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How Hard is the CFP® Exam?

The CFP® Certification Examination is equally as challenging as the CFA® exams, the CPA® exam, and bar exam. Every year, thousands of candidates go through this rigorous certification testing, but not everyone makes it to the finish line. However, you can pass the exam. It takes discipline, learning and a great deal of practice. Successful candidates treat the exam like a marathon and prepare accordingly, using every available resource. Read on to learn how to pass the exam, on your first attempt, and what are some common pitfalls that led most people to fail.

How Long to Study for CFP® Exam?

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According to the CFP® Board, you should spend a minimum of 200 hours studying for the CFP® exam over the course of two or three months. Everyone’s schedule varies, but as a rule of thumb, you should devote about 15+/- hours per week studying and preparing for the exam.

CFP® Exam Pass Rates

It’s easy to get discouraged when looking at the CFP® exam pass rates, which typically hover around the 60%-65% percentile for first-time takers. Some candidates fail because their study plan is not comprehensive enough, while others put too much emphasis on memorization and not enough on understanding how the material can play into real situations.

CFP Exam Difficulty

How Long is the CFP® Exam?

After studying so hard, you’ll have plenty of time to showcase and apply your financial planning knowledge in real-life situations. The exam involves 170 multiple-choice questions and is divided into two 3-hour sessions with a 40-minute break in between.

Your exam screen will display a clock so you can easily keep track of the remaining time. During the exam, you can strikethrough text or highlight questions that you wish to review once more; keep in mind that you won’t be able to edit your answers during or after the break. Unscheduled breaks are allowed, but be mindful that any interruptions will be taking up precious exam time.

What Is the Hardest Section of the CFP® Exam?

The 170 questions fall into three different buckets: stand-alone questions, short scenarios, and case studies.

The stand-alone questions will have you choose from four answer options, while the short scenarios each feature, on average, three questions that will appear on the right side of the screen.

When it comes to case study questions, on the other hand, even the most prepared students tend to get stuck. This section is comprised of 8-12 questions based on two lengthy case studies. Candidates are expected to evaluate a hypothetical situation and identify the best course of action for their client, a complex task that requires both memorization and applied critical thinking. So, the case study section of the CFP® exam is usually considered the most difficult.

How Much Does the CFP Exam Cost?

The standard registration fee for the CFP® exam is $925, but if you can save $100 by registering six weeks before the registration deadline. There's also a late registration rate of $1,025 applied during the final two weeks of registration.

What If You Fail the CFP® Exam?

If you fail and want to retake the exam, you must wait for the next testing window and pay the full fee. You may attempt the CFP® three times over the course of a 24-month period or up to a lifetime maximum of five times. There are three opportunities a year to take the exam, spread across 8-day testing windows (in March, July and November).

Get Help Preparing for the CFP® Exam?

Give yourself the best chance of success with our CFP® review courses. We’ll bring you up to speed with a pre-study program, followed by live review classes and a post-study program. We also offer a Guarantee to Pass program, that guarantees you’ll pass that exam or get 100% of your money back. The Guarantee to Pass program offers additional lectures, CFP® practice questions and answer lectures covering the most difficult concepts that could be tested. Additional supplmental practice materials are also available, such as CFP® exam flashcards. We often hear our exam preparation program is more challenging than the CFP® exam. We make sure our students are prepared and pass, on their first attempt.

In addition to CFP® review courses, we offer a CFP® ethics continuing education course, which is a continuing education requirement for Certified Financial Planners to maintain their license.

Not sure where to start? Schedule a call with one of our friendly advisors and learn how to start moving in the direction of your career dreams!

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