How to clear your specialist module in the first attempt

Dear CFP candidates,

I am sure you would be wanting to have tips for clearing your specialist exams in the first go! Thus, we interviewed few of our proschoolites and asked them how they aced their CFP exams in the first go.

So here are few questions & answers to help you prepare better:

Q. Hey, congratulations for clearing your specialist exam. How was the difficulty level of the paper?

A.  The CFP specialist exams are moderately difficult.However, I must say that the 600-700 questions per module and overall 2000+ questions across different modules of CFPcm provided by IMS Proschool helped me a lot. Few questions came direct from the mock and textbooks, whereas some were more from analysis point of view. Majorly the questions came from the chapters covered in the FPSB textbook. Thus, it is very important that a student reads the textbook at least twice and solves all the examples given in between the topics atleast once.

Q. Was the 2 hour time period sufficient to complete the paper?

A. Frankly no. The questions are very lengthy. So it does take time in reading and then comprehending them and finding the solution. The trick here is, see the question, give it 30 seconds to analyse whether you will be able to solve it or not. If you get a slightest of doubt that you wont be able to solve it, just leave and move ahead to the next question. In the end, keep 30 minutes to solve such tricky questions. Also, since there is no negative marking, one should tick mark any nearest option and leave no questions unanswered. Plus, all the tricks given by faculty and mentors at proschool with regards to tackling the exam, proved very useful for me.

Q. How many questions did you practise on an average?

A. I did some 800+ questions per track including proschool material and FPSB quizzes and mocks. The best part was, we were provided with past papers to practise, which are not freely available elsewhere. In an MCQ exam, solving and re-reading is the trick. Plus proschool provided us with 3 mock tests, which proved very helpful for me.

Any special tips that you would like to share for specific modules?

  1. Yes. Each specialist exam has different topics, yet the underlying is somewhat similar. For Eg: Each paper consists of 75 multiple-choice questions, out of which usually 10-15 questions are numerical & rest are theory. Now, FPSB keeps on changing this combination of sums & theory, but this has been the pattern since last few months. The  mentors at proschool guided us from time to time as to what type of questions can be expected.Thus, their guidance, too should be seeked. During our lectures, we were given a deep analysis and break-up of topics as per exam weightage. I devoted more time on the high weightage topics to ace my exams. The broad weightage per module is as follows:
ModuleSub moduleIndian Global
IPSPersonal Finance Management6%19%
Investment Planning & Asset Management15%45%
Regulatory environment8%8%
Total29%71%
RTPSRetirement Planning25%25%
Taxation planning31%20%
Total55%45%
 
REPSRisk Management15%36%
Estate Planning29%20%
Total45%55%

However, one should note that, weightages keep changing over time. So it is advised to talk to your faculty to understand the pattern.

  1. How were the mentors at proschool helpful for you?
  2. The mentors guided us right from the start. We were provided help for FPSB registration process, we had monthly doubt solving sessions and whenever we were stuck during exam process booking or had concerns with regards to online exams, our mentors were always available on call. We were even provided with career guidance from our faculties and mentors

Q Any final tip you would like to give to your batch mates?

  1. Finally I would say that having some basic knowledge of financial markets, taking some internship under a CFP/ Financial Planner, and reading general economic and finance news shall help the students not only ace their exams, but also help them in their actual Job profile as a CFP. 

From exam perspective, I would say reading the textbook twice, attend the doubt solving sessions organized by the proschool mentors, and ensure all your concepts are clear. Practise FPSB quizzes and Mocks without fail, and then you should be surely through it!

Tips on clearing the specialist module

According to the CFP board, the rate for students who clear the exam on the first attempt is 66 per cent. That is a pretty good statistic. It means that with some hard work, discipline and determination, you could crack the tests on your first try. It is highly doable if you have a solid game plan to help you reach the finish line. Here are some tips and techniques that have helped many students achieve success in the past. 

