About the Exam

The CFRE Exam assesses your knowledge of ethical, best-practice fundraising. It is:

  • A computer-based exam
  • 200 multiple-choice questions
  • Four answer options for each question

Of these, 175 questions count toward your score. The other 25 questions are being tested to ensure they are psychometrically sound and do not count toward your score.

You will have four hours to sit for the exam.

Scores are reported as a scaled score between 200 and 800. A candidate must achieve a score of at least 500 to be certified.

CFRE International continuously reviews and revises the CFRE Exam. New forms of the exam are released regularly to ensure content reflects current best practices in fundraising as well as to assure exam integrity.

Taking the Exam

You have two options for taking the exam:

The exam is divided into Section 1, which has 100 questions, and Section 2, which also has 100 questions.

The sections are separated by an optional 10-minute break. Once you complete Section 1 and review your answers, your 10-minute break begins.

For exam security reasons, you will not be able to return to Section 1 after the break. If you opt out of the break, you will still not be permitted to return to Section 1 once you begin Section 2. If you take a break for longer than 10 minutes, the additional time is deducted from your time to complete Section 2.

The Exam Knowledge Domains

The exam covers six Knowledge Domains.

View the Test Content Outline to learn more about the tasks and key knowledge areas covered in each domain.

DomainPercentage of Exam
Current and Prospective Donor Research15%
Securing the Gift22%
Relationship Building29%
Volunteer Involvement6%
Leadership and Management18%
Ethics, Accountability, and Professionalism10%

How to Prepare

CFRE International encourages candidates to study at least 40 – 80 hours.

View the CFRE Exam Study Plan Template for how to create and follow your own study plan.

Preparation Tips

  1. Effective studying begins by reviewing the Test Content Outline, which contains the topics you need to be familiar with to be successful on the exam. It is recommended to review all topics covered to ensure you are best prepared while prioritizing areas where you haven’t worked directly and/or don’t feel confident you can answer an exam question.
  2. Once you have identified areas for review, choose how you will prepare. You can:
  • Attend a continuing education program on these topics.
  • Read a publication from the Resource Reading List that addresses areas you identified.
  • Form a study group with other colleagues who are planning to test. You can benefit from the diverse experience of others and provide an alternate perspective. In many study groups, participants take turns each week teaching topics to the other members.
  • Review materials independently, determining for yourself the content areas where you will focus.
  • Make flash cards. The best ones break down complex information and/or highlight information you are learning for the first time.
  • Don’t rely on highlighting passages. Research shows you retain information better when you take written notes.
  • Participate in more structured review environments, perhaps with individuals who have already become CFREs.
  • Thoroughly read the Candidate Handbook.

Note: Reviewing these preparation tools and/or purchase of the preparation materials is not required in order to become eligible to sit for the CFRE Exam and does not guarantee a passing score on the exam.

Man readingAbout the Resource Reading List

The publications on the Reading Resource List are widely available and provide information on current, commonly accepted fundraising practices.

Most candidates read one to three books from the list.

The books listed were frequently used by item writers and reviewers during the exam’s development. However, reading any or all of the publications on this list does not guarantee aa passing score. Reading books not part of this list may not properly prepare you.

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.

TVNPA Logo

Tri-Valley Nonprofit Alliance

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Nepal Center for Philanthropy and Development

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BBB Wise Giving Alliance

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Korea Society of Philanthropy

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Habitat for Humanity Logo

Habitat for Humanity

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HKMA

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Boy and Girls Clubs of America

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China – CAFP

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NACCDO

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Brazil Fundraising Association

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European Fundraising Association

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Boy Scouts of America

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Japan Fundraising Association

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North American YMCA Development Organization

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New England Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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Kenya Association of Fundraising Professionals

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International Catholic Stewardship Council

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Fundraising Institute New Zealand

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Fundraising Institute Australia

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Association of Philanthropic Counsel

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Association of Fundraising Consultants

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Educate Plus

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The Giving Institute

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AHP

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ACF

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AFP

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