Having earned the CTP credential from AFP almost 20 years ago, I understand and appreciate the education the certification represents, as well as the prestige and opportunities it brings to its holder. When AFP decided to offer the FP&A certification, I was immediately interested, given that financial analysis was also an important skillset within corporate treasury.
The FP&A curriculum naturally supports and appends the CTP body of knowledge, focusing on financial acumen as well as building and interpreting financial projections. Like its sister certification, the FP&A credential assures an employer that the individual has passed a knowledge and skills-based examination, created specifically to test their understanding of the very concepts and tools they will use in their everyday work.
Students, new and old, who wish to sit for the FP&A exam should understand the significant time commitment required to obtain the certification. The exam material is extensive and is tested on two separate days. For exam preparation, I recommend candidates allow at least four months preparation and that they purchase the AFP FP&A Learning System for their base study. It’s the best resource to efficiently learn the tested material and it will later serve as an excellent reference guide. The material in the Learning System is already divided into the two parts the student will eventually be tested upon. Case studies, problems and calculations are included within the curriculum. Most importantly, the Learning System provides an online testing tool that closely mirrors the questions presented on the actual exam. Diligently reading the material and repeatedly testing oneself is the best way to completely understand the FP&A concepts and be able to practically apply them.
I would suggest students break up their study to correspond to the two parts of the FP&A exam and plan their test dates accordingly. Be sure to allow sufficient time between test dates for you to concentrate on the second part of the exam. For many people, it will probably be the harder part of the total exam.
One of the unique aspects of the FP&A exam is the inclusion of task-based questions. Correctly answering these questions will require you to create a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel, but you will not be able to look-up functions or be able to drag and copy cells in the exam spreadsheet. It’s imperative that you memorize basic Excel financial functions and are able to accurately construct your own financial equations formulas. The Learning System includes this worksheet tool for you to practice with before facing the real thing on test day.
Don’t be afraid of sitting for the FP&A exam. Sure, it’s hard work, but the knowledge you gain and the opportunities the certification may open for you make it all worthwhile.
Jim Gilligan, CTP, FP&A, is assistant treasurer for Great Plains Energy.