Interview With A CPFO: Will Fuentes

As part of my mission to help CPFO candidates, I am pleased to introduce a new feature: Interview with a CPFO. I pose nine questions (eight CPFO questions and one fun question) to individuals who have earned their CPFO designation.

The 1st interview is with Will Fuentes. I met Will during my third test in Union City, California where he was also taking his third exam. We subsequently took our fourth and fifth exams together and were both awarded our CPFO designations in the summer of 2014. I have always been grateful to Will for setting up a test site in Union City because it saved me having to travel farther to take the exams! 

Among his professional accomplishments, Will is also very active in the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers serving as Vice Chair of the Association’s Career Development Committee. In this capacity, he organizes training events for public finance professionals in the state.

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Retirement Exam Recap

Last Friday, I joined seven other CPFO candidates in Grass Valley, California where I took the Retirement exam again. As mentioned in a previous post, I passed the exam in June 2012 but I wanted to see how the test has changed over the last four years.

I believe I exceeded my pretest goal of scoring over 80% for the entire exam. I think I scored over 85% on the Retirement section and scored around 75% on the other two areas. I always do an “initial review” of the exam. In this process, I go through all the questions and answer the ones that I am sure of the answers. I answered 130 questions after this review last Friday. The remaining 45 questions required some additional thought or a guess. Of course, I assume my answers were in fact correct for those 130 questions! I completed the test in two and a half hours, which was much quicker than my previous five exams.

Here is a breakdown of the three test areas (including some test questions) and my overall review.

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Back to School: Registered for the Retirement Exam

I received my admission ticket today. I am registered to take the Retirement exam this Friday. On its face, it seems a little strange for me to retake an exam (and pay the fee) for an exam I already passed. Furthermore, taking the test again does not qualify as continuing education to maintain my CPFO.

My reasons for registering are: 1) see how the test has changed, especially with the new GASB guidelines and 2) see if my study plan and notes are still relevant.

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You Don’t Have To Be An Expert On All Exam Specifications

Each CPFO exam has 175 questions. GFOA provides specifications for each exam and outlines the approximate number of questions on a particular subject. The specifications account for 160 of the total 175 questions.

It is a significant benefit for candidates to know what 90% of the test will cover. However, candidates should remember that they do not have to be an expert on every subject. You don’t even have to do well on every subject to pass the exam. To pass, a candidate must correctly answer 75% of the total questions. There is no requirement to pass 75% of all the sections.

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Why Candidates Should Take One Test Per Day

The CPFO exams are offered in the spring, summer, and fall at various locations across the United States and Canada. Many test sites will offer a morning and afternoon session, with each session lasting three and a half hours. In these cases, a candidate can theoretically take two exams in one day.

While it is tempting to try and complete two tests in one day, I recommend taking only one exam per day

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