How Long Does It Take To Become A Cfp?

What to Expect From the CFP Exam

The CFP examination includes questions on five areas of finance: investment, tax, retirement, estate planning, and insurance, the latter of which includes sections on education planning, ethics, and the financial planning process.

The test is approximately six hours long, broken up into two three-hour sessions with a 40-minute break in between.

In that time, individuals must answer 170 multiple choice questions, including several short and extensive case studies. Case studies allow a student to showcase their knowledge of course material and apply it to real-world scenarios. The CFP examination is administered three times each year in March, July, and November.

Although students are allowed, and encouraged, to take the CFP exam multiple times, the odds of a student passing the test are highest for their first exam and diminish with each subsequent exam that they take.

In 2017, the CFP Board reported that the overall pass rate was 62%, while the pass rate for first-time exam takers was 66%.

It should be noted, however, that pass rates are not an exact reflection of your chances of passing the exam. The figures reported by the CFP Board are influenced by students who do not pass the exam their first time and attempt to retake it without additional preparation. Students who do not pass the exam their first time around should not be discouraged to put in the additional legwork and try again.

Key Takeaways Professionals usually study for up to 1,000 hours to prepare for their CFP exam.Questions in the CFP exam cover five areas of finance, including but not limited to investment, retirement, estate planning, tax, and insurance, including sections on education planning for family members.A CFP designation can help financial professionals build successful careers as a stockbroker, a tax accountant, mortgage loan officer, or insurance agent.The CFP exam takes roughly six hours to complete. The exam is administered as two three-hour sessions, along with a 40-minute break.Interested professionals have three opportunities throughout the year (spring, summer, and fall) to take the CFP exam.


Choose Your Path to Certification

Here are some of the most common paths to CFP® certification. Typically, it takes 18-24 months to become a CFP® professional, but the certification process offers flexibility so you can make it work for you.

Exam Locations

Candidates have two options for the administration of the CFP exam: writing the exam at an in-person testing centre, or via online proctoring with their own computer from home or another private location. You will be asked to select an in-person test centre or online proctoring as your exam location as part of the registration process for the CFP exam.

Online proctoring provides candidates with the opportunity to write the exam from home or another private location using their own computer, webcam, microphone and internet connection. The exam is written in a secure environment on downloaded software – the same exam software that is used at in-person test centres. Before selecting online proctoring as an option, consider if your computer system meets the technology and system requirements necessary for participation in online proctoring. Note that there are no exceptions for these requirements. More information on technology and system requirements can be found in the FP Canada Guide to the CFP Examination and by clicking here.

You will be asked to indicate your preferred exam location on the CFP examination application. FP Canada will strive to accommodate your preferred location, but if the location has reached capacity your second preferred location will be assigned to you. In the rare event that your first and second preferred locations are at capacity, an alternate exam location will be proposed to you. A list of standard locations is available in the FP Canada Guide to the CFP Examination.

1. Build Your Foundation First

You wouldn’t try to build a skyscraper without building a deep, solid foundation, right? Well, why would you tackle the CFP® without your foundation? Too many advisors jump into the studying part too quickly. Instead, they should buy a few books on memory and learning first. Imagine developing a few advanced learning strategies to learn faster and remember more. Don’t you think that would help you learn the material faster? Remember this quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”Hopping right into the financial planning study materials is like trying to cut down a mighty oak with a dull axe. Also, I’ve found that taking a speed reading course is one of the best ways to train your brain. In fact, I was able to triple my reading speed in a few weeks while still maintaining 90% comprehension. If you’re interested in reading my story, here it is: How I Tripled My Reading Speed In Two Weeks… And Why I Think You Can Do It Too… Of course, I’m not suggesting that you speed through your CFP® study material. Yet, learning how to speed read helps your brain sift through information and retain the most important concepts. Being able to do that will give you an advantage over everyone else.

Experience Requirement

To qualify for CFP® certification, you must also complete either 6,000 hours of professional experience as a financial advisor or related to the financial planning process, or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience. You can fulfill the experience requirements either before or after you take the exam.

