Your Smart Watch Can Void Your Passing Score on the CFP® Board Exam

CFP® Certificants in the News

CFP Board’s recently revised PATHWAY TO CFP® CERTIFICATION AGREEMENT (PATHWAY) highlights key requirements for certification. We’ll address select topics contained within this CFP Board publication, beginning with when you can publicly represent yourself as a “Candidate for CFP® Certification.

Candidate for CFP® Certification

You can represent yourself in this manner if:

  • You have successfully completed a CFP Board registered education program within the last 5 years,
  • CFP Board “has not determined that you are not permitted” (translation without the double negative—unless you are declared ineligible, you are generally eligible) or
  • You “have become a CFP® professional.”

Penalty for “Exam Misconduct”

There are 22 (yes, 22!) categories of exam misconduct that can result in bad news, including the CFP Board terminating your exam, refusing to score your exam, or voiding the result of your exam (e.g., voiding a passing score). While most of the categories are intuitive, be aware of these nuanced rules:

  • “Using unapproved calculators, mobile phones, cameras, headsets, tablets, or wearable technology [e.g.,smart watches, fitbits, tables, or smart eyeglasses1]…during the exam,”
  • “Creating a disturbance during the exam,”
  • “Writing on any paper or other surface before or after the exam,” and
  • Attempting to give assistance to or receive assistance from another examinee during the exam [note that the attempt, even if unsuccessful, is the violation here].

Here’s a sobering note—the mere use of an unapproved device, even without the intent to cheat, can result in discipline. In further comment, the definition of “disturbance” is not expressly stated but in the author’s opinion, any disturbance that has the potential to distract other nominees probably fits CFP Board’s intent.

Trademark Imperatives

Why is this so important to CFP Board and valuable for certificants?  In answer, let’s identify a very short history of lost trademarks that cost their companies literally billions of dollars in loss of name recognition.

  • Bayer lost its trademark for “aspirin,”
  • Otis Elevator Company lost its trademark for “escalator,” and
  • Apple lost its trademark for “App Store.”

CFP Board does not want “CFP® Certificant” or any related trademarks to appear on the aforementioned list. An effective way to guard the exclusivity of the Certification Marks is strict enforcement of its use. Hence, we see the following emphasized in the PATHWAY:

  • “Certification Marks” shall mean the certification marks owned by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Center for Financial Planning, Inc. (“CFP Board Center”) and licensed to CFP Board in the United States, namely, CFP® [and], CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™,
  • The term “Certification Marks” does not include any other trademark, service mark, logo, or trade name of CFP Board, and
  • I [the examinee] understand that my use of any of the Certification Marks prior to receiving official notification of my certification and license from CFP Board constitutes infringement, and that CFP Board and CFP Board Center are entitled to pursue all legal and equitable remedies for such infringement.”


The PATHWAY serves as a guide for Candidates for CFP® Certification and for CFP® Certificants alike, especially in provisions regarding the proper use of the marks. While the rules may seem like overkill at first glance, it’s hard to argue with CFP Board’s efforts to promote public trust and protect the hard-earned trademarks we so proudly display.

1 Internet-enabled eyeglasses may be closer than you think with some retail versions slated for roll-out as early as 2023.