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Time Management for Multiple-Choice Questions - Post #09 - The CFP Examination - December 2017

Posted by John Gobeil on

The CFP Examination is the second of two exams that must be passed to obtain CFP certification. We have posted this entry to assist you in your preparation for The CFP Examination being held on Friday December 1, 2017.

In the last Post, we consider an exam writing skill: non-linear thinking.

In this Post, we will consider time management for multiple-choice questions.

Time management for multiple-choice questions

The Guide to Examinations for CFP Certification says:

“The CFP Examination is a competency-based examination of up to six hours in duration. Approximately three quarters of the examination will consist of constructed-response questions and one quarter of multiple-choice questions.

“For the multiple-choice items, candidates must select the most appropriate or best answer from the options provided for the scenario presented in the question. There is only one correct answer for each multiple-choice question and marks are not deducted for incorrect responses.”

The CFP Examination is six hours in duration. Although the FPSC can change it: there have been 26 multiple-choice questions: 13 on each paper.

For the last dozen years, candidates for the FPE1 have had 2 minutes to answer a technical multiple-choice question. There is no reason to think that this has changed with the CFP Examination. It is hard to understand how 26 multiple-choice questions, which would require maybe 52 minutes under the old regime, could comprise one quarter of a six-hour exam.

In 1.5 hours, you would expect to have 45 multiple-choice questions, calculated as (90 minutes ÷ 2 minutes per question), not 26 questions.  

However, let’s go with the flow. Candidates found that they needed all of the remaining time for the constructed-response questions.


We think that it is safe to assume that you should be able to complete 13 multiple-choice questions in 26 minutes of time, calculated as (13 questions × 2 minutes per question).

Assuming there are 13 multiple-choice questions on each paper, at the start of the CFP Examination, write on your exam paper the times at which you should have completed complete the 13 questions.                                                              

Suppose that you started on the multiple-choice questions at 9:00 a.m. At the end of question 13, write 9:26 am in large red letters. At 9:26 am, you should have completed the 13 multiple-choice questions.

If there are more than, or less than, 13 multiple-choice questions on one of the papers, adjust your time based upon 2 minutes per question. If all of the questions are on one paper, note the time at which you should have completed each block of 10 or so questions.

Multiple-choice or constructed-response questions first?

There is some debate as to whether to answer the multiple-choice or constructed-response questions first. You could do the multiple-choice questions first to get a quick sense of accomplishment. Then, take a deep breath, adjust your pace and start on the constructed-response questions.

We would want to do the constructed-response questions that are most demanding of our attention first: while we are fresh, not as we approach exhaustion in the late morning or afternoon.

FPSC approved calculator policy

The FPSC has identified the only acceptable models of calculators as the Hewlett Packard HP10B, HP10BII and HP10BII+, the Sharp EL-733 A, EL-738 and EL-738-C, Casio CV-200V, the Texas Instruments TI BAII, TI BAII+ and TI BA II Plus Professional.

We very, very highly recommend only the Hewlett Packard HP10B, HP10BII and HP10BII+.

Guide to Examinations for CFP Certification

A couple of candidates who are repeating the exam said that they were not allowed to use the washrooms. If you want to pass, you had better know what you can and cannot do.

You should read all of the Regulations in The Guide to Examinations for CFP® Certification.

“If you feel ill or have to use the restroom, notify the invigilator, who will accompany you to the appropriate facility. You will not be granted additional time for time out of the room.”

“Food or medications required during the examination are considered special needs, and permission must first be granted by FPSC under the “Candidates with Special Needs” policy prior to the examination.”

You should know your rights under the Regulations.

Next Post

In our next Post, we will look at the five step process to answer a constructed-response question.

Effectiveness of our study aids

We always appreciate feedback on the effectiveness of our study aids. Together, we can continue to have the best study aids available.

John Gobeil, BSc, CFP®
David Gobeil, CPA CA, CFP®

Certified Financial Planner® and CFP® are certification marks owned outside the U.S. by the Financial Planning Standards Board Ltd. The Financial Planners Standards Council is the marks licensing authority for the CFP marks in Canada, through agreement with FPSB.

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