Tips for Studying for the CFP Exam (Certified Financial Planner Exam)

The CFP Exam is known for being one of the hardest exams around.

This is a test designed to check a very wide range of financial, legal and investment knowledge.

The breadth of knowledge required to pass the CFP exam is one of the reasons that people need to have not just education, but also work experience in order to quality for CFP certification.

Tips for Studying for the CFP Exam

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Some time in the trenches of the financial world is certainly needed in order to pass the exam.

However, that doesn’t mean the exam is unbeatable.

Obviously, many people achieve their CFP certification very year. However, in order to do so, they study extremely hard.

There are some tips and ideas you can keep in mind when studying for the CFP exam to increase your chances of a passing grade once you get in the room.

Simulate Exam Conditions

Whenever students take these massive standardized tests, one of the biggest mistakes they make when studying is to not simulate the exam conditions.

Studying in short bursts, in a controlled environment is easy for many people, but taking the actual exam is not, partially because of the format.

Therefore, at least a couple of times during your studying you should attempt to replicate the format of the actual exam.

The CFP exam is a two day test.

The first session is four hours long, and then on the following day there are two, three hour sessions.

If you replicate these sessions by working on practice questions in this format, you will get much closer to understanding how you will fare in the real-world exam.

It will also help you to understand where your weaknesses are, and you can then start working on shoring those up.


The CFP exam is taken by people from a wide range of financial backgrounds, because the certification is useful to people in so many different professions.

This means that a very diverse knowledge base is needed to pass the exam. However, the questions that seem to trip most people up are those relating to taxation.

The majority of students who take the CFP exam report that the taxation related questions are the trickiest to answer.

Be sure to spend extra time studying taxation if that is not the professional background that you come from, as these questions can prove very difficult otherwise.

Practice Case Studies

The CFP exam has several case study questions. These questions include a case that is as many as 10 pages long that you then have to answer questions about.

Working on questions in a case-study format requires different skills than short form questions.

Practice Case Studies

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It pays dividends to spend time practicing questions that come in this format well in advance of your exam.

One of the most important things to learn when it comes to case-study questions is that you must read the entire question very carefully.

There is important information hidden throughout the case study, and if you only skim the case you may well miss the critical piece of information that will illuminate one or more correct answers.

Apply Good Test Taking Strategy

There are a lot of general tips that advanced test-takers of all types apply to exams.

These tips will apply equally as well to the CFP exam as they do to other tests. These tips include:

  • Eliminate answers you know to be untrue quickly
  • Always read the question carefully
  • Skip questions that are hard and return to them later
  • Answer every question before time expires

You should also practice applying all of these situations when working on practice questions leading up to the exam.

Get used to realizing when you’re not likely to find the answer to a question and then move on.

If you find that you have extra time left at the end of the session, you can return to try and work it out. If you spend too much time struggling on it though, you may not answer other questions that you would have otherwise been able to get correct.

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Taking the CFP exam is hard, but not impossible. However, whether you pass or fail will be determined mostly by the preparation you do leading up to the exam.

Applying these tips will help you to make the most of your study time.

As a final tip, remember to give yourself enough study time.

The more study time you have leading up to the exam, the better you are likely to do.

Most students report more success by doing short study sessions over a prolonged period of time rather than by putting in longer days closer to the exam date. 

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