2024 Edition

The CFP Exam Guide

The CFP Exam Summary
What: The CFP exam offers financial professionals the designation of Certified Financial Planner.
Who: Those with a bachelor degree and three years of professional experience are eligible for the exam.
Where: The exam is offered in 50 US locations.
When: The exam is offered in March, July and December.
How: The exam is a paper-and-pencil exam.
Type: Questions are multiple choice.
Why: The exam is one of the requirements for the Certified Financial Planner credential.
Time: Ten hours over three sessions held in two consecutive days.
Language: English
Preparation: The board recommends reviewing sample questions and using other test preparation materials.
Cost: $595

By: Erin Hasinger, Tests.com


Gaining Certified Financial Planner status, or the CFP designation, is a professional qualification that helps financial planners stand out in their field and demonstrate to peers and clients that they have obtained a quality education and meet a high standard of ethical and professional standards.


Certification is gained by passing a comprehensive exam administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards of Washington, D.C. This organization is a non-profit group that seeks to maintain global standards for the financial planning profession. The organization focuses strongly on establishing and maintaining professional and ethical standards in the industry. More than 23 countries recognize the CFP credential.


The CFP exam covers a variety of financial planning topics, including:


  • Investment planning (19% of the exam)
  • Retirement planning (19%)
  • Estate planning (15%)
  • Income tax planning (14%)
  • Insurance planning and risk management (14%)
  • General principles of financial planning (11%)
  • Employee benefits planning (8%)


Exam questions attempt to evaluate the test taker’s knowledge, comprehension, analysis and evaluation abilities. All questions are multiple-choice. Questions will present scenarios and facts with corresponding sets of questions. Brief fact statements or scenario questions will be worth two points each, while the questions related to more detailed scenarios will be worth three points each.


Candidates for certification must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college. Candidates may take the exam prior to completing the degree, though a degree must be earned within five years of taking the exam. Certification requirements also include three years of full-time personal financial planning experience.


The CFP Certification Exam is offered three times each year in March, July and November. The test lasts ten hours and is administered over a day and a half period, usually on the third Friday and Saturday of the month. Friday usually includes one four-hour session, while Saturday has two three-hour sessions.


Application to take the exam can be made online through www.cfp.net. Each test date has its own application deadline; be sure to check online to make sure your application will be received in time. The application packet includes a signed and dated application, qualifying documents, such as a license or transcript, and the exam fee of $595.


When a candidate’s application is accepted, they will be sent a confirmation email and then an admission ticket that will include details on the exact date, time and location of the exam. The exam is offered at more than 50 locations throughout the United States, though locations are not determined until closer to the exam date once the CFP Board is able to coordinate the best locations for the pool of applicants.


Exam results are mailed to the test taker’s home approximately eight weeks following the exam. Exams scores are reported as pass or fail.


The CFP Board recommends candidates review past exam questions and prepare thoroughly for the exam. To find exam preparation materials, please visit our CFP Test Directory.