No more day-and-a-half long exams for CFP test takers.

The CFP Board announced Thursday that it’s shortening its CFP certification exam and transitioning to a computer-based testing platform as of November. Instead of the current day-and-a-half period, which includes 10 hours of testing time, the computer-based exam will be administered in one day with six hours of testing time.

Despite the significantly shorter testing time, the test is equally thorough and covers the same content, the CFP Board maintains.

The tests will be shortened from the current 285 multiple-choice questions to 170 -- a common practice when shifting to a computer-based testing model, says Michele Warholic, the CFP Board's managing director for examinations, education and talent.

"There is no change in the content or the rigor," says Warholic. "It is not an easier exam or a harder exam."


The decision to switch from print to computer exams follows the finding that many financial planning students are not taking the CFP certification test. A CFP Board survey released last summer showed that 69% of financial planning students who graduated between 2006 and 2011 have not taken the CFP exam.

"To be frank," CFP Board CEO Kevin Keller said at the time, the results of the survey "were very disappointing to us."

The move to computer-based testing retains the exam's rigor while offering increased opportunities for test-takers to sit for the exam, Keller said in a statement: “Those taking the CFP certification examination will find a greatly improved experience that tests their knowledge of financial planning and helps prepare them to be ethical and competent certified financial planner professionals."

Currently, paper-based exams are offered in 50 cities during three time windows each year (March, July and November). With the new computer-based testing platform, the test will be offered at 250 testing sites -- the CFP Board did not announce the number of cities -- and the testing window for each will be extended to five days, for a total of 15 testing days.

CFB Board officials stress that one of the chief benefits of computer testing is that exam-takers will immediately have access to preliminary results. The finalized, official results will be available within one to two weeks -- shorter than the current five-week waiting period. Test-takers will also be able to schedule tests online.

The final paper exams will be administered March 21-22 and July 18-19. The CFP Board has put together a frequently asked questions page that provides further details on the testing change. 

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