How should you review for the CFRE exam?

Every fundraising professional is different, with different job experiences, professional responsibilities, and opportunities for fundraising education.  There is not a single “best way” to prepare for the CFRE exam.  We offer the steps below only as a helpful guide and not as a prescriptive list.

  1. Review the Test Content Outline against what your own professional experience has been.
  2. Once you have identified areas for review, you have many options. You can:
    1. Attend a continuing education program on this topic
    2. Select and read a publication from of the Resource Reading List that addresses the areas you have identified
    3. Form an informal study group with other colleagues in the area who are planning to take the examination. You can benefit from the diverse experience of others and provide an alternate perspective
    4. Review materials independently, determining for yourself on which content areas to focus.
    5. Participate in more structured review environments, perhaps with individuals who have already become Certified Fund Raising Executives

While there is not one “best way” to study, what is important is to develop your own plan for studying. Set aside some time each week for several weeks prior to the exam to devote to some form of preparation.

Some candidates may choose to review the basic texts and try to absorb as much factual information as possible. If you find this type of studying effective, you might want to create index cards in the form of questions and answers or with key topics. You can test yourself or work with a friend or colleague who can quiz you until you know the answers to all of the cards.

This type of study can be effective with factual information, and the examination will have questions which deal with strictly factual information. However, remember that the CFRE examination is testing the application of best practices on the job. This means that many of the questions will require you to analyze and interpret facts, solve problems or make judgments. With these types of questions, you will need to begin by recalling factual information but you will then need to do something more. As a result, your study efforts should include some time spent on applying factual knowledge and reviewing how these facts assist you in performing your duties day to day.

What is most important is that this type of review cannot be left until the last minute. A hasty, tense reading of a wealth of information will not be effective. A late-hour “cram session” the night before the exam may only make you anxious and tired the next morning and hinder your ability to focus on the exam.

Reading Material

Many fundraising professionals wonder which publications they can read in order to prepare them for the examination. In studying for your CFRE examination, you will probably seek out some resource materials and other references to read.

The first and most applicable reference is the Test Content Outline. The Test Content Outline is the most valuable source of what information will be covered on the examination.

The publications on the Reading Resource List are all widely available and provide information on current, commonly accepted fundraising practices. These references have been identified as being the most comprehensive and most closely related to information covered on the examination. It is not intended that each candidate read every publication on the Resource Reading List. Rather, this list is provided as a guide for candidates who are seeking sources of information on particular subject areas, or general overview texts. The books listed are also those that were frequently used by item writers and reviewers during item development for this examination. However, reading any or all of the publications on this list, cover to cover, does not guarantee you will do well on the examination.

While this reference list is provided by CFRE International, and each examination item is drawn from facts that can be substantiated by professional texts, the exam is not intended to be an assessment of your knowledge of literature. Additionally, there is no single reference, or small group of references, that are associated with most of the questions on any given exam form. The best advice is to review a basic, widely used reference. You may then wish to seek additional information not covered in that publication.