At the time of this article’s publication, students across the country will be writing their QAFP™ or CFP® Exams. Most exam writers will have put in about two years of prep, somewhere around $6,000 – $8,000, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Here’s an article we put together about exactly this, preparing for financial planning exams.
What do I have to do to get ready for my exams?
A common question we’re asked here at Business Career College is: What do I have to do to get ready for my exams? This can apply to any of the financial planning exams, whether it’s those administered by FP Canada™, CSI, or the Institute for Advanced Financial Planning.
There is no magic bullet for passing these exams. It takes real work and dedication. Most of the work happens months or even years before writing. With that said, there are some effective tips to help you maximize the work you put in and increase your chances of success.
Tips to prepare for your Financial Planning Exams:
Here are my tips for passing any of these exams:
- Book one hour per day to study, from the very beginning of your preparation. I believe any capable professional should be putting in this much time on professional development even when not pursuing a certification. This is something that should persist even after you’ve obtained your certification.
- When first learning the financial calculator, you should be using it for at least one calculation per day until you’re comfortable with it. Start off with the practice questions in your study material ¾ but the real learning happens when you start using it in client scenarios.
- Once you get closer to your exam date, look for at least one good practice exam. Use that exam to practice your timings. You should know, going into any exam, roughly how long you can allocate for any type of question. Based on that, you should have a reliable time management strategy.
- As an example, I counsel my students that a typical stand-alone, non-math multiple choice question should take no more than 90 seconds for most exam writers. This should give you time to read the question, read the answers, and choose an answer. The student should have practiced enough of this style of question before writing a multiple choice exam to know whether this 90 second window is realistic. The same lesson applies to constructed response (case study), math multiple choice, and case-based multiple choice questions.
- Once you sit down to write, take the first 2-3 minutes to write down your exam strategy. I’ll use the overused Mike Tyson quote here: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Writing down your plan will ensure that you have it available when you run into a challenging exam question. When that happens, you’ll be thrown off your game, but you can refer back to your written plan to reset and resume control over your exam experience.
A few external resources that could help:
- Find a study partner or group to work with. I believe a group of 2-3 is optimal. Find somebody you can connect with (maybe a co-worker would be a good choice). Most course providers have some sort of internal discussion forum where you can seek a study partner. Thanks to Melany Goodhue, CFP, for helping me improve my approach to this. Melany put together a video espousing the benefits of a good study partner, which you can watch here.
- Leading up to any exam, sleep, diet, exercise, meditation (or prayer or mindfulness), and hydration are vital. You cannot sacrifice these physiological basics for study time. Most of what goes wrong on most exams is more related to performance (e.g. not reading the questions correctly) rather than knowledge (e.g. not having studied enough). Suzanne Chate presents at all our exam prep sessions because she is a pro at making sure students show up to this exam psychologically prepared. Check out her services.
Additional Support from BCC:
- You can also join us for our Exam Prep Program. Based on our internal research students who attend our Exam Prep Program have an increased 10% chance of passing their exams. Our next series of exam prep webinars begin in April leading up to FP Canada™ spring exams.
- Have a read of our previous article on 6 Ways to Keep Yourself Engaged While Studying.
Whatever exam you’re preparing for, good luck! We love to see students succeed.