How to Succeed on Test Day

When it comes to multiple-choice testing, words of advice are a dime a dozen, but these strategies are priceless. Here are our top recommendations for students hoping to increase their chances of passing the CFP examination.

  1. Answer every question. Ensure that you answer every question, even if you have to guess. You have a 25% chance of guessing an answer correctly, but a 0% chance of getting that answer if you skip the question. Candidates on the CFP examination are not penalized for guessing, so you should respond to every question. If you can safely eliminate one or even two of the possible answers, your chances of selecting a correct answer increase significantly.
  2. Stick to your gut. Your first response to a multiple-choice question is typically the most accurate.
  3. Study up on taxes. When it comes to the CFP curriculum, students tend to agree that the tax section is the most difficult to learn and apply. It may be worthwhile to spend extra time studying up on your taxes before beginning the CFP curriculum. One useful way to do this is to study and take the IRS Enrolled Agent exam, as the majority of the material from that test is also present on the CFP exam.

4. Bring a Pair of Backup Batteries

You don’t want to run out of battery power during your exam. This is an easily preventable mistake. Simply bring a pair of backup batteries and/or put fresh ones in your calculator the night before. Also, make sure you get to know your calculator. If it’s one that you’ve used before and you’re comfortable with, use that one. There’s no time to figure out the functions while taking the test.

Key Resources

Guide to the CFP ExaminationFP Canada Blueprint: CFP ExaminationFP Canada Standards Council Competency ProfileQAFP™ Certification PoliciesCFP® Certification Policies

Top Benefits of Becoming a CFP

Opens Up Job Opportunities

Employers like to see the CFP designation. This is a very marketable certification and appeals to employers in the financial industry.

More Credibility

If you sell financial products and services, gaining more credibility is a good thing; you want to make sure your clients trust you. In addition, you will be easier to trust with public credibility when it comes to complex transactions.

Prospective Clients Prefer It

The CFP designation shows your financial expertise. It shows you worked hard, and customers understand this designation means you can help them with their financial needs.

Higher Salary

While you can work as a financial planner without this designation, it will earn you a higher salary. CFP professionals have the ability to earn more with a corporate job or by working for themselves.

CFP® Exam Cost

The standard registration fee for the CFP® exam is $925, but there’s an early bird rate of $825, which is available until six weeks before the registration deadline. There’s a late registration fee of $1,025 for the two weeks before the registration deadline. You can register for the CFP® exam with CFP Board online or by phone before or after you complete the education program coursework and become eligible for the exam. If you register before you finish the coursework, you must send CFP Board proof of your completed coursework. CFP Board will notify you when your eligibility is confirmed.

How long does it take to become a CFP?

How long it takes to become a CFP depends on your education and level of experience. Here are examples of time periods that may apply to you:

  • Less than one year: If you have a credential that exempts you from completing the board-registered program and you have three years of financial planning experience, you are immediately eligible to take the CFP exam. You may need a few months to prepare for the exam and receive your results.

  • At least three years: If you have a qualifying educational credential with no industry experience, you may need to work at least three years in a financial planning role before you take the CFP exam.

  • At least five years: If you don't have qualifying education credentials, you may need at least one year to complete the board-certified program and at least four years to earn a bachelor's degree. You would also need an additional three years of financial planning experience, unless you work in the field while you're in school.

Free eBook: Is CFP® Certification Right for You?

Are you considering CFP® certification, but are unsure if you can handle it? Get a sneak peak at the beginning of the College for Financial Planning®a Kaplan Company education program to get a feel for whether CFP® certification is the right fit for you. This free eBook will provide you with information about the financial planning process learned in FP 511: General Financial Planning Principles, Professional Conduct, and Regulation. It also includes several analytical problems that will allow you to apply your knowledge to real-life scenarios.

Download Free eBook

What are the benefits of becoming a CFP?

The benefits to becoming a certified financial planner include:

  • You stand out as a job candidate: When you apply for positions as a financial planner, having your certification can show employers that you're qualified to provide financial counseling to clients and you've completed the comprehensive training that the CFP Board requires.

  • You strengthen your financial planning skills: Taking the coursework of a board-registered program and gaining experience in the industry can allow you to learn more about financial planning and how to best meet your clients' needs.

