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Candidate Stories - The Road to Certification: Passing the CFP® Exam (Test Day Experience)

By Grant Lyon posted 10-21-2019 09:53


So now that you’ve made it through the educational requirements, it’s time to start thinking about taking and passing the CFP® exam. During my exam prep course through Brett Danko, he always talked about us PASSING the exam and not just taking it. Once you get through the education and the studying, you have to go into the big day with a positive mindset. A phrase that I used during my college hockey career and before my test day experience was: Positive thoughts produce positive results. Anyway, enough of the pep-talk. You’ve got this! Let’s move on to the actual test experience.

First and foremost, you want to make sure that you sign up for the exam at a Prometric testing center IMMEDIATELY when the sign-up window opens. The reason for this is because the CFP® exam will have you occupying a seat in their testing facility for most of the day. Therefore, they do not have a plethora of spots available for people wanting to sit for the CFP® exam. Do not delay, seriously. A friend of mine told me about a colleague of his that had to drive 3.5 hours to a testing facility far out of town because they waited until the end of the window to sign up. You’re already going to be stressed, and you don’t want to have to make a drive like that, possibly stay in a hotel, and not be able to stick to your normal routine.

Now that you’ve signed up for the exam, I highly suggest that you take a drive over to the testing center to figure out where it is, where to park, and what the bathroom situation is. You want to make sure that you have no hiccups on the day of the exam. I’m glad that I took a drive over ahead of time because I was able to calmly drive in for the day, park in a shaded spot and take a few deep breathes before going into the exam. Remember, positive thoughts produce positive results!

Once you arrive for the exam, the experience is very similar to any other testing center exam experience. However, for those that have never taken an exam at Prometric before, here are my suggestions:

  • Dress comfortably – you are going to be sitting for quite a long time.
  • Bring a light jacket – the testing center could be a little cold, the last thing you want is to be shivering when you’re trying to figure out question answers.
  • Bring only approved calculators – the CFP Board provides a list of calculators you can use on the exam. Do not mistakenly bring the wrong calculator.
  • Pack healthy snacks instead of a full lunch meal. Do NOT leave the testing center for a bite to eat. 40 minutes for lunch might sound like a lot of time, but you will probably be too anxious to use all 40 minutes anyway, and you do not want to be late.
  • Practice with and without earplugs/noise-canceling headphones. They will give you the option to use one or both.
  • Bring both your Passport and your Driver’s License. Just in case, you want to make sure you have two forms of ID with you. Personally, in Arizona, our license says “NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION” at the top, so I did not want to take my chances.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you just need to focus and apply what you’ve learned. The Prometric testing proctor will check you in for the exam, check your ID and walk you over to your computer for the day. They will give you a piece of scratch paper and a pencil and then you will be prompted to take a quick “how-to” exam practice module. Make sure you do not just fly through this--get your nerves under you. Once you’re done with the “how-to” module, the exam officially kicks off. You will have a timer up in the corner of your screen, try to keep an eye on that, but also move as quickly as you can through the questions. Time management is crucial. One question is not going to derail your chances of passing the exam, so if you get stuck on a question, mark it and return to it later or just move on.

Once you get through part one of the exam, you will have the previously mentioned 40-minute break. This break starts as soon as you close out part one on your computer. This is where not leaving the testing center is crucial. The second that the clock hits zero, part two automatically opens up and the time starts ticking. Can you imagine waiting in-line in the drive-through knowing that your testing time is dwindling down? Too much anxiety for me, just take your healthy snacks out to your car and eat. You could use this time to review flashcards or study. Do not go back and review questions that you experienced in part one. You can’t go back and change them, why dwell on them and let it get into your headspace?

Now that the second part has started, it’s exactly like the first. Work through the problems and finish the exam before the timer hits zero. At the end of part two, you will be asked to take a quick survey that is for the CFP Board about the exam and how you prepared for it. Then you click submit and you get your preliminary exam results. My hope is that at the end of that grueling six-hour exam window that you see: Congratulations! A preliminary analysis of your test results shows that you were successful in achieving the passing standard established by the CFP Board.

Good luck!