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Life Health > Running Your Business > Certification

CFP Board Calls First Computer-Based Exams a ‘Success’

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Of the more than 2,100 individuals who took the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standard’s first computer-based exam in November, 66% passed, a figure that the Board says is “slightly higher” than previous years’ exam rates but one that illustrates a “successful” transition to the computerized testing model.

In a Tuesday statement, Kevin Keller, the CFP Board’s CEO congratulated those who passed what he called a “very rigorous exam,” adding that he hoped exam takers “found the new format was more convenient and provided an enhanced experience, while still effectively evaluating their knowledge of financial planning and helping them prepare to be ethical and competent Certified Financial Planner professionals.”

The November CFP exam was administered during a five-day testing window from Nov. 18 to 22. The final paper-based exam was administered from July 18 to 19.

The Board noted that 2,147 applicants took the CFP Certification computer-based exam in November, the highest number of applicants in the past two years.

While the 66% pass rate was “slightly higher” than the overall pass rate from the past two years, it was within the range of results over the past 10 years, the Board said.

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Also, the majority of candidates could choose which day to take the exam from 265 testing sites around the country and candidates were able to receive preliminary – though unofficial – results immediately following the test.

Keller told ThinkAdvisor in a previous interview that the new computerized exam format is part of the Board’s push to boost the number of CFPs, and said he hoped the additional access provided under the new computer-based testing “will encourage more people to not only sit for the exam but ultimately obtain the CFP certification.”

CFPs had debated whether the CFP Board was making the exam easier by shortening its duration and number of questions. But Ray Ferrara, chairman of CFP Board’s board of directors for 2014, maintained earlier this year that the shortened exams will not be easier. “The fact that you’ll be able to [take the exam] in less time doesn’t mean it’s any less rigorous,” he said. Those “involved in [developing the] testing would say it’s equal to or more difficult” to the previous 10-hour exam.

Michael Kitces, director of research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, told ThinkAdvisor in an email message that with a pass rate of 66%, “it appears that in the end, the CFP Board really did ‘just’ make the CFP exam more convenient, but not necessarily (much) easier.”

Kitces says the 66% exam rate “really is slightly higher than the historical average – over the past 10 years, the pass rate has hovered between 50% and 63%, and in the past three years it twice got as high as 64%.” However, he says, ”it’s not clear whether a less-than-2% difference between the summer exam (which was 64.5%) and this fall computer-based exam (at 66%) is really material, and it’s not hard to imagine that this sitting of the exam may have been ‘distorted’ by people who were waiting for the new exam format, spent longer studying while waiting for it, and had a higher pass rate simply because they ended out with more time to study.”

What will be ”interesting to see,” Kitces added, is “whether the pass rate in 2015 dips back into the low 60% zone, or stays at 65%+.” Also, he said, “the number of exam takers did increase as the CFP Board hoped.”

The current number of CFPs stands at 69,000, a 25% boost since the financial crisis hit in 2007. The Board wants to add roughly 12,000 more CFPs over the next four years.

The next CFP Certification exam is scheduled for March 24 – 28.

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