Only the most qualified financial professionals get to call themselves Certified Financial Planners (CFPs), and that’s in part because the CFP exam that you must pass in order to earn the designation is so rigorous. While the CFP Board requires everyone interested in taking the exam to complete a Board-certified education course, they’re not all created equal. It’s important to choose a good one if you want the best chance of passing on your first try.
There are dozens of CFP Board-certified education courses out there. We began our search by looking at 17 of the best and then we narrowed down that list based on their course accessibility, the comprehensiveness of their curriculum, what types of study materials and online resources they provided, and the various methods they gave students for reaching out if they ran into questions or concerns. In the end, we ended up with three courses that rose above all the rest.
Kaplan was our favorite because it offers the most flexible online and self-paced courses of any provider. Students can choose to pay as they go or purchase a whole program at once for added savings and they get access to top-notch instructors and materials, including computer-based testing that mimics the real exam. But no CFP prep course is right for everyone. We recommend checking out all of our top picks before deciding which one is right for you.
A Full List of Every CFP Prep Course Worth Considering
Check out our top three CFP prep courses below and the other 14 courses we looked at. Click on the links to learn more about each of our top providers and to visit the company’s website.
The 3 Best CFP Prep Courses
|Kaplan Test Prep||$549-$7,641|
The Other 14 CFP Prep Courses We Reviewed
|The American College of Financial Services||Visit Site|
|California Lutheran University||Visit Site|
|DePaul University||Visit Site|
|Florida State University||Visit Site|
|Kansas State University||Visit Site|
|Pennsylvania State University World Campus||Visit Site|
|Rice University||Visit Site|
|Texas A&M University||Visit Site|
|University of California - Berkeley Extension||Visit Site|
|University of California - Irvine||Visit Site|
|University of California - Los Angeles Extension||Visit Site|
|University of Florida||Visit Site|
|University of Missouri||Visit Site|
|University of Nebraska - Lincoln||Visit Site|
The Most Important Features: Access, Comprehensiveness, Resources and Student Support
When selecting a CFP prep course, the most important features to focus on are course access, comprehensiveness, resources and student support.
Some CFP prep courses offered by universities are only available on that school’s campus, but for the purpose of this article, we focused on courses that were available online so that anyone could attend, no matter where they live. We favored courses that have strong online resources so that students are able to review course materials from anywhere with an internet connection. We also considered the length of time that students had access to the course materials once they purchased them.
We limited our search to only CFP education courses instead of CFP review courses because everyone wishing to take the CFP exam must complete a CFP Board-certified education program. Review courses do not count for this requirement. You can expect all approved CFP courses to cover more or less the same information, but some do so in more depth than others. When choosing the top CFP courses, we looked at hours of course time and student reviews of the program to determine which best prepared students for the CFP exam.
CFP prep courses usually include lectures, textbook readings, and practice exams. Many also offer online review materials, like a question bank, so students can get more practice with troublesome question types. The best CFP education courses offer a number of task-based questions that mimic the case scenarios on the CFP exam and real-world scenarios that you might run into while working as a CFP.
Live CFP prep courses often have office hours where students can reach out to their professors to ask questions about material they don’t understand. These resources aren’t as common with self-study materials, but some programs include a forum where you can ask questions of other students to help each other learn the material most effectively. A few of the top CFP prep courses offer pass guarantees, so if you fail the CFP exam after completing its education course, the company will allow you to retake the course free of charge.
Choosing the Right Type of CFP Prep Course for You
CFP education courses usually come in one of three formats. Each has their own pros and cons. Here they are, listed in order from least expensive to most expensive:
- Self-Paced: You pay for access to the course materials and you review them at your own pace.
- Live Online: You log into an online classroom at regular times and study the material with the help of a remote instructor.
- Live In-Person: You travel to a physical location, usually a college campus, and attend classroom courses.
- Most affordable option
- Works with any schedule
- Can spend less time on what you know and more on what you don’t
- Requires self-discipline
- Limited options for assistance if you get stuck
- No personalized instruction
Who It’s Best For
Self-study courses are best for those who are on a budget, those who prefer to learn independently and those whose schedules prohibit them from attending a live course.
