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A Beginner’s Guide to Acing the CEP Exam

By Courtney Fusco. Are you new to the world of equity compensation or are you an experienced practitioner ready to achieve your Certified Equity Professional designation? While the 5 hour test can seem daunting and sifting through the endless questions about taxation, accounting and regulations can feel intimidating, there are a few tricks that will put you on the track to acing the exam.

Three years ago I was in that situation – fresh from college and looking to make a difference at Certent. In June 2016, I earned the Certified Equity Professional designation after successfully passing 3 exams – and failing once.  I wanted to share the advice that’s helped me overcome my loss and achieve my full certification.

  1. Start with Consider Your Options – do not open any of the other books until you’ve read this one. Kaye Thomas does an excellent job providing a foundation for the other books to build on.
  2. Take the NCEO Prep Course - I landed in the foreign land of equity comp, but luckily I found my Rosetta stone. The quizzes, final exam practice, and in particular the review webinars provided by Achaessa James and the NCEO succinctly summarized topics from the books and turned them into questions that are very similar to those you’ll find on the exam.
  3. Stay Organized and Make Notes – write all over your books! Tab everything with labels – even if you are not sure if the information will be helpful for the exam. I personally organized every topic by color (Accounting, Law, Tax, and Equity Plan Design) – and stuck with that color for all my tabs and highlighters.
  4. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute –You may be thinking “I’ll be fine if I don’t study. I can rely on my own day-to-day experience and just bring the books.” No!  As you’ll find, the textbook examples and an issuer’s stock plan can have notable differences. I started studying for the exams as soon as I was able to get my hands on the syllabus and books.
  5. Have a “Review and Relax Day" before the exam. My routine before every CEP exam day: take the Friday off, sleep in, make breakfast, and hit the coffee shop for tea and one to two hours of review. During these couple hours of review, I went through the NCEO review questions I had answered incorrectly and re-read the XYZ Plan Documents. I followed up with a yoga session and my favorite lunch spot. Relaxing – with a little review – helped me feel completely ready.

Do you have any study tips that have helped you?

Courtney FuscoCourtney Fusco is a Certified Equity Professional and a relationship manager at Certent.  With a professional experience in client success, sales, marketing, she is dedicated to turning client needs into solutions and passionate about helping others reach success.

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