The Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) Examination is designed as a generalist exam for fundraising professionals to demonstrate mastery of the six core knowledge areas related to fundraising practice. The exam tests knowledge and skills you use on-the-job. This is somewhat different than the type of exam most people are used to from academic settings that test a particular book or lecture.
The Examination is neither designed nor intended to cover any particular aspect of the fundraising process in depth, but rather fundamental, baseline knowledge. The exam covers Current and Prospective Donor Research; Securing the Gift; Relationship Building; Volunteer Involvement; Leadership and Management; and Ethics and Accountability. See the Test Content Outline for more details.
The examination consists of 225 multiple-choice questions. 200 items are scored and 25 items are "pre-test" items. Pre-test items do not affect a candidate's score but are being evaluated for future exams.
The exam in North America will be computer-based. More information on CFRE computerized testing (CBT) can be found here. (PDF) Outside of North America, a paper-and-pencil exam is used.
Each candidate is allowed a maximum of four (4) hours to complete the exam.
CFRE International is committed to offering a written examination that is comprehensive, that tests current fundraising practice, and that is valid and reliable. To that end, CFRE International continuously reviews and revises the CFRE exam.
CFRE International reviews and revises the CFRE examination on an on-going basis to ensure it tests current fundraising practice, is valid and fair to candidates. New forms of the exam are released approximately every eighteen (18) months.
There are several series of reviews, checks and balances to be sure candidates are given the best and fairest exam possible. Several groups of currently certified fundraising professionals from around the world volunteer their time to work with CFRE International’s professional testing agency, Professional Examination Service (PES) to assure a fair and credible exam.
CFRE International monitors the performance of each individual test questions. There are occasions when, despite all the checks and reviews that are done, that an individual test question performs differently in an actual testing situation than expected. If it appears that the questions was misleading or had more than one correct answer, CFRE International may opt to allow more than one answer to be accepted as correct, or might score the question correct for everyone. This way, no candidate is unfairly penalized for a flaw in test construction.
CFRE International reports its scores as a scaled score. Scaled scores for the CFRE exam range between 200 and 800, with 500 being the passing point. 800 would represent a perfect score. The candidate’s “raw score”, or actual number of questions answered correctly is converted to the scaled score. This statistical procedure provides a common scale for reviewing and reporting results.
All candidates will receive a score report that shows them the overall scaled score required to successfully pass the exam (500). The score report will then also provide the candidate with a breakdown, by content area, of their exam performance.
Candidates receiving a scaled score of 500 or greater will have successfully met the minimum for passing the exam. Those with a scaled score of 499 or less will not have met the minimum standard for passing the exam.
CFRE International uses a “criterion-referenced” exam model. As such, they may be different from “norm-referenced” exams that are typical of other exams you may have taken.
“Norm-referenced” exams are those that are graded “on a curve.” This means the candidates performance is evaluated in relationship to others taking the exam. This is not the case with the CFRE Exam. CFRE International does not pre-determine the number of candidates they wish to have pass the exam.
The passing point for the exam, a scaled score of 500, has been set in advance using a panel of currently certified individuals in the profession in each country where the exam is held. CFRE International’s Exam Committee works with these panels and its professional testing agency staff to apply the Modified Angoff Method for establishing the passing point. This is the most commonly used method for certification exams.
The passing point for the exam will not change from exam administration to administration. It will not change from exam to exam. Your score will not be dependent on any one else with whom you are testing.