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Writing an exam can be stressful in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. However, recent exam results for the certified financial planner (CFP) designation suggest candidates took any additional stress in stride.

The November 2020 sitting of the CFP exam had an overall pass rate of 72%, FP Canada said in a release on Wednesday.

The pass rate for the 533 first-time exam writers was 73%. For the 345 repeaters, it was 70%.

“Congratulations to all the candidates who challenged the CFP exam in November, overcoming significant uncertainty and challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Cary List, president and CEO of FP Canada, in the release.

Because of Covid, the exam was offered online in addition to in-person test centres. The majority of candidates (76%) took the exam online.

The previous sitting of the CFP exam that occurred in November 2019 had a record number of exam writers and a much lower pass rate — the June 2020 exams were cancelled because of the pandemic. At that previous sitting, 1,045 first-timers had a pass rate of 53%, while 344 repeaters had a pass rate of 16%.

The overall pass rate of that exam was 44%.

The relatively low pass rate for first-timers may reflect candidates flocking to the exam ahead of certification changes. In January 2020 the qualified associate financial planner (QAFP) certification replaced FPSC Level 1 certification.

With many candidates rushing to challenge the exam, “they may have been unprepared at the time,” FP Canada said in an emailed statement.

“Likewise, the relatively high repeat-writer pass rate in November 2020 likely reflects a much higher level of preparedness of those candidates who were unprepared in November 2019,” the organization said.

Preceding that, in June 2019, first-time candidates had a pass rate of 68%, more in line with the latest results. Repeaters had a pass rate of 42% at that time.

The standard that candidates must meet “remains consistent” with each exam administration, FP Canada said.

Starting this year, FP Canada will administer three sittings of the CFP exam (instead of two), and both in-person and online options will be available throughout 2021. The next CFP exam sessions are May 26 and 27, and the QAFP exam will also take place on May 26.