Email FacebookTwitterMenu burgerClose thin

7 Books That Can Help Prepare You to Take the CFP® Exam


To work as a certified financial planner, you’ll first need to complete the CFP® exam. Taking a CFP® exam prep can help you ready yourself, but you may also benefit from reading books about financial planning. If you’re looking for some CFP® books to add to your reading list, here are a few to consider.

SmartAsset’s Advisor Marketing Platform can help you add new clients at your desired pace. Sign up for a free demo today.

7 CFP® Books That Can Help You Get Exam-Ready

The CFP® exam covers a lot of ground and being well-read could give you an advantage if you’re focusing on foundational topics. Reading CFP® books can supplement the knowledge you already have or are gaining through CFP® exam prep courses.

1. “Financial Calculator Essentials” – Dalton Education (Publisher)

Dalton Review offers a highly rated CFP® exam prep course that includes a full list of textbooks to help you master core topics. “Financial Calculator Essentials” is included with exam prep materials but it’s also available for purchase as a stand-alone textbook or e-book.

The book is designed to help CFP® candidates apply problem-solving skills to real-world financial planning scenarios. You’ll find practice questions for each calculation along with keystrokes for specific financial calculators.

Resources: E-book version, Textbook version

2. “Personal Financial Planning: Theory & Practice,” 12th Edition – Kaplan Schweser (Publisher)

Kaplan is another well-known name in CFP® exam prep and a publisher of study materials. “Personal Financial Planning: Theory & Practice, 12th Edition” offers a comprehensive look at the fundamental concepts covered in the section of the exam that focuses on general principles of financial planning:

  • Financial planning process
  • Financial statements and cash flow management
  • Financing strategies and debt management
  • Economic concepts
  • Time value of money concepts
  • Gift/income tax strategies
  • Education funding

The book, offered in print and e-book versions, is designed to supplement your chosen education program if you’re not completing your exam prep through Kaplan.

Resources: Print or e-book version

3. “Your Guide to the CFP® Certification Exam: A Supplement to Financial Planning Coursework and Self-Study Materials (2019 Edition)” – Matthew Brandeburg (Author)

Taking the CFP® exam involves more than just knowing what to study. You also need to know how to study effectively so that you’re making the most of your time. This book takes you through the most important things to know to develop a study plan and pinpoint areas for improvement.

The book includes:

  • A checklist of what to expect on the CFP® exam
  • 1-page unit summaries
  • A 225-question practice exam
  • Sample case

You’ll learn how to track your progress and manage your time as you study. The author also includes tips on how to improve accuracy and what to zero in your focus in the 24 hours leading up to the exam.

Resources: Paperback version

4. “CFP® Certification Exam Practice Question Workbook: 1,000 Comprehensive Practice Questions (2019 Edition)” – Matthew Brandeburg (Author)

Working on practice questions can give you a better idea of what to expect when it’s time to sit for the CFP® exam. Inside this book you’ll find 1,000 practice questions spanning:

  • General principles of financial planning
  • Insurance
  • Tax planning
  • Investments
  • Retirement and employee benefits
  • Estate planning

There are two 200-question practice exams included, along with detailed solutions. The book was published in 2019 and is up to date on tax law changes following the passage of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Resources: Paperback version

5. “The Psychology of Financial Planning” – Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (Author)

In 2021, the CFP Board announced that it would be updating the core knowledge topics to include a new domain: the psychology of financial planning.  “The Psychology of Financial Planning” is designed to help candidates prepare for this knowledge area by learning about six key topics:

  • Client and planner attitudes, values and biases
  • Behavioral finance
  • Sources of money conflict
  • Principles of counseling
  • General principles of effective communication
  • Crisis events with severe consequences

This book provides valuable insight into why people make the decisions they do with money and how you can use that knowledge to build stronger relationships with your clients.

