CPWA® Certification Examination Information

The CPWA® certification process requires candidates to pass a Certification Examination.



CPWA® Certification Examination

Exam Format

  • 135 multiple-choice questions: 125 scored, 10 non-scored pretest questions
  • 4 hour-long examination offered at Pearson VUE testing centers for in-person testing or through Proctor U for online testing.
  • Calculator Policy
    • Approved use of one of the following calculators: HP 10b, HP 10bII, HP10bII Plus, HP 12C, HP 12C Platinum, HP 17B, HP17bII, HP 17bII Plus, as well as the Texas Instrument BA II Plus, BA II Plus Professional, and BA II Plus Business Analyst (newer and older versions are allowed. The Institute does not endorse or recommend any specific model.
    • Candidates are required to clear their financial calculator's memory prior to an exam. Any notes, including manually programmed formulas, will not be allowed in the testing area. If the calculator has notes/formulas printed on the calculator, or includes any other information, it must be removed or covered by solid color tape. Calculators are subject to inspection by test center staff.

Study Considerations

  • To successfully prepare to sit for the Certification Examination, the recommended study time is 10-15 hours per week for approximately 6 months. Successful candidates report studying a total of 100-250 hours to prepare for the exam.
  • Varying study resources results in quicker success.

Scheduling, Testing and Fees for the Certification ExamCPWA Exam

  • The exam is offered year-round at Pearson VUE testing centers or through Proctor U for online testing.
  • The fee for an initial exam attempt is included with the initial CPWA® certification program tuition.
  • A 30 day wait period between attempts, and retake fees apply. Retake fees are US$225. Exam attempts are unlimited.
  • Candidates who have completed the executive education program are required to sit for the certification exam within a 90 day window. If candidates are unable to sit for the exam in their specified window, a rescheduling fee of US$225 may be required to open a new 90 day exam window.

The following are the high-level core topics. If you are interested in the detailed content  outline, please view the CPWA® Certification Core Body of Knowledge.


CPWA Core Body of Knowledge

CPWA®  certification topic weightings on the certification exam


Exam Percentage Domains Sections
13% Human Dynamics Ethics, Behavioral Finance, Family Dynamics,
34% Wealth Management-Technical Design Tax Planning, Portfolio Management, Risk Management and Asset Protection
23% Legacy Issues Charitable Giving and Endowments, Estate Issues and Wealth Transfer
30% Specialty Client Services Planning for Executives, Planning for Closely Held Business Owners, Retirement Management

Certification Exam Pass Rates

The table below reflects the CPWA® Certification Exam pass rates for specific periods.

Time Period

First-Time Testers


Most Recent Quarter Pass Rate: 07/01/2023 – 09/30/2023



Past 2-Year Pass Rate:
10/01/2021 – 09/30/2023



Developing and Scoring the Examination

A reliable and defensible exam begins with a job analysis, a study of the knowledge, skills, activities, and tasks performed by a typical candidate seeking CPWA® certification. The process requires a representative sample of volunteer certification holders to write knowledge, skill, and abilities statements (KSAs). These statements are put before the industry at large in the form of a survey. Practitioners rate the KSA statements based on criteria such as level of importance, frequency performed, etc. The results directly inform which categories are included on the examination and the percentage of questions selected for each category. A new job analysis is conducted approximately every five years to identify major changes in the work activities covered by the certification.

Standard setting is the process by which test programs establish a cut-score, or minimum score required to pass a test. Criterion-referencing compares people to an objective standard of performance or knowledge regardless of test form, time, and location by explicitly linking the passing standard to the purpose of the exam. Criterion-referenced standard setting is not strictly data driven. Rather, it is based on the sound professional judgment of subject matter experts (SMEs).

Before beginning the standard setting activity, SME participants often take the test, so they can read the items (test questions) in a context similar to test candidates. Next, SMEs think about a hypothetical person who performs just well enough on the job to be considered successful. Then, SMEs describe the performance level required to be able to just pass the test (i.e., just good enough to be certified or move onto the next level). This is the minimum standard required to be certified, licensed, or considered for selection/promotion. Test candidates that meet that criterion are traditionally referred to as just sufficiently qualified (JSQ) candidates or minimally qualified candidates.

Once the performance level is defined, SMEs review the test content and make multiple independent rounds of judgments about what type of test score constitutes a JSQ level. Between rounds, SMEs share their first judgments with each other and facilitators provide impact data, such as the percentage of all candidates who answered a selected-response test item correctly. The discussion and impact data are important to ensure that SMEs have a shared understanding of the JSQ level, which enhances their level of agreement. After the discussions are complete, the SMEs independently make a final judgment without further discussion. The analyst calculates a cut-score later and provides the recommendation to the policy making body. The analyst uses equating techniques across forms to ensure that candidates are treated equitably regardless of which items appear.

For more information, download the Candidate Handbook.