Personal Development

5 Important Lessons I Learned From Failing the CFP® Exam

I didn’t intended to write this post. In fact, I was planning to write  a how-to guide for passing the exam on my first try as a career changer.

On my computer screen, I saw the “preliminary pass” notification. I imagined texting the good news to friends and family.

However, I failed at CFP® exam.

Without a doubt, failing makes you feel unworthy, inadequate, and undeserving. But you should not give up. Whether it’s your first or last attempt, avoiding my blunders could propel you into passing range.

1. Don’t attempt it alone.

The weeks leading up to the exam are rough.

Your partner or family will try to be supportive.

But they won’t understand when you cry after a practice test.

They may not get why you are always mumbling formulas.

Or swearing at the financial calculator.

Accountability groups do.

Whether you join a Facebook Group, or are active in forums — you need support from other test takers.

My journey would have been 10 times harder without my mine. And I should have relied on them more from the beginning.

Lamenting over a difficult problem on your own isn’t the most efficient use of time. Plenty of folks are more than happy to help, so don’t be afraid to ask.

2. Don’t neglect your stronger areas.

After our live review in February, everyone felt overwhelmed.

With only five weeks until the exam, we had to focus on weak spots. This meant less time for investing and insurance — my two strongest areas.

When you fail the CFP® exam, they email you a preliminary score report.

High is good, medium is passing, and low is failing.

I was shocked when I opened my report:

  • Education planning – medium
  • Estate planning – medium
  • General principles – medium
  • Investment planning – low
  • Professional conduct & regulation – medium
  • Tax planning – low
  • Retirement savings & income planning – medium
  • Risk management & insurance planning – medium


I did some digging in the CFP Board’s Candidate forum. Failing is unlikely if you score medium in each section, but you won’t pass with a low score in any single area.

Lesson learned? Don’t take your strengths for granted.

You need to be rock solid in all areas to pass.

3. Treat self-care as part of your study plan.

There is no way around it — studying for the CFP® exam will take a minimum of 200 – 400 hours.

It may be tempting to skip a gym session or fuel your late nights with junk food, but it will only make things harder.

Your body needs sleep, nutritious food, water, and exercise to perform. Give yourself the best chance of passing by treating your body right.

I skipped exercising several days and paid for it with extra stress.

4. Other people’s practice test scores don’t matter.

Protect your energy in the weeks leading up to the exam.

Facebook Groups and forums will be full of folks trying to predict their odds of passing by comparing practice scores.

It’s normal to wonder if you are on track.

But don’t allow it to derail your personal study plan.

Reading about others scoring in the 70s and 80s when I was scoring in the 50s and 60s sent me into a serious funk.

I’m talking tears + at least two emotional breakdowns (ask my sister!)

It’s impossible to know how much time I wasted worrying about other people’s practice test scores. And undoubtedly, that energy could have been spent elsewhere.

5. There is no shame in failing on your first attempt.

There’s a certain isolation that comes from failing — especially when it seems like everyone else is celebrating their success.

The truth is, nearly 1,000 others are feeling just as defeated right now.

1,000 others who also have to face colleagues, family, and friends to share the bad news.

1,000 social media accounts that may fall eerily silent on the afternoon of the exam.

Allow me to break that silence to say you are not alone.

What feels like a professional catastrophe is merely a small setback.

This isn’t the time for beating yourself up, questioning your career path, or quitting.

Only a fraction of financial advisors have earned the CFP® marks.

You and I will be among them.

But first, we need to crush the next CFP® exam.

Read also: How to Combine Finances with Your Significant Other

Is CFP difficult to pass?

According to various studies, the overall success rate for the CFP® exam is around 65 percent. But don’t give up because it doesn’t mean you can’t pass. Just keep in mind that the CFP material is extensive and based on both knowledge and training. Because, while education and courses can provide a solid foundation, nothing beats working for a good company that adheres to the CFP® process.

The most common reason people fail to pass CFP exam is a lack of study time. Getting ready for the CFP® exam takes a significant amount of time. The CFP Board recommends that you study for the exam for at least 250 hours. While that may sound daunting, the time between pre-study, the Candidate Handbook, required education courses, question bank time, review, practise exams, and your own preparations passes quickly.

Finally, obtaining CFP certification is no easy task; the exam requires a significant amount of dedication and requires applicants to build up enough confidence to decide – with conviction! – to pass the exam. While studying for the exam necessitates hard work, focus, tenacity, and a great deal of effort, the payoff is well worth the effort.

Who is eligible for CFP?

There are three options for meeting the education requirement and becoming eligible for the exam.

1) Instructor-Led Education

Enroll with an FPSB Ltd. Authorized Education Provider to complete this route successfully.

2) Individualized Education

FPSB Ltd. offers educational materials in an online platform, such as textbook content, PowerPoint outlines, quizzes, and practise tests that align with the learning objectives and prepare a learner to take the exam. To successfully complete the education component, learners must pass the FPSB Ltd. quizzes for each chapter, as well as the post-module tests for both modules.

3) Education Exemption

Individuals may apply to FPSB Ltd. for exemption from either the instructor-led or individual-led education pathways. This status is granted upon proof that the individual possesses any of the linked qualifications or certifications listed below. Individuals who successfully pass the prequalification exam on the FPSB Ltd. online platform may bypass education and prove eligibility to sit for the exam if this waiver is accepted.

You are not required to have a Bachelor’s degree before sitting for or registering for the CFP® exam. It is important to note that you must complete the Bachelor’s degree requirement within 5 years of passing the CFP® exam.


I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Kara Bout It