The CFP certification may be one of the most popular credentials in the industry. More than 80,000 individuals have become certified financial planners. But earning the right to add those letters after your name is no easy task.
Of the more than 2,700 people who took the exam in March, only 61% passed, according to the CFP Board
. That was relatively in-line with the 64% overall pass rate in 2017.
"The success rate proves it’s a difficult exam, but it understates the difficultly," says William Platt, a CFP and partner at Momentum Advisors, a New York-based RIA. Platt earned his certification in 2006.
Preparing for the six-hour test is akin to preparing for a marathon, according to advisors who have been through it.
Just to be eligible to take it, candidates need to complete education (university-level coursework in a program registered with the CFP Board
) and fulfill experience requirements (6,000 hours of professional experience or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience
The computer-based exam, the CFP Board says, assesses an advisor's ability to apply financial planning knowledge to real life situations. It's comprised of 170 multiple-choice questions that cover eight topics including tax planning and risk management. The test includes sets of questions associated with case histories, the CFP Board says on its website.
The exam is available three times a year at more than 260 testing sites. The next test dates are in July and November.
The CFP Board makes study materials and guidance available on its website
. But to get a sense of how successful exam-takers have tackled this trial of knowledge and endurance, Financial Planning
asked more than 20 CFPs what worked best for them in preparing for and passing the test. Their tips run the gamut from using flashcards to finding a study buddy to eating healthy on exam day. Yet they all agreed on one thing: the journey to CFP certification is hard but worth it for your clients.
While studying for the test, "you can literally envision each client that can benefit from what you are learning," says Kobby Okum, a financial advisor at Edward Jones who passed the exam last year.
Scroll through to see Okum, Platt and other CFPs' best test prep tips.