The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is one of the most respected credentials for financial advisors and the process to earn it is rigorous. Candidates must fulfill education, experience, and ethics requirements, in addition to passing the comprehensive CFP Exam, a 170-question, multiple-choice test taken across two 3-hour sessions in one day. Material on the CFP Exam is categorized into the CFP Board’s eight principal knowledge topics, which range from retirement savings and income planning to investment planning, professional conduct, and regulation. With a general recommendation that exam takers study for at least 150 hours before the exam, the cost in time and money of failing can be high. Furthermore, given that the exam covers a broad range of financial planning topics, having an organized and disciplined study routine is a necessity to pass the exam.
Accordingly, CFP exam review courses can be a good option to help exam takers not only review the material that will be on the test but also develop strategies for preparing for and taking the exam. The core of most CFP exam review programs is based on instructor-led review sessions that typically come with extensive pre-study materials, which can include condensed reviews of the principal knowledge topics and practice questions, as well as questions and mock exams to help exam-takers gauge their progress and practice in similar conditions as the actual exam. While the core elements of most CFP exam review programs are similar, they differ in their method of delivery, level of personalization, and cost. Instructor-led sessions for some programs can be held synchronously, either in person or livestreamed virtually, while others are held asynchronously, with recorded lectures available to view on demand. Some programs also offer more personalized instruction, from one-on-one video coaching to email access to instructors. Certain programs also offer students some form of exam-pass guarantee, which can range from being able to retake the program for free, to receiving a refund of the program cost.
With more than twenty different CFP exam review options to choose from, exam takers can methodically approach selecting a program by first deciding whether to take a synchronous or asynchronous program. While synchronous programs can be good for exam takers who want (or need) the structure of set schedules, asynchronous programs can be useful for those with unpredictable schedules and the discipline to complete the program on their own. Individuals can then consider other important factors (e.g., group size, guarantees, and cost) that are most important to them based on their preferred learning style and budget. As an alternative, exam takers with very tight budgets can choose a self-study approach using printed review materials and practice questions without the lecture component.
Ultimately, the key point is that while there is no single ‘best’ CFP exam review program that will be suitable for all test takers, those taking the exam can consider their individual situation to narrow the field of available programs. And while there is no guarantee that an individual will pass the CFP exam after taking a review program, these programs can greatly improve the quality and efficiency of the strategy the exam taker chooses when preparing for the exam. Which is important, because passing the CFP exam requires a high level of commitment and hard work – and finding the right method to review and prepare can make a big difference in helping prospective test takers pass the exam!