank-ordering scores in a fashion that would suggest the degree to which a candidate failed (or passed) would be an inappropriate use of test results.

The method used to score your exam (a modified Angoff method) is in accordance with voluntary certification examination standards. Establishing the pass score is based upon a "criterion-referenced" rather than "norm-referenced" methodology. The norm-referenced methodology, which is common in the academic world, uses a bell curve to establish the "average" score needed to pass the exam. Whether you pass or fail a norm-referenced exam depends on your relative standing in comparison to the other test takers.

In contrast, the criterion-referenced methodology does not rely on a bell curve. Your performance will not be ranked in comparison to others taking the test. Instead, your performance is scored against an established level of competency. Also, although every effort is made to calibrate test difficulty level in advance, there always will be slight differences in the overall ease or difficulty of one exam as compared with another. So, before the minimum passing score is set for this exam it will be statistically equated with past exams. This means that you will be not be advantaged if this exam is easier than past exams, nor will you be disadvantaged if it is more difficult.

In addition to a pass or fail result, diagnostic feedback is also provided as part of the  examination results to help identify areas of relative strength and weakness.

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Re-examination Procedures

If you fail the CFP® Certification Examination and elect to retest, you are required to retake the entire exam. You will have to pay the current exam fee for each retake.

Effective January 2012, CFP Board has implemented the following limits on the number of times an individual can attempt the CFP® Certification Examination:
  • Individuals may attempt the exam a lifetime maximum of five times. (Individuals who have attempted the exam four or more times prior to January 1, 2012, will be permitted a maximum of two additional attempts.)
  • Individuals may attempt the exam a maximum of three times within a 24 month period. If an individual attempts the exam on three successive administrations, a one year sit-out period is required before registering for another attempt.
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Review and Appeals

For security reasons, exam material is not available for review. Neither the staff of Prometric nor of CFP Board will discuss specific exam questions. You may submit your comments about exam questions in writing via email to examinations@cfpboard.org or by mail to: 

CFP Board
Attn: Exam Administrator
1425 K Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005

All comments about exam questions must be received by CFP Board by midnight Eastern Time on the Wednesday following the exam dates in order to be considered and reviewed. CFP Board's Council on Examinations will review comments relating to the exam but will not make written responses to comments.

If you feel your answer sheet was scored incorrectly, you may request a hand scoring for a $40 fee. To submit a hand scoring request call CFP Board at 800-487-1497 within 10 business days of the online release of the exam results. Requests made after 10 business days will not be honored. In the event there is a discrepancy between the hand-scored and machine-scored results, hand-scored results will prevail.

Appeals of exam policies are handled by CFP Board's Policy Exception Committee. CFP® professionals and applicants for CFP® certification may complete and submit a Policy Exception Request Form.

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Job Task Domains Covered by CFP® Certification Examination

CFP Board's list of Job Task Domains, based on the results of the 2009 Job Analysis Study, is the basis for the CFP® Certification Examinations. Each exam question will be linked to one of the content areas identified in the list of Job Task Domains, in the approximate percentages indicated following the general headings. Questions will pertain to all levels in Bloom's taxonomy with an emphasis on the higher cognitive levels. Questions often will be asked in the context of the financial planning process and presented in an integrative format.

 

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Exam Dates

Upcoming:

The CFP® exam is transitioning to a computer-based format beginning in November 2014. Learn more.

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