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Kaplan CFP Review
Our detailed review and evaluation of the Kaplan CFP exam prep course
After Kaplan’s acquisition of the College for Financial Planning back in 2018, most financial professionals now assume Kaplan offers the best CFP exam prep course in the country. But does a long history of teaching financial planning principles and preparing students for the exam necessarily mean this course is still the best option on the market? We take a close look at the Kaplan CFP prep review course in this detailed review guide.
When it comes to preparing for the CFP exam, Kaplan offers two main prep courses – the Essentials Review Package and the Premium Review Package. The Essentials Review Package is true to its name and offers just the basics. There are no live classes, on demand video lessons, mock exams or other bells and whistles.
You get Kaplan’s set of seven prep books as the core of your review material, and a few online tools, including the practice question Qbank, performance trackers and a couple other minor resources. And that is about it. However, the limited nature of these resources is reflected in the very approachable price point of just under $450.
In contrast, the Premium Review Package offers CFP candidates a much wider swath of study tools and resources, and is generally considered Kaplan’s “standard” CFP prep course. The Premium Review Package comes in three different forms. You can choose to take the course live online, live in-person or on demand.
The live in-person course takes place over 4 consecutive days and offers roughly 33 hours of live instruction. Make sure to check schedules though, as this course format is only available in a number of select major metropolitan areas.
The live online class meets in a virtual classroom across 11 different three-hour sessions. This provides approximately the same 33 hours of live instruction as the in-person class, but is spread out over time (and obviously delivered virtually).
Lastly, for CFP candidates with crazy work and life schedules, the on demand format allows you to watch prerecorded video lessons whenever and wherever you like. This is a great option if you need to squeeze in your studies at night or on the weekends around work and family commitments.
But no matter which form you take the Premium Review Package in, you will get access to the same set of core materials, including classes, books, video lessons, the practice question Qbank, a mock exam, podcasts and much more. Priced at right around $1,350 (for all three formats), Kaplan offers a pretty competitive pricing structure standing side-by-side with other prep companies.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Kaplan CFP Coursework and Lesson Quality
Given the scope and depth of the material tested on the CFP exam, any CFP prep course worth its salt needs to have an abundance of study resources and content. And after taking the Kaplan CFP live online course, I can confidently say that Kaplan delivers. Offering one of the most comprehensive curriculums in the CFP exam prep space, Kaplan provides students with a detailed and extensive plan of study that touches every testable topic on the exam.
I particularly like that Kaplan’s course focuses in on the most-heavily tested and complex topics. The makers of the CFP exam love to hammer several of the same topics over and over again across every administration of the test, with many of them being on the more difficult side.
Kaplan does not shy away from these topics, and in fact, makes them a point of emphasis through their eLibrary and High 5 videos (more on these below).
This extensive slate of coursework is smartly delivered through a varied learning approach. Assuming you take the Premium Review Package (as I did), you will be assigned a healthy mix of work through the following mediums:
Classes (live or on demand)
Reading from the 7 coursebooks (sometimes a whole book at a time)
The “In Class Guide” workbook
Practice questions from the Qbank
High 5 videos
Supplemental resources (e.g. readings directly from the CFP board)
These assignments are given to you through your Activity Feed in the online student portal. The Activity Feed guides you step-by-step through your studies, telling what to study and when. It also adapts to your performance and changes your study schedule to factor in where you need more work (i.e. your weaker areas).
In fact, before you start the course, you take a 100-question pre-study diagnostic test that sets your knowledge baseline. The results of this diagnostic filter into your Activity Feed and help to establish your overall study plan (which will change as time goes on).
While there are a ton of different formats in which you are assigned work, the two main components of your Kaplan CFP course are the classes and prep books (just books if you take the Essentials course). Personally, I think the classes are the heart of this program. As much as I like to learn via textbook, the classes just offer a more interactive and better all-around learning experience. I took the live online class and greatly enjoyed it.
You meet roughly 11 times for three-hour sessions in a virtual classroom and the classes are led by an expert instructor. My class actually had two different instructors – both of them great. I am not sure if every course has two or more instructors, or if it was just my particular class because of a scheduling conflict.
But in any event, both instructors were fantastic. They were clearly very experienced CFPs themselves and had a real mastery of the subject matter. I honestly felt like I could have asked them anything finance related and they would have known the answer.
The classes cover both content review and testing strategies, though content review seems to be the real focus of the class. This makes sense though, as the CFP exam is very content heavy. You follow along in your “In Class Guide” workbook and take notes as you go. This is a binder-style course book that provides lesson outlines, content review, example problems and more. This will very likely serve as your master study guide (at least it was for me).
In short, I thought the live online classes were excellent, and I assume the live in-person ones would be just as good. The instructors are knowledgeable and approachable, the lessons are easy to follow in the “In Class Guide,” and they were engaging and informative overall. I seriously had no complaints about the live classes.
