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The Certification Process

Practice Analysis Study

CFP Board's Practice Analysis Study is the largest research project in the U.S. related to the body of knowledge for financial planning. This study is an essential part of CFP Board’s work to maintain the CFP® certification and ensure that it reflects current practice. Its results are used to verify and update the content of CFP Board’s certification requirements.


Conducted approximately every 5 years in partnership with a major testing research organization, the Practice Analysis Study is a research study of the practice of financial planning. It incorporates a multi-method approach that includes a number of subject-matter experts, an analysis of emerging trends in the profession, and a large-scale survey of practicing CFP® professionals and educators from CFP Board Registered Programs. For the first time, CFP Board's 2021 study also includes research with firms that hire CFP® professionals as well as clients of CFP® professionals. CFP Board’s previous Practice Analysis Study was completed in 2015. This latest study was conducted in 2020, with the results released in 2021.

The findings of this major research project establish CFP Board’s Principal Knowledge Topics, which are the topics that are covered by CFP Board Registered Programs, assessed on the CFP® exam and accepted for Continuing Education (CE) credit.

Graphic of 2021 Principal Knowledge Topics

Updated Principal Knowledge Topics

An important result of the 2021 Practice Analysis Study is the updated list of Principal Knowledge Topics. Major changes in the 2021 Principal Knowledge Topics list include:

  • A new domain called the Psychology of Financial Planning.
  • The consolidation of the prior Education Planning category and underlying topics within the General Financial Planning Principles category.

CFP Board Registered Programs revised their curricula to incorporate the updated Principal Knowledge Topics in 2021. CFP Board will now grant CE credit for programs that address these topics.


If you have questions about the 2021 Practice Analysis Study, contact CFP Board’s Examinations staff at or call 202-379-2200.

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