Sample Questions From the CFP Exam

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Taking the CFP exam is just one of several requirements you’ll need to complete to become a certified financial planner. Taking a practice test can help you better prepare for the real thing. The best prep materials include CFP sample questions from past tests, along with questions that cover more recent updates to the exam content.

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What the CFP Exam Covers

The CFP exam spans several areas of core knowledge that are required for certified financial planning professionals. Those knowledge areas include:

  • General financial planning principles
  • Investment planning
  • Retirement savings and income planning
  • Risk management and insurance planning
  • Tax planning
  • Estate planning
  • Professional conduct and regulation
  • Psychology of financial planning

The exam itself consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. There are two three-hour sections you’ll need to complete. Each of these sections is divided into two subsections. The exam format features stand-alone questions as well as questions that are derived from specific case studies.

CFP Sample Questions

Creating a comprehensive study plan begins with ensuring that you’re covering each of the core knowledge areas.

The following sample questions are designed to give you an idea of what you can expect to see on the CFP exam. Note that these are not the exact questions that are included in the exam; they’re intended only to be used as examples. We’ve also broken down how each knowledge area is weighted for testing:

General financial planning principles (15%)

This section of the CFP exam covers foundational topics related to financial planning. Questions in this section center on:

  • The financial planning process
  • Financial statements
  • Cash flow management
  • Financing strategies and debt management
  • Economic concepts
  • Time value of money concepts and calculations
  • Education needs analysis
  • Education savings vehicles
  • Education funding
  • Gift/income tax strategies

Sample question:

Maria and Robert want to trade up and move into a larger, more expensive home in the next five years. They estimate that they’ll need $100,000 for a 20% down payment. They currently have $25,000 in credit card debt at 18% they’re trying to pay off. The debt has a monthly minimum payment of $500. They have $2,000 per month in their budget that they can allocate to savings and debt repayment. What is the best way for them to balance their goals?

  1. A) Pay the minimum to their credit cards while investing the remaining $1,500 in the stock market each month.
  2. B) Allocate the $2,000 to their credit card debt to pay it off first before saving anything towards the down payment.
  3. C) Transfer the balance to a 0% APR credit card and pay the minimum while setting aside $1,500 per month in a high-yield savings account.
  4. D) Split the funds evenly and consider adjusting their home-buying budget slightly to accommodate a smaller down payment.

Investment planning (17%)

Investment planning tests your knowledge concerning:

  • Characteristics, uses and taxation of investment vehicles
  • Types of investment risk
  • Market cycles
  • Quantitative investment concepts and measures of investment returns
  • Asset allocation and portfolio diversification
  • Bond and stock valuation concepts
  • Portfolio development and analysis
  • Investment strategies
  • Alternative investments and liquidity risk

Sample question:

Jack is about to turn 70 and is planning to retire. He expects to live until age 90 and while he’ll be drawing Social Security, he wants to make sure he doesn’t run out of money. Which portfolio mix would be an appropriate choice for minimizing risk while allowing Jack’s assets to keep pace with inflation?

  1. A) 10% cash, 90% bonds
  2. B)  20% cash, 30% stocks, 50% bonds
  3. C) 10% alternative investments, 20% stocks, 70% bonds
  4. D) 40% stocks, 60% bonds

Retirement savings and income planning (18%)

Retirement savings and income planning carry the most weight in the CFP exam. This section covers:

  • Retirement needs analysis
  • Social Security and Medicare planning
  • Eldercare and special needs planning
  • Types of retirement plans
  • Qualified plan rules and options
  • Non-qualified plan rules and options
  • Key factors affecting plan selection for businesses
  • Distribution rules and taxation
  • Retirement income and distribution strategies
  • Business succession planning

Sample question:

Lea runs a small business as a sole proprietor and earns $275,000 annually before taxes. She’s unmarried and is interested in contributing to a retirement account. Which option would allow her to make the largest annual contribution?

  1. A) Roth IRA
  2. B) SEP IRA
  3. C) Solo 401(k)

Risk management and insurance planning (11%)

Managing risk is central to financial planning. This section of the exam covers:

  • Principles of risk and insurance
  • Analysis and evaluation of risk exposures
  • Health insurance and health care cost management
  • Disability income insurance
  • Long-term care insurance and planning
  • Qualified and non-qualified annuities
  • Life insurance
  • Business owner insurance solutions
  • Insurance needs analysis
  • Insurance policy and company selection

Sample question:

Barbara is a stay-at-home mom to two young children. She’s interested in getting an affordable life insurance policy that would last approximately 15 years until her children have completed college. What type of policy is most appropriate?

