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5 Habits of Successful Candidates

How can you set yourself up for success as you pursue CFP® certification? By adopting habits that will take you through exam day.


a Tailored approach

Your study plan might look different than your colleague’s. Everyone needs to tailor their own plan to their personal lifestyle and schedule. But by incorporating some commonsense best practices from others who have passed the CFP® exam, you'll be better positioned to successfully achieve CFP® certification.

Successful Candidates Adopt These Habits
Habit 1: Develop a Study Strategy
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Before you dive into preparing for the CFP® exam, take the time to create a study plan that will support your learning style and help you overcome challenging areas. Make a plan that will work for you and commit to it!

Think about how you learn best and develop an approach to studying that will play to your strengths. Before purchasing your study materials or enrolling in a review course, research your options to find a program that will support your learning style and fit your timeline. As you create your study strategy, consider the Major Principal Topic areas that will be covered on the CFP® exam. Make sure you know which topics will be challenging for you so you can spend extra time on those areas.

As you study and review, think about the practical applications of a concept. How would you use the concept you are studying in a real-life situation with a client? This approach can help you get a better grasp of the financial planning process as a whole, which is a crucial piece of passing the CFP® exam.

It can also be helpful to find a study partner who is also preparing for the CFP® exam. You can help each other understand complex topics and keep each other accountable throughout the preparation process. You can also connect with candidates, find study tips and seek advice from others on the path to certification at the CFP Board Candidate Forum.

Almost 80% of exam passers say they spent 11 hours or more studying for the CFP® exam every week, often making study time a regular part of their evening routine and dedicating several hours for exam preparation every weekend.

Know when you can make time to study without distraction, and incorporate that time into your daily routine. Whenever you can, make exam preparation your first priority. 77% of exam passers also say they significantly cut back on hobbies and personal activities to make time for exam preparation. Exam takers realize these sacrifices are temporary, but are also worth it to achieve their certification.

“I chose to study at night a few hours Monday through Friday, and then on weekends when things were calm on the home front. See if you can squeeze in an hour or two at work, too. Take some time off work to dedicate to studying 7-8 hours. I took the week off prior to my exam window and also took a day here and there mid-week. That was super helpful.”

You’re not alone on this journey — reach out when you need help. As part of developing your study strategy, reach out to your family and employer and let them know of your plans. If you need time to focus on study and preparation, talk to your family, friends and employer to see where you can cut back on other commitments and responsibilities.

If you need financial assistance, talk to your employer and your education provider about reimbursement and scholarships that may be available. And if you need encouragement or advice, talk to others who are also pursuing CFP® certification — you can find regular discussions and support at the CFP Board Candidate Forum.

“I came into work an hour early every morning and my boss allowed me to start an hour late, so I was able to get 2 hours of studying in each morning.”

Those who passed the CFP® exam say that the 2 best ways to prepare were taking a review course and focusing on practice questions.

69% of those who passed the CFP® exam took the CFP Board Practice Exam during their preparation. Taking a practice exam helps you check your knowledge and experience in an exam environment before your testing day.

“Continue to put yourself in the discomfort of the test bank and mock questions. You may be tempted to stick to your comfort zone, reviewing module materials and flashcards, but the mock tests are the closest replica of what you can expect on exam day.”

Review courses can be a great way to strengthen your understanding of the material you’ve learned during your education coursework, as well as identifying any remaining weak areas you should focus on before the exam. In addition, they can help you understand how to apply your knowledge to the structure of the CFP® exam.

“I would recommend taking some kind of exam review course in addition to the education coursework component. Many students (including me!) just want to be done with the coursework and get right to the exam, but I think the exam review course is still helpful.”

Exam passers are more likely to exercise, maintain a healthy diet and get enough sleep in the weeks leading up to the CFP® exam. Make sure you take care of yourself throughout the study process so you’re able to approach your exam day with energy and focus and without unnecessary distractions.

”Exercise helps with daily stress. Consider taking a walk after an hour or two of studying. Sometimes I would work out and/or practice cello between study sessions, and that was always rejuvenating.”



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