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CFP Board apologizes for misreporting test results

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The CFP Board apologized this week after the testing company it uses to administer its CFP examination sent out unverified test results to an unknown number of the 2,887 people who took the exam last month.

Not knowing if the "Congratulations!" letters they received were accurate "took the wind out of your sails," said David MaWhinney. He is one of 10 people in Vanguard's Financial Advisor Development Program, all of whom sat for the November exam and received confusing communications about their test results. MaWhinney eventually learned he had passed.

After taking the exam between Nov. 6 and 13, CFP candidates received a subsequent email from the testing company, Prometric Testing in Baltimore, Maryland. It instructed them to click on a link to see their test results, MaWhinney said. Those who did so over the weekend apparently accessed not only letters with results, but breakdowns of the parts of their tests on which they had done better or worse, MaWhinney said.

"It seemed like a glitch," he added.

Attempts to reach Prometric for comment were unsuccessful.

Confused CFP candidates then began posting questions about the results on a forum that the board hosts on its own website. On Sunday, the board posted an explanatory letter there that only confused matters, MaWhinney said.

"It was just kind of a really bad explanation for what happened," he said. "It was titled 'Clarification on CFP exam results.' It said something to the effect that the information [reported] on a 'certain web page' — that's how they phrased it — is not official."

"It said, 'If you have clicked on this link, please don't read into it,'" he explained. "A lot of people said, 'What do you mean by, "Don't' read into it?" It literally contains your login and information saying you passed or you failed.' "

MaWhinney and other CFP candidates then began direct-tweeting the board for more information.

CFP candidate John Dawson, who tweets under @investmentman and works for Seagate Wealth Management in Kitty Hawk, Carolina, tweeted out the following, "My letter said I passed, but we will see. Some are posting their pass results on Twitter and their employers are even putting out press releases. They seem to be unaware that the results are unofficial. CFP Board should notify all test-takers of this issue via email."

Dawson did not respond to inquiries seeking further comment.

In response to messages like his, the board sent out a more detailed explanation Monday, informing CFP candidates that new material included in the test related to the 2017 tax legislation required "additional quality assurance steps to ensure the exam was fair and reflected the impact of the new questions," according to the board's message.

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"As a part of this process," the board continued, "CFP Board is aware that some individuals saw results on our testing partner’s website when checking a link that previously indicated exam completion. Those results were not final, as a last quality assurance test had not been completed."

The board finally sent out accurate test results, also on Monday.

MaWhinney — who says he had not studied enough for his first attempt at the test, which he failed — added that the test results for his group at Vanguard mirror the results nationwide: About 40% of people who take the exam fail to pass it the first time. The exam is known in the industry for its rigor.

Going forward, the board said it is working with Prometric to ensure it doesn't repeat its own fail the next time it reports exam results.

"We sincerely apologize to anyone who may have been impacted by this," the board said.

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