1. Understand, don’t memorise

Even as adults, some of us still maintain a school-student attitude of memorising the material word for word. It does not bode well for a professional exam like the CFP specialist modules. As a future financial planner, you need to really know your fundamental and advanced concepts like the back of your hand. Read the books, watch the instructional videos, listen to audio recordings and really absorb the essence of the matter. Once you have understood the theories, definitions and concepts, they will become ingrained in your mind for posterity. 

2. Work on solving practice questions

Don’t just do it once or twice. Try and crack as many answers as possible. Some students who passed on their first try worked on around 1,000 questions over a 2 to 3-month period. You can either use a review course like Kaplan or join a coaching institute like IMS Proschool and solve as many questions as possible. You will also be able to spot your weak points. Some questions you’ll get wrong or misunderstand. Go back, find the correct answers, and solve them again. Keep going. Consistency is key.

3. Pay attention to the code of ethics

The CFP code and standards are a lot more important than you think. You must fully grasp the importance of this subject. It is the foundation on which all the exam questions are set. The institute takes ethics very seriously. It is important to them that every student who becomes a certified financial planner is ethical and morally compliant. The specialist exams will cover all topics, but ethics will be an underlying theme that is prevalent throughout. 

4. Make abridged notes to revise later 

It helps to write down certain significant concepts so you can review them before the exam. You can also use mnemonics or shortcuts to help you remember vital information. So if you are flustered or stressed, it is easy to recollect the details when you need them. 

Also, writing the points down helps you to retain the material better. These are the tried-and-tested study habits of many students. 

5. Give special attention to taxes

The subject that stresses most students out is taxation. Many agree it is one of the toughest topics to learn. It’s tempting to push the subject for later or to procrastinate out of fear. Instead, take a deep breath and dive in. Spend some extra time and effort tackling this subject. It may also be worth your while to start with this topic at the start of your study schedule. Tackle it head-on, and take extra help from others (teachers, fellow students, professionals) when needed.

6. Try to explain the concepts to non-financial people 

How well do you fully understand the material? The true test of your CFP study is the ability to break it down to layman’s terms. If you can sit down with your family members, neighbours or friends and get them to understand complex financial theories by using simple words or definitions, you’ve got the job done. 

7. Get extra help or special coaching classes

A reputed institute like IMS Proschool can really help you prepare for the CFP exams efficiently and systematically. You get the support and learning aids needed to prepare for the specialist module exams. Your doubts are cleared instantly, and there is access to exceptional study resources. All this and more helps to increase your chances of nailing the exams.

8. Chose an exam date that does not clash with events 

When you are planning and preparing for the CFP exam, life happens. However, it is wise to check your calendar and ensure there are no weddings, family functions, or necessary functions between the start of your study timetable and the exam dates. Avoid picking a time slot that clashes with your other plans. Either free up your schedule or avoid picking a test date that collides with events. 

9. Treat the exam like a marathon, not a mad dash

Don’t mug or cram the text. Start studying in advance and spread your time evenly across subjects. It is the only way you can focus on the details. Students who put in the extra hours or study months before the exam get the grades they want. You won’t remember much if you overload your brain at the last minute. Slow and steady is the best strategy when training for the CFP exam race. 

The IMS Proschool CFP program 

If you need a little hand-holding and support when preparing for the specialist module exams, you find it here at IMS Proschool. Authorised by the FPSB to teach CFP, the coaching institute is a world-class facility. Here, students receive the training and care they need to get through the specialist module exams. This highly acclaimed program delivers on the success ratio, with thousands of students moving on to become successful certified financial planners. Here are some of the course highlights:

Excellent study resources such as over 2,000 online practice questions, mock tests and active learning methodologies 

The faculty comprises talented teachers who are also industry experts

There is 100 per cent placement assistance 

You receive special coaching for job interviews and resume writing

You can study inside a classroom, through online sessions or through distance learning

Opportunities for CFP students after passing specialised modules 

  • You can apply for internship positions with investment-centric companies after clearing two modules 
  • The CFP course enables professionals to work in high profile jobs with 
    • banks
    • investment advisory services
    • mutual fund houses
    • insurance companies
    • Tax consultancy firms
    • Wealth management companies 
    • NFBCs
  • There is scope to start your own consultancy practice or set up an investment firm

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