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About the Exam

What You'll Be Tested On

The CFP® Certification Examination assesses your ability to integrate and apply a broad base of financial planning knowledge in the context of real-life financial planning situations. The exam content requires the use of critical thinking and problem-solving ability, with less emphasis on factual recall or recognition.

Note: Testing on key elements of the 2019 SECURE Act will be included in the September 2020 CFP® exam. CFP Board has released a resource with information to help you prepare.

View the 2019 SECURE Act Resource

The CFP® Certification Examination assesses your ability to integrate and apply a broad base of financial planning knowledge in the context of real-life financial planning situations. The exam content requires the use of critical thinking and problem-solving ability, with less emphasis on factual recall or recognition.

Exam questions are written by volunteer subject matter experts based on the outcome of a practice analysis of personal financial planning. The analysis defines the Principal Knowledge Topics that serve as a blueprint for developing the content of the exam.

Each of the 170 exam questions that you will answer are linked to at least one of the Principal Knowledge Topics. The approximate percentage of content coverage on the exam is indicated following the general headings.

Principal Knowledge Topics

A.1. CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct
A.2. CFP Board’s Financial Planning Practice Standards
A.3. CFP Board’s Disciplinary Rules and Procedures
A.4. Function, purpose and regulation of financial institutions
A.5. Financial services regulations and requirements
A.6. Consumer protection laws
A.7. Fiduciary

B.8. Financial planning process
B.9. Financial statements
B.10. Cash flow management
B.11. Financing strategies
B.12. Economic concepts
B.13. Time value of money concepts and calculations
B.14. Client and planner attitudes, values, biases and behavioral finance
B.15. Principles of communication and counseling
B.16. Debt management

C.17. Education needs analysis
C.18. Education savings vehicles
C.19. Financial aid
C.20. Gift/income tax strategies
C.21. Education financing

D.22. Principles of risk and insurance
D.23. Analysis and evaluation of risk exposures
D.24. Health insurance and health care cost management (individual)
D.25. Disability income insurance (individual)
D.26. Long‐term care insurance (individual)
D.27. Annuities
D.28. Life insurance (individual)
D.29. Business uses of insurance
D.30. Insurance needs analysis
D.31. Insurance policy and company selection
D.32. Property and casualty insurance

E.33. Characteristics, uses and taxation of investment vehicles
E.34. Types of investment risk
E.35. Quantitative investment concepts
E.36. Measures of investment returns
E.37. Asset allocation and portfolio diversification
E.38. Bond and stock valuation concepts
E.39. Portfolio development and analysis
E.40. Investment strategies
E.41. Alternative investments

F.42. Fundamental tax law
F.43. Income tax fundamentals and calculations
F.44. Characteristics and income taxation of business entities
F.45. Income taxation of trusts and estates
F.46. Alternative minimum tax (AMT)
F.47. Tax reduction/management techniques
F.48. Tax consequences of property transactions
F.49. Passive activity and at-risk rules
F.50. Tax implications of special circumstances
F.51. Charitable/philanthropic contributions and deductions

G.52. Retirement needs analysis
G.53. Social Security and Medicare
G.54. Medicaid
G.55. Types of retirement plans
G.56. Qualified plan rules and options
G.57. Other tax-advantaged retirement plans
G.58. Regulatory considerations
G.59. Key factors affecting plan selection for businesses
G.60. Distribution rules and taxation
G.61. Retirement income and distribution strategies
G.62. Business succession planning

H.63. Characteristics and consequences of property titling
H.64. Strategies to transfer property
H.65. Estate planning documents
H.66. Gift and estate tax compliance and tax calculation
H.67. Sources for estate liquidity
H.68. Types, features and taxation of trusts
H.69. Marital deduction
H.70. Intra-family and other business transfer techniques
H.71. Postmortem estate planning techniques
H.72. Estate planning for non-traditional relationships

Job Task Domains

Job Task Domains are used to provide guidance for developing content for the CFP® Certification Examination and other case-based scenarios.  