Resources: Print, online and e-book versions

6. “The Fundamentals of Writing a Financial Plan,” Second Edition – John E. Grable, Ph.D., CFP®; Michelle E. Kruger, Ph.D., CFP®; and Megan R. Ford, CFP®, CFT-I (Authors)

“The Fundamentals of Writing a Financial Plan” outlines how the CFP Board’s planning process is applied when writing a financial plan for an individual or family. The authors take you through:

  • A review of the seven-step systematic financial planning process
  • Regulatory guidelines financial planners must know
  • Strategies for managing client communications
  • How to use analytical tools to evaluate client data
  • Financial planning approaches
  • Instructions on how to do the necessary calculations to create a financial planning

You’ll find self-test questions as well as an example financial plan to help you better understand the key concepts.

Resources: Print, online, and e-book versions

7. “The Case Approach to Financial Planning: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice,” Fifth Edition – John E. Grable, Ph.D., CFP®; Ronald A. Sages, Ph.D., AEP, CFP®, CTFA, EA; and Michelle E. Kruger, Ph.D., CFP® (Authors)

“The Case Approach to Financial Planning” offers comprehensive practice problems to help candidates learn by doing. The book covers the core areas of the financial planning curriculum as well as the most significant mathematical formulas and procedures a CFP® needs.

You’ll learn how to prepare a financial plan, including instructions on how to do the necessary calculations. The book includes updated case studies, including studies spanning the psychology of financial planning and ethics. It was published in 2022 so the information is up to date and relevant to what an up-and-coming CFP® needs to know.

Resources: Print, online and e-book versions

Frequently Asked Questions

A financial advisor reading a book to prepare for the CFP exam.

Can You Self Study for the CFP® Exam?

It’s possible to create your own plan of study for the CFP® exam without taking any exam prep courses. To do that, you’ll need to understand the eight areas of core knowledge covered on the exam and develop a realistic timetable for completing your study hours. If you’d like something more structured or guided, there are CFP® exam prep courses you can take that offer a self-study option and are designed to ensure you’re learning everything you need to know.

Is the CFP® Exam Hard?

The CFP® exam is a rigorous test that’s designed to gauge your knowledge of eight knowledge domains. The CFP® exam pass rate was 64% as of November 2023, according to the CFP Board. It’s possible to retake the exam should you fail it the first time around but developing a solid plan for studying can increase your chances of passing.

How Many Times Can You Fail the CFP® Exam?

The CFP Board permits you to attempt the CFP® exam a maximum of five times. That’s a lifetime limit. You may attempt the exam three times within a 24-month period. If you fail all three attempts, you must wait three exam administrations before registering to try it again. Each time you register, you must pay the CFP® exam fee.

How to Choose a CFP® Exam Prep Course?

If you’re interested in a CFP® exam prep course, there are several options to choose from. When comparing courses, consider:

  • The format (i.e., self-paced, video course, live workshops, etc.)
  • What’s included (i.e., textbooks, practice questions, one-on-one coaching, Q&A sessions, flashcards, etc.)
  • How long the course lasts
  • What you’ll pay

Kaplan and Dalton are two reputable names in CFP® exam prep, but you may want to consider other companies as well to find one that fits your needs, schedule and budget.

Bottom Line

A financial advisor taking notes from multiple books as she studies for the CFP exam.

Reading CFP® books can help you learn more about what it means to be a certified financial planner and what it looks like in practice. The books included here represent a sampling of ones you might find helpful as you work toward certification.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Practice

  • Finding your first or next client isn’t always easy, and your marketing plan can influence your success. Getting online, whether it’s with a website, social media or digital ads, can make it easier for your ideal clients to find you. You might also consider partnering with an advisor marketing platform. SmartAsset AMP (Advisor Marketing Platform) is our holistic marketing service financial advisors can use for client lead generation and automated marketing. Sign up for a free demo to explore how SmartAsset AMP can help you expand your practice’s marketing operation. Get started today.
  • Obtaining a CFP® mark can give you a competitive advantage and help you to build trust with clients. Before you can sit for the CFP® exam, you’ll need to complete the education and experience requirements. Once you’ve earned your certification, you’ll also need to keep up with continuing education requirements. Taking online courses or attending online webinars can help you earn the required CE credits.

Photo credit: © Vorona, ©, ©