  • You can advance in your career: With your CFP Board certification, your employer may offer opportunities to work with more clients or expand the financial counseling you provide.

  • Your clients may perceive you as more trustworthy: Informing your clients that you're a certified planner can help you establish trust with them, and they may view you as a credible resource to make recommendations.

Related: Guide To 20 Types of Financial Advisors (With Salaries and Duties)

How To Prepare For The CFP Exam

Like most things in life, creating a plan and sticking to it is vital, and the same is definitely true when it comes to preparing for the CFP exam.

Final Stage Of CFP Exam Preparation

As you get closer to exam time, you should have a solid grasp on the material, have taken multiple practice exams, and should be refining your knowledge in those remaining trouble areas. During the final two weeks, the heavy studying you did early on should be paying off, and developing confidence should be your focus.

At this juncture, it’s too late to cram. Take time to review the basics one last time and spend one final day on each topic area. Get plenty of sleep and don’t make the mistake of taking a practice exam the day before the real thing. Not only will you be mentally exhausted, but you also don’t want your confidence rattled this close to exam time.

If you have the option to take the day before the exam off, it may be a good idea to do so. Spend a couple of hours that morning reviewing concepts and do something relaxing that afternoon. Eating a healthy meal for dinner, going to bed early, and turning off screens will ensure you’re mentally prepared for the big day!

On the morning of the exam, be sure to allow plenty of time to get to the testing center. Eat a healthy breakfast and remember to pack a lunch. You will not be able to bring food or beverages into the exam so pack items you can leave in a vehicle or locker. Most Prometric sites offer locker storage for valuables that aren’t allowed in the test center. It would be wise to call ahead and ensure your center will have a locker for you. Remember, you’re entitled to a 40-minute break between the three-hour exam sessions. If you have a favorite candy bar or treat, put one in your lunch as a reward for completing the first half of the exam.

You must also remember your calculator and a valid, government-issued ID. It’s probably prudent to have a “back-up” calculator on hand as well. The CFP Board clearly states that you are allowed “one or more battery-powered, non-programmable, dedicated financial function calculator.” If you have two calculators, bring them both, and if you only have one, be sure it has fresh batteries. We’ve heard many stories of candidates showing up to the testing site and forgetting a basic item, like an ID or calculator.

Once you sit down to begin the exam, take a deep breath, and relax. At this point, it’s all about focus and execution.

Indicators That Can Predict CFP Exam Success Or Failure

We speak with hundreds of candidates every year who are successful in passing the CFP exam and many others who are not. We have found that candidates who are successful in passing the exam share the following characteristics:

  • They commit to a structured study routine and maintain consistent discipline throughout the process;
  • They prioritize their exam for at least three months and have ‘buy-in’ from their personal and professional support systems (e.g., their friends and family allow for and support their CFP Exam study time); and
  • They focus on what they don’t know, rather than on what they do. It’s tempting to over-study for the topics you enjoy or are most comfortable with. We all love financial planning and never miss an opportunity to ‘nerd out’ on our favorite topic, but students must remember that the ultimate goal is to pass the exam. It’s important to go into the exam with a balanced understanding of the material. You will have the rest of your career to develop more nuanced expertise!

On the other hand, students who do not pass the exam typically demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • They underestimate the difficulty and rigor of the exam;
  • They do not take it seriously or feel forced to take it;
  • They rely too much on professional experience and not enough on the review material;
  • They spend too much time studying material they already understand; and
  • They have too many personal and professional distractions to spend an adequate amount of time preparing for the exam.

It’s important to note that there is no single approach that guarantees you’ll pass the exam on your first try, but the aforementioned items are good indicators. There are certainly underprepared individuals who pass and well-prepared individuals who do not. Many intelligent, diligent, test takers fail the exam each testing cycle. Passage or failure of the CFP exam is not a permanent indication of your ability to thrive in the profession.

Ethics Requirement

As part of earning your CFP® certification or any other financial planning credentials, you must agree to adhere to high ethical and professional standards as a financial advisor and to act in the client’s best interest during the financial planning process.


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