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Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) must meet education, examination, experience and ethics requirements, as well as pay a regular certification fee.


The CFP Certification Examination is a 10-hour multiple choice exam that contains 285 questions. The exam is divided into one four-hour session (Friday afternoon) and two three-hour sessions (Saturday). The exam includes two case studies, multiple mini-case problem sets and stand-alone questions. The exam is designed to assess the student's ability to apply his or her knowledge of the aforementioned areas to financial planning situations. The exam was set as a requirement in 1993 and at that time CFPs were grandfathered without having to pass this exam. Prior to 1993 the certification exam(s) consisted of six 4 month study topics with a four-hour exam following each topic for a total of two years of study and 24 hours of exams which included both multiple choice and written analysis of case studies.

Effective November of 2014, the CFP Certification Examination is being converted from a paper-based test to a computer-based test, and the exam length will be cut to only 170 questions to be taken in a 6-hour testing period (two 3-hour segments with a 30-minute break), a 40% reduction from the prior exam length and duration.

The pass rate for the CFP certification exam fluctuated historically between a low of 42% and a high of 66%. The pass rate tends to be slightly higher for first-time test takers and lower for repeaters.

Work experience

The candidate must demonstrate that he or she has extensive experience in the financial planning field. The CFP Board defines work experience as "the supervision, direct support, teaching or personal delivery of all or part of the personal financial planning process to a client" and such experience must fall within one or more of the following six primary elements of financial planning:

After the student passes the exam and meets one or more of the six primary elements of financial planning, he or she must also have completed the following:

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