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 18 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.
Wiley was our favorite because it offers the best live instruction out of any provider, 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!
Full Reviews of the Best CFP Prep Courses
1. Wiley Efficient Learning
Best for live learning.
Wiley CFP’s virtual classroom expertly prepares you for the CFP exam over the course of 7 weeks. Every instructor is a seasoned CFP who is able to use their professional experience when designing the course. Plus, when you start working as a CFP you’ll be able to avoid some of the common mistakes your instructors will have warned you about.
What to Expect
Unlike other courses, Wiley wastes no time when preparing you for the CFP exam. Most of your learning will be done through live virtual lectures. These bite sized lectures focus on breaking down complicated concepts into easy to understand steps. Doing so ensures that you’re understanding what you’ve learned instead of just memorizing answers.
Students also have unlimited access to course materials until they pass the exam. Wiley doesn’t want to put a time limit on your studying; they understand that people learn at different rates and rushing you along will cause more harm than good. Thanks to that, it’s easy to review materials no matter where you are in the study process.
Each lesson is followed up by a series of assessment questions. These reinforce what you’ve learned and show you how well you understand certain topics. All information gathered from these questions is used to tweak your study schedule so you can focus on the areas you need the most help with. This is done so you don’t waste time on areas in which you’re already proficient.
Pros and Cons
- Pro – Mobile App: Wiley’s mobile app lets you download course materials and take your learning on the go. Plus, all of your progress is immediately updated as soon as your device connects to the internet.
- Pro – Live Virtual Class: Students are able to learn everything they need to know via a 7 week live virtual class. Lessons are also available on demand for those with irregular schedules.
- Pro – Bite Sized Lessons: Lessons are kept intentionally short and easy to understand. This makes it much easier to block out time for them during your week.
Wiley Efficient Learning Details
|Self Study Course||$395|
2. Bryant University CFP Review
Best for self paced study.
Bryant’s courses have a heavy focus on self paced learning. Even live lectures are recorded and made available on demand for future viewing. This is done to appeal to students who like to design their own study schedules. With this system, you’ll be able to easily switch between study methods at the drop of a hat without losing any progress.
What to Expect
Bryant ensures that their teachers are available for students to contact at any time. Each teacher has a minimum of 10 years of experience as a practicing CFP. Since they’re so experienced, it’s easy for them to answer any questions you may have. In fact, they’re so helpful that it’s almost like you have a personal tutor available to help you throughout the course!
Every aspect of this course has been designed to maximize interactivity and retention rate. Bryant’s instructors don’t want you to be bored when learning how to be a CFP; instead, they focus on keeping their material engaging so you can easily remember everything you need to know. Plus, they can prove it works since their students boast an 80% pass rate for the CFP exam.
It’s easy for Bryant University to add extra flair to their materials due to their online platform. For instance, their digital textbook includes embedded audio and practice questions. Thanks to that, you’re able to take advantage of the online format and learn via multiple study methods.
Pros and Cons
- Pro – Multiple Formats: Classes are available on demand or as virtual classrooms. This is done to appeal to every kind of student.
- Pro – Custom Time-frame: Bryant understands that students learn at different rates. That’s why they offer courses that can have their schedules shifted to suit your needs.
- Con – Online Only: Currently Bryant has no offline learning materials. This can be disappointing for anyone who likes to study on the go.
Bryant University Details
|Essential Self-Paced Program||$2,995|
|Platinum Instructor Led Program||$3,995|
|Add Exam Prep||$995|
|Add Signature Exam Prep||$1,795|
3. 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.
Pros and Cons
- Pro – Multipart Class: Dalton’s courses are split into 3 sections focusing on pre-study, live review, and post study. Doing so adds much more focus to the various parts of the course.
- Pro – Pass Guarantee: Dalton is so confident in their course that they’ll give you a full refund if you can’t pass the CFP exam.
- Con – No Course Options: All of Dalton’s courses use a blend of live learning and self study. You have no options for just one learning type.
Dalton Education Details
|Self-Paced Plus The Dalton Review||$4,795|
|Virtual Classroom Plus||$6,575|
|Guarantee to Pass||$7,795|
4. Kaplan Review
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.
Pros and Cons
- Pro – Multiple Formats: Students interested in this course can take it on demand or through a live online class.
- Pro – Video Lessons: Everything you learn from Kaplan will come through well designed video lessons. These can be re-watched as much as you like.
- Con – No Exams: Kaplan’s CFP course consists only of video lessons. You’ll need to check out another course for practice exams.
|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|
The 4 Best CFP Prep Courses
|Go To Wiley CFP|
|Bryant University||$695-$5,895||Go To Bryant CFP|
|Dalton Education||$3,195-$7,795||Go To Dalton CFP|
|Kaplan CFP||$549-$7,641||Go To Kaplan CFP|
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.
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.
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|
Johnny Valverde is a student and freelance writer. He has written product reviews, course comparisons, and statistical analysis pieces for several websites. His interests in the intersection of tech and education inform his unique voice in online test prep related content.