A. Identify the client (e.g., individual, family, business, organization)

B. Discuss the financial planning process

C. Explain scope of services offered

D. Assess and communicate ability to meet the client’s needs and expectations

E. Identify and disclose conflicts of interest in client relationships

F. Discuss responsibilities of parties involved

G. Define and document the scope of the engagement

H. Provide client disclosures

  1. Regulatory disclosure
  2. Compensation arrangements and associated potential conflicts of interest

A. Explore with the client their personal and financial needs, priorities and goals

B. Assess the client’s level of knowledge, experience and risk tolerance

C. Evaluate the client’s risk exposures (e.g., longevity, economic, liability, healthcare)

D. Gather relevant data including:

  1. Summary of assets (e.g., cost basis information, beneficiary designations and titling)
  2. Summary of liabilities (e.g., balances, terms, interest rates)
  3. Summary of income and expenses
  4. Estate planning documents
  5. Education plan and resources
  6. Retirement plan information
  7. Employee benefits
  8. Government benefits (e.g., Social Security, Medicare)
  9. Special circumstances (e.g., legal documents and agreements, family situations)
  10.  Tax documents
  11.  Investment statements
  12.  Insurance policies and documents (e.g., life, health, disability, liability)
  13.  Closely held business documents (e.g., shareholder agreements)
  14.  Inheritances, windfalls and other large lump sums

A. Evaluate and document the strengths and vulnerabilities of the client’s current financial situation including:

  1. Statement of financial position/balance sheet
  2. Cash flow statement
  3. Capital needs analysis (e.g., insurance, retirement, major purchases)
  4. Asset protection (e.g., titling, trusts)
  5. Asset allocation
  6. Client liquidity (e.g., emergency fund)
  7. Government benefits (e.g., Social Security, Medicare)
  8. Employee benefits
  9. Investment strategies
  10.  Current, deferred and future tax liabilities
  11.  Estate tax liabilities
  12.  Tax considerations
  13.  Income types
  14.  Retirement plans and strategies (e.g., qualified plans, IRAs)
  15.  Accumulation planning
  16.  Distribution planning
  17.  Estate documents
  18.  Ownership of assets
  19.  Beneficiary designations
  20.  Gifting strategies
  21.  Executive compensation (e.g., deferred compensation, stock options, RSUs)
  22.  Succession planning and exit strategy
  23.  Risk management (e.g., retained risk and insurance coverage)
  24.  Educational financial aid
  25.  General sources of financing
  26.  Special circumstances (e.g., divorce, disabilities, family dynamics)
  27.  Inheritances, windfalls, and other large lump sums
  28.  Charitable planning
  29.  Aging and eldercare
  30.  Mental capability and capacity issues

B. Identify and use appropriate tools and techniques to conduct analyses including:

  1. Financial calculator
  2. Computer spreadsheet
  3. Financial planning software

A. Evaluate alternatives to meet the client’s goals and objectives

  1. Sensitivity analysis (e.g., factors outside of client control)

B. Consult with other professionals as appropriate

C. Develop recommendations considering:

  1. Client attitudes, values and beliefs
  2. Behavioral finance issues (e.g., anchoring, overconfidence, recency)
  3. Their interdependence

D. Document recommendations

A. Present financial plan and provide guidance

  1. Goals
  2. Assumptions
  3. Observations and findings
  4. Alternatives
  5. Recommendations

B. Obtain feedback from the client and revise the recommendations as appropriate

C. Provide documentation of plan recommendations and any additional disclosures

D. Verify client acceptance of recommendations

A. Create a prioritized implementation plan with timeline

B. Directly or indirectly implement the recommendations

C. Coordinate and share information, as authorized, with others

D. Define monitoring responsibilities with the client (e.g., explain what will be monitored, frequency of monitoring, communication method(s)

A. Discuss and evaluate changes in the client’s personal circumstances (e.g., aging issues, change in employment)

B. Review the performance and progress of the plan

C. Review and evaluate changes in the legal, tax and economic environments

D. Make recommendations to accommodate changed circumstances

E. Review scope of work and redefine engagement as appropriate

F. Provide ongoing client support (e.g., guidance, education)

A. Adhere to CFP Board's Standards of Professional Conduct

B. Manage practice risk (e.g., documentation, monitor client noncompliance with recommendations)

C. Maintain awareness of and comply with regulatory and legal guidelines