For students taking the on demand format of the Premium Package, instead of live classes you will be treated to 25+ prerecorded video lectures. These video lessons, similar to the live lessons, are very high quality. These videos take the form of your instructor in the upper left-hand corner of the screen via webcam and a set of PowerPoint slides in the middle of the screen. Your instructor provides their lesson and runs through the slides, taking notes on screen with a red maker as they go.
It is a pretty traditional style of online recorded lesson, which I like, as it is tried and tested. You get the visual component from the slides and red notes, the verbal lesson from the instructor (which is a benefit to auditory learners), and the face-to-face connection with seeing your instructor.
This is a proven method of improving material comprehension and retention, that works well in this case as well. I found these lessons to be very informative and engaging (though not as much so as the live classes). There is just no compensating for the missed interaction in the live classes.
The other primary component of the Kaplan CFP coursework is the set of review books. Given that you can also buy these books as a standalone resource, I cover them in greater detail separately below. But I will just quickly say that these content-rich books are extremely thorough and cover all the necessary CFP exam material in an easy to understand manner.
Beyond the class sessions and reading assignments, you will frequently be assigned practice question assignments (usually 25 to 75 at a time). These practice questions are accessed through Kaplan’s “Analyze and Apply” Qbank. The Qbank is a tool that allows you to create custom practice question sets by topic, number of questions and more. The tool itself is great, and the questions are even better.
I found Kaplan’s practice questions to closely mirror real CFP exam questions in terms of both content and style. In total, between the Qbank and all study materials you will have 2,500+ practice questions at your fingertips.
I found these questions to be thoughtfully written and I liked how they test the material in a variety of ways. And accompanying each practice question is an answer explanation. This solution explains the rationale behind the answer and details why the correct answer is correct.
This is one area that I think the Kaplan CFP prep course makers could improve. I found these explanations to often be a little thin. Whereas other CFP exam prep providers provide some very detailed answer explanations that tackle every answer choice, Kaplan’s explanations were often just 1 or 2 sentences. That said, they are adequate to get the job done.
No matter which course format you take, in addition to materials already discussed above, you will also get access to Kaplan’s High 5 videos and eLibrary video lessons. Now, to be totally honest, I can’t exactly pinpoint the difference between these two subsets of video lessons. While the format of the two video types is a little different, they both generally cover the same type of material.
Both sets of videos go over strategies and approaches for tackling some of the harder and more heavily-tested topics on the CFP. In other words, they are both sort of strategy-type lessons, and I am not totally sure why Kaplan breaks them out. That head scratcher aside, I found both video lesson types to be very helpful.
The eLibrary videos are PowerPoint-style slideshow videos. There is no instructor onscreen (just the slides), but he or she does make notes in red and points at things with their cursor. While these lessons are on the shorter side, I do think they are a little boring.
The High 5 video series offers seven videos in a prerecorded webinar-like format. These have a more traditional classroom-type setting and your instructor appears on screen. As such, I found these videos to be a little more engaging. Video delivery aside though, I did like both video lesson sets.
They each covered some great tips and techniques for approaching some of the more complex subjects on the CFP exam. As mentioned at the top of this review, I love the emphasis from Kaplan on high-yield topics and difficult issues that commonly trip candidates up.
All things considered, I was very impressed with the Kaplan CFP exam review course. While I think the problem explanations are a little thin, and a few of the strategy lesson videos are a hair boring, by and large this is a fantastic course. The CFP exam tests topics in a variety of ways to make sure candidates truly understand the material and the reasoning behind it, and Kaplan combats this with a varied approach to learning.
Between the live classes, reading assignments, video lessons, and practice questions, you get a boatload of top shelf prep material and study tools that absolutely are enough to get you fully prepared in my opinion.
The Kaplan CFP Mock Exam
For Kaplan students who take the Premium Review Package, you will get access to a full-length mock exam. This online practice test takes a full 6 hours and includes multiple-choice questions, item sets, mini-cases and a comprehensive case. In other words, this mock exam replicates the real CFP exam.
This is a huge benefit to CFP candidates who study with Kaplan. There is often no better way of preparing (and calming the nerves) than doing a live practice test under exam-like conditions. This tests your knowledge, readies you for the official test format, and conditions your mind and body for the real thing.
In addition, Kaplan provides a nice score report after you finish the practice test, which shows where you performed well and where you still need work.
In my opinion, the Kaplan mock exam was a great study resource and the test closely mirrored the real exam. This is a big plus for Kaplan students.
Kaplan CFP Review Books
One of the core components of the Kaplan CFP exam review course is the set of seven prep books that you get when you sign up. In fact, these books are the core of your study work if you take the Essentials Review Package. Luckily, these books are very well done. The seven titles include:
General Financial Planning Principles, Conduct, and Regulation
Risk Management, Insurance, and Employee Benefits Planning
Retirement Savings and Income Planning
Financial Planning Case Studies
These books are extremely detailed (almost painfully so) and well-organized. The content review portions of the books are neatly structured in outline form and all topics and subtopics are cleanly bucketed in easy to find locations.