- Anyone can attend
- Option for personalized assistance
- Defined schedule to keep you on track
- Not as interactive as in-person courses
- Technical issues could arise
Who It’s Best For
Live online courses are a good match for those who prefer a little structure but don’t live near an in-person course location. It’s also a good fit for those who travel often and want the flexibility to study from wherever they are.
- Fewer distractions from studying
- Learn in a familiar setting
- Interaction with classmates and instructor
- Involves travel
- Doesn’t accommodate everyone’s schedule
- More expensive than online programs
Who It’s Best For
Live in-person courses are ideal for those who live near an in-person course location and value personalized instruction. It’s also a good choice for those who are prone to distractions when left to study online.
Full Reviews of the Best CFP Prep Courses
Best for flexible study options
Kaplan, the giant of test prep, stands out once again due to its wide variety of course options and comprehensive study materials. While its courses can get a little pricey, they also include rare resources like computer-based testing that mimics the real exam and instructor access for all students, even those taking the self-paced courses. The Premium package is worth a closer look for those who want the most comprehensive instruction because it also includes a CFP review course — something that few other CFP education courses throw in.
What to Expect
Kaplan offers three types of courses to suit all budgets and learning styles. Its self-study program contains a variety of online resources, including textbooks, question banks and performance trackers. This is the most affordable option and you can take six of the seven courses at this level. However, the final course costs a little more. Those who get bored of reading out of textbooks might prefer to upgrade to the EssentialsPlus package, which includes on-demand video lectures for previous classes.
The Premium package is for those who want the most comprehensive education possible. It includes access to a live, one-year course and a CFP review course. You’ll also get additional textbooks, module quizzes and practice exams and additional videos. All of Kaplan’s practice tests are conducted online to best simulate the real exam. Courses meet three times per week for three hours each session.
All Kaplan’s CFP education course packages include email access to an instructor that you can reach out to for support and Premium students may also contact their instructors by phone. Unlike many of Kaplan’s other test prep courses, it does not offer a pass guarantee with its CFP exam prep course, but many students find this isn’t a huge drawback. Kaplan provides such a rigorous curriculum that many of its students are able to pass the test on their first try.
|Essential Package - Courses 1-6||$549 per course|
|Essential Package - Course 7||$749|
|EssentialPlus Package - Courses 1-7||$749 per course|
|Premium Education + Premium Review Package - Pay Upfront||$7,199|
|Premium Education + Premium Review Package - Pay Course-by-Course||$7,641|
Boston University Review
Best for quality instructors
Boston University‘s CFP education course is one of the most prestigious in the nation because of its excellent faculty and thorough curriculum that covers virtually every topic you can expect to show up on the CFP exam. It’s not your most affordable option if you hope to pay for courses as you go, but its packages are reasonably priced and its online courses give you the flexibility to learn at your own pace. Those who are fortunate enough to live near Boston University also have the option to attend classroom courses, if they prefer.
What to Expect
Boston University offers self-paced online CFP prep courses and classroom courses for those who live near the school. Both cover the same material, so you don’t have to worry about any differences in instruction. The school breaks its program down into seven courses, which you can purchase individually, though this is a little more expensive. If you want the best bang for your buck, choose the Online Course + Books + Exam Review option. It’s similar to Kaplan’s Premium package, but it’s much more affordable and you aren’t restricted to attending classes on a set schedule.
Boston University offers rolling admissions to this program, so you can gain access to the course materials in as little as one week and study from them at any time. The online course doesn’t require you to attend live class sessions, but there are pacing guides to help you keep yourself on track for your chosen exam date. Your purchase gets you access to instructional videos, live webinars and discussion boards where you can seek help from fellow students and Boston University faculty.
This course is highly regarded by students across the country for its comprehensiveness and its knowledgeable faculty, all of whom are CFPs themselves. This makes it a great choice for students interested in personalized instruction through its live courses, though even in a self-paced course you can benefit from instructors with so much professional experience.
