Advisors who have been studying up to take the CFP exam may want to sign up for the November testing window, before changes to the content covered by the test are rolled out in 2016.
The November testing window (which takes place Nov. 17-21, 2015) is the last exam the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards will give that is based on the 2009 analysis of an advisor's job. The structure and number of questions will be the same, but there will be more emphasis on topics like education planning and estate planning.
“Most of the changes are ... at the granular level,” says Dr. Isabelle Gonthier, the CFP Board’s director of examinations. She added that candidates who have studied this year based on the existing exam structure should consider taking the examination in November, as it is more in line with the current study guides. The registration deadline is Nov. 3, 2015.
The changes are a result of the CFP Board’s job task analysis, undertaken every five years to ensure the exam is in sync with the current focus of financial planners. In a survey of over 3,700 current CFPs, the board found most planners focused on retirement savings and income planning, education planning, holistic and integrated financial planning, healthcare and debt management.
The March 2016 will be the first based on the new analysis. Education planning will now be its own topic, instead of tucked under general financial Planning principles.
For advisors who are not able to sign up for the November testing, Gontheir says they will not have to “start from scratch” on their studies because there’s still plenty of overlap. Financial planning is very similar to how it was five years ago, she added.
Registered educational programs were notified of the job analysis changes in January to give them time to adjust their coursework.
The update is just one of several major changes the CFP Board recently changed in its examination program. Last November, the CFP Board moved to a one-day, computer-based exam taken at one of 265 testing facilities, compared to 50 locations previously.
The new format also provides a longer window to take the test; candidates have a five day window to take a 6-hour exam in a single day, as opposed to a two-day test spaced over 10 hours, and given only once. Because of the reduced testing time, the CFP Board cut the test by about 40 percent, from 285 exam questions down to 170.
“I can tell you the 2-day exam always made me put it off, so I like the 1-day computer based exam,” says Rodney Mogen, principal of Nautic Southwest Texas, who is planning to take the exam in November.