And the level of detail is exceptional in these books. If some topic was ever tested on the CFP exam, you better believe Kaplan has at least a full section on it. It’s actually kind of crazy how thorough these books are.
I personally really liked these books as a means of study. Whether you will like them turns on whether you do well studying from a textbook – if you do fine via text, you will really like these books. They may be very detailed, but are also still easy to understand and clearly written. Overall, I can see why Kaplan designed their course around these books. They are really, really good.
Interface and User Experience
The Kaplan CFP student portal is on the whole, above average. It is not the sleekest user interface we have seen, nor is it the worse (not by a longshot). It serves its purpose with a clean and simple layout. All of your study tools are neatly located right on the dashboard. As is your study plan, which clearly directs you to what to study and links directly to the assignment.
The functionality is also pretty solid. The portal is easy to navigate and I never had an issue getting into my next assignment or tracking down an online resource. The look and feel are nice, especially the transition between video lessons and the actual video user experience.
In addition to the primary course materials, Kaplan also provides a nice set of supplemental resources. While not used every day in your studies, many of these resources offer some really valuable benefits from time to time. Some of these resources include:
CFP exam podcasts
Email support through “InstructorLink”
Webinars (on general exam tips and strategies)
Offline Qbank access
My favorite resource of the group was the expert support through Kaplan’s “InstructorLink.” If you ever get caught up on a practice question or don’t understand a point in one of the books or lectures, you can shoot Kaplan a message and one of their CFP experts will get back to you.
In my experience, the turnaround time on these responses was about 36 hours. Not the fastest reply time, but the answers were always solid. Their CFP instructors always answered my question directly and didn’t beat around the bush or write a thesis.
The other notable resource in my opinion is the performance tracker. This tool tracks your progress against the overall course content that must be completed, as well as how you are doing topic-by-topic. It will show you in detail where you are weak and need work. This is very helpful for creating custom practice quizzes to target those areas. I also really liked how the performance tracker was presented with visual graphs.
Content Access Period
When you sign up with Kaplan for any of their CFP prep courses, your content access is generally tied to your exam date. Your online content will cut off at the end of the month in which you sit for your exam. For example, if you take the March 2022 exam, your access will terminate on March 31, 2022 after sitting for the exam.
While Kaplan doesn’t offer a money-back pass guarantee, they do offer a “PassProtection” guarantee. This guarantee promises that if you take the Kaplan Premium Review Package and fail to pass the CFP exam, they will give you access to another Premium Review Package course free of charge. So while there is no monetary refund if you don’t pass, Kaplan will stand behind their product through this pass promise.
In my opinion, this isn’t the end of the world. If you fail the first time, there is a very good chance you’re going to jump right back on the horse and try again. And in order to do so, you’re going to need a prep course anyway – so might as well stick with the program you know in Kaplan. While I would like to see the option of money back or a free course, this isn’t that bad. And the nice thing is that there are no conditions on this promise, like a minimum starting score.
Does Kaplan Have a Mobile App?
Unfortunately, Kaplan does not offer a mobile app for its CFP exam review course. This is a little disappointing given they offer one for the CFA and FRM prep packages, but it’s far from a deal killer.
To be honest, I don’t know that I would study for the CFP on my phone anyway, so this is kind of a minor loss. But whether this will matter to you depends on whether you like to study on the go from your iPhone.
Verdict: Kaplan CFP Exam Prep Course Review
The Kaplan CFP exam review course is one of, if not the, best CFP prep courses on the market. Offering one of the most well-rounded and deepest curriculums, Kaplan provides study material through a variety of mediums. For Premium Review Package students, this means class work, prep books, practice questions, video lessons and more.
The varied approach to learning works really well with the nature of the CFP exam, which tests the underlying material in a variety of ways. I was particularly impressed with Kaplan’s live classes. The instructors were extremely knowledgeable, approachable and ran a tight ship that got you exactly what you needed to know in an effective and efficient manner.
The prep books were also a highlight of this course. Offering detailed content review, example problems, graphics and helpful exhibits, I found these books to be very informative. In terms of cons with this course, I found the practice problem explanations to be a little on the thin side, and the strategy-based video lessons in the eLibrary to be a little boring. But to be honest, these were two blips on the radar for an otherwise stellar course. All in all, I have no hesitation giving this Kaplan course a 5-star rating. This is clearly one of the premier CFP prep packages on the market.
How much does the Kaplan CFP exam prep course cost?
The Kaplan CFP exam prep course comes in two formats, each with a different price point. The Essential Review Package costs right around $450, while the Premium Review Package costs a shade under $1,350.
What is the highlight of the Kaplan CFP prep review course?
The clear highlight of the Kaplan CFP prep course is the series of live classes. There is no substitute for live class sessions, which not only foster accountability and commitment in your studies, but also provide interactive and detailed content review.
Is the Kaplan CFP prep course worth it?
Plain and simple, yes. The CFP exam is a brutal test that requires hundreds of hours of studying. And Kaplan offers one of the most robust study plans in the CFP prep space, all at a very competitive price point.