  1. A) Term life insurance
  2. B) Universal life insurance
  3. C) Whole life insurance
  4. D) She doesn’t need life insurance since she has no income to replace

Tax planning (14%)

Tax planning encompasses the fundamentals of tax law, including the most recent changes to the tax code. Additional topics include:

  • Income tax fundamentals and calculations
  • Characteristics and income taxation of business entities
  • Income taxation of trusts and estates
  • Tax reduction/management techniques
  • Tax consequences of property transactions
  • Tax implications of special circumstances
  • Charitable/philanthropic contributions and deductions

Sample question:

Which of the following is NOT an example of taxable income under the Internal Revenue Code?

  1. A) Gains realized from the sale of inherited property
  2. B) Debts canceled as a gift
  3. C) Royalty payments earned from a book you wrote
  4. D) Pension benefits from an employer-sponsored plan

Estate planning (10%)

The estate planning section of the exam covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Property titling and beneficiary designations
  • Strategies to transfer property
  • Estate and incapacity planning documents
  • Gift, estate and GST tax compliance and calculation
  • Sources for estate liquidity
  • Types, features and taxation of trusts
  • Marital deduction
  • Intra-family and other business transfer techniques
  • Postmortem estate planning techniques
  • Planning for divorce, unmarried couples and other special circumstances
  • Planning for special needs and circumstances

Sample question:

Bill drafts a will distributing his estate assets to his three children. He has a falling out with one of the children and decides to make a change to his will to exclude them from inheriting. What must he do to make the change legally valid?

  1. A) Write a note specifying the changes and attach it to a copy of the will
  2. B) Tell his estate planning attorney of his wishes
  3. C) Have the two children who will inherit to sign a document stating they won’t give any of his assets to the third child
  4. D) Draft a codicil to the will according to the rules established by state law

Professional conduct and regulation (8%)

This section of the CFP exam covers the professional and ethical standards you’re expected to adhere to. Topic areas include:

  • The CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct
  • The CFP Board’s procedural rules
  • The function, purpose and structure of financial institutions
  • Financial services regulations and requirements
  • Consumer protection laws
  • Fiduciary standard and application

Sample question:

Robert fails to meet continuing education requirements to maintain his CFP credential. Which of the following would allow him to reinstate his designation:

  • Writing a letter to the CFP Board explaining why he didn’t meet the CE requirements
  • Retaking the CFP exam
  • Formally applying for reinstatement and paying the required fee
  • There is nothing he could do to reinstate the designation

Psychology of financial planning (7%)

The psychology of financial planning is a relatively new addition to the CFP exam. This branch of core knowledge focuses on:

  • Client and planner attitudes, values and biases
  • Behavioral finance
  • Sources of money conflict
  • Principles of counseling
  • General principles of effective communication
  • Crisis events with severe consequences

Sample question:

Ken and Kat are siblings who stand to inherit equal shares in their parents’ estate, which a home valued at $1 million. Ken wants to sell the home after their parents pass away and split the proceeds, while Kat prefers to keep the home in the family. What is the best approach for understanding their competing desires?

  1. A) Identifying the motivation behind their individual goals
  2. B) Examining their childhood relationship
  3. C) Talking to their parents about what they want to happen with the home
  4. D) Asking them what their friends or spouses think they should do

Where to Find CFP Sample Questions

There are several places you might look for sample questions for the CFP exam, starting with the CFP Board.

The CFP Board offers full practice exams online to CFP candidates. The test is included in your exam registration fee but if you choose not to purchase it at the time you register, you can buy it separately for a fee of $249. There’s also a second exam, CFP Board Practice Exam II, that you can take to test how much your knowledge has grown.

Sample questions may also be included with CFP exam prep courses. Both Kaplan and Dalton Review, two notable names in CFP exam prep, offer access to practice exams and mock tests when you purchase a study package. With Dalton, you can register your email to get a few sample questions without enrolling in the full exam prep program.

Mometrix offers a 15-question CFP practice exam online. You can answer the questions and check your answers to see which areas of knowledge you might need to work on.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a passing score for the CFP exam?

The CFP exam is pass or fail and each test question counts for 1 point. Passing is based on your total score across all sections of the exam. The CFP Board does not disclose the minimum score required to obtain a passing grade.

What is the success rate for the CFP exam?

The percentage of CFP candidates passing the exam fluctuates but is generally somewhere between 60% and 70%. As of November 2023, the pass rate was 64% according to the CFP Board.

Can I take the CFP exam at any time?

No, you can only take the CFP exam during a scheduled testing window. The CFP Board offers the exam three times each year.

Bottom Line

Preparing for the CFP exam can be daunting, and it requires a commitment to mastering each of the knowledge domains. Answering CFP sample questions can help you to pinpoint where your strengths and weaknesses lie so you know what to focus on when it’s time to study.

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Article by Rebecca Lake, Smart Asset