Boston University Details
|Introduction to Financial Planning||$695|
|Insurance and Risk Management||$695|
|Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits||$695|
|Capstone Course in Financial Planning||$995|
|Standard Online Program||$4,395|
|Online Program + Books||$4,995|
|Online Program + Books + Exam Review||$5,895|
Dalton Education Review
Best for student support
Dalton Education sets itself apart from the other CFP prep courses listed here by putting a strong emphasis on student support in all course types. It’s the only one of our top three to offer a pass guarantee and it gives students in every course, including its self-paced program, access to instructor assistance. It’s not an ideal choice if you wanted to pay for courses as you go because Dalton Education doesn’t break its program down this way. You must purchase the whole thing at once, but its prices are pretty reasonable, especially for its self-paced programs.
What to Expect
Dalton Education offers a self-paced course and a live online course, so students can choose which they prefer. All courses include online videos, question banks, and interactive games and exercises to help keep you motivated and interested to move forward. Those who choose the Plus courses will also receive the course textbooks for free. Online students have access to the course materials for nine months, but if life gets in the way and they are unable to continue with their studies, they can contact Dalton Education and pause their program. When they’re ready to resume, Dalton will allow them to continue their studies without paying for the course all over again.
Dalton is the only one of our top three to off a pass guarantee, but this is only available to students who enroll in the live online course and choose the Guarantee to Pass option. This is the most expensive choice, so it’s not ideal for those on a budget, but if you’re concerned about failing the exam, paying for this might be more affordable than paying for a whole new education or review course.
Students who enroll in the Virtual Classroom live online course will have access to Dalton Education faculty who can assist them with questions they have about the course material or certain question types. Self-paced students aren’t left out either. Dalton Education assigns them a personal advisor who will check in with them periodically to answer questions and help keep them on track for their goals.
Dalton Education Details
|Self-Paced Plus The Dalton Review||$4,795|
|Virtual Classroom Plus||$6,575|
|Guarantee to Pass||$7,795|
Frequently Asked Questions About the CFP Exam
Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the CFP exam.
What requirements do I need to meet to take the CFP exam?
You must complete a CFP Board-certified education course and pass it before you are eligible to sit for the CFP exam. Once you’ve done this, your course provider will forward your name and information to the CFP Board, enabling you to register for the exam.
It’s important that you verify that your course provider is CFP Board-certified before you pay any money for its programs. Most of them are, but it’s important to double check because if yours isn’t, it won’t count toward your education requirement and you won’t be eligible to take the CFP exam.
How do I apply for the CFP exam?
Once you’ve completed your CFP prep course, you can register for the CFP exam on the CFP Board’s website. You must create an online account and log in. Then, you’ll be able to select your testing date and pay to reserve your place. The CFP Board offers the CFP exam three times per year — once in March, once in July and once in November. For each session, there is an eight-day testing window so you can choose the day that’s most convenient for your schedule.
Once you’ve scheduled your testing appointment, you can change or cancel this at any time through your online account, though you may have to pay a postponement fee and you will forfeit any money you put down to reserve your place.
How is the CFP exam structured?
The CFP exam is a computer-based test consisting of 170 multiple-choice questions. The exam is broken down into two three-hour sessions with a short break in between them. The exam goes over more or less the same information as your education course. These are the eight principal knowledge areas along with how much of the test they comprise:
- Professional Conduct and Regulation (7%)
- General Financial Planning Principles (17%)
- Education Planning (6%)
- Risk Management and Insurance Planning (12%)
- Investment Planning (17%)
- Tax Planning (12%)
- Retirement Savings and Income Planning (17%)
- Estate Planning (12%)
When studying for the exam, you should focus primarily on the General Financial Planning Principles, Investment Planning and Retirement Savings and Income Planning categories as together these make up over half of the questions you’ll see on the exam.
What if I fail the CFP exam?
You’ll get a preliminary pass/fail result as soon as you finish your CFP exam, but you won’t get your official results until approximately four weeks after you complete the exam. It’s a rigorous test and many don’t pass it on their first try, so don’t be discouraged if you fail.
You may retake the exam at the next testing date if you feel you are ready to do so or else you can wait until a future exam date to take it again. You must pay the testing fee again and schedule your next exam. You should use the time until your next testing date to review the areas that you struggled in. The CFP Board enables you to take the test a maximum of three times within a 24-month period and a total of five times overall.