By Debra Neiman, CFP®, FPA™ MA Past President
1. Join a study group
- Reinforces what you do and don’t know.
- Provides discipline in that you must stick to a schedule.
- You may learn helpful study techniques from others in the group.
2. Take a review course
- Boston University, Northeastern University, and Merrimack College offer review courses. NEFE also gives classes in many cities.
- Intensive classroom structure will force you to study.
- You can bounce problem areas off of the instructors for immediate feedback.
3. Narrow your scope of knowledge
- You don’t need to score 100% to pass the exam.
- Determine which material you want to know really well (75% of the material).
- Know 100% of that 75% backwards and forwards.
4. Concentrate on those topics that require an analysis or evaluation
- The General Information Booklet quantifies the importance and level of depth required for each topic that may appear on the exam.
- Spend the most preparation time understanding the concepts for these topics.
5. Know the rules and the exceptions
- Those planners who write the exam are testing your knowledge base.
- Anyone who calls themselves a financial planner should know the rules; to attain the CFP® designation, you must know the exceptions to the rules.
6. Understand the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility
- Be prepared to determine if a CFP® Licensee’s actions violated the code.
- When in doubt, assume that a code violation has occurred.
7. Time management is key
- Don’t waste time reviewing what you already know
- Replicate the exam environment and time yourself as you do practice tests.
8. The exam is not a trick test; don’t bring in outside knowledge that is not relevant
- Knowing too much about a subject can result in over analyzing the question.
- Read the question carefully to determine what the question is asking and limit your thinking to the options presented.
9. Act as if questions are actual client fact patterns
- This will force you to think of a realistic, common sense answer.
- Remember, the test writers are looking for the best answer, not necessarily the correct answer.
10. Skip questions you don’t know; answer what you can first
- Accumulate as many easy points as possible and save the challenging questions for last.
- Answering the questions you do know first boosts your confidence and improves your focus.
- Use the elimination process to your advantage.