CPCU® 540 Difficulty

The CPCU® 540 exam is the fourth CPCU® exam in a series of eight required exams to complete your CPCU® designation. The CPCU® 540 exam consists of 85 multiple choice questions broken up into two sections, part A and part B.

  • Part A: Concept questions – The first section of the exam will be approximately 60 concept questions; these questions will test your understanding of a definition, topic, or formula. The multiple-choice answers will generally provide 2 or 3 partially correct answers and one “best” answer.
  • Part B: Case questions – The second section of the exam will be approximately 25 case questions. These questions will test your application of the information. The majority of these questions will be formula-based questions where you will be given a real-life scenario; your job will be to apply a formula to calculate and select the best recommendation given the scenario.

In this blog we will break down the most difficult aspects of the exam. We will detail exactly what you should focus on when studying to pass this exam. This blog comes straight from our CPCU® 540 online course where we breakdown the difficult concepts and convey the topics in simple terms and plain English.

CPCU® 540 Difficulty – The Hardest Exam

According to nationally published CPCU® pass rates, the CPCU® 540 is the hardest CPCU® exam. The pass rate is typically around 72%. The numbers don’t lie; the CPCU® 540 exam is the largest in terms of content (12 chapters) and is by far the most math intensive of all the CPCU®exams. This exam will test your will to complete the CPCU®; many students get stuck on the CPCU® 540 and give up after failing a couple of times. Prepare yourself now and set aside a little extra study time for the CPCU® 540 because there are a lot of new concepts to grasp and a lot of formulas to memorize.

The CPCU® 540 exam focuses on the topics of finance and accounting including financial statements, valuations, investment management, and capital management. The reason this exam is so tough is because the questions are heavily math intensive. There are A LOT of formulas to know for the CPCU® 540 exam. According to the nationally published estimates, there are 34 math formulas that you’ll be required to know to pass the CPCU® 540 exam, but we estimate that there’s closer to 80 formulas that you need to pass the CPCU® 540. Of these 34 formulas; 7 of them are provided to you at the exam and 27 are not provided to you at the exam (meaning you’ll have to memorize the formula). In addition, you will be given four tables to use on the CPCU® 540 exam including: future value table, present value table, future value of an annuity table, and present value of an annuity table. You not only have to memorize the formulas, but you must also know when to use each formula and how to apply the formulas to a given case question.

Luckily we know exactly which formulas will be provided to you on the exam and which formulas will not be provided, you can click here to download the list of formulas that you need to memorize (we’ll also include a free practice exam with the download).

The hardest part of the CPCU® 540 will be memorizing and learning how to use each formula. The concept questions of the CPCU® 540 are pretty straight forward, nothing more challenging than the CPCU® 530; the difficult part is reading a question and knowing which formula to apply without the question directly telling you. For example, a question will give you the beta, expected market return and risk free rate for five different companies and ask you to “select the best investment”. Without the question directly asking, you’ll need to understand that this question requires you to apply the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) to each company in order to determine the best investment. To make the test even harder the CPCU® 540 will attempt to trick you by giving more information than need for the formula meaning you’ll need to know exactly what information is relevant to the formula and what information is unnecessary .

Be sure to download our free CPCU® 540 practice exam and list of formulas to ensure you’re memorizing the correct formulas.

Download: Free Practice Exam (CPCU® | API™ | ARM™)

Three Study Tips

Now that I’ve scared you, here’s why you’re going to easily pass the CPCU® 540. You’re going to learn from everyone else’s mistakes (including mine) and listen to these three tips while studying for the CPCU® 540 exam.

1) Memorize the formulas early: Don’t wait until you’re finished studying to memorize the formulas. When you see a formula in the course, write it down and memorize it. When you’re finished studying the chapter go back and quiz yourself on the formulas, make sure you have each formula memorized. Once you finish studying each chapter go back and quiz yourself again on all of the formulas, make sure you’ve memorized them all.

2) Practice without looking at the formulas: Take as many practice exams as you possibly can, and while you practice do so WITHOUT looking at your formulas cheat sheet. This will help you to memorize the CPCU® 540 formulas. Treat your practice exam like the real exam; you won’t be given all of the formulas on the actual exam so make sure you’re practicing as if you’re taking the real exam without looking at the formulas.

3) At the exam – Write down the formulas: As soon as you sit down to take the CPCU® 540 exam, write down every single formula that you memorized. Dump it all out of your head the second you begin the exam, this will essentially create a cheat sheet for you to use throughout the exam. The CPCU® exams are stressful; it’s tough to remember all 80 formulas while you’re worried about answering the 85 multiple choice questions, so alleviate the stress of remembering right away and before even looking at the first question write down all the formulas you’ve memorized on the note paper provided by the testing center.

Free Practice Exam

Ready to get started studying? We’re here to help (for free). Download our free CPCU® 540 practice exam to get a feel for the type of questions you will see on the exam. This includes the formulas and present/future value tables for your exam.

Download: Free Practice Exam (CPCU® | API™ | ARM™)

More Information

For more information about the CPCU® 540 exam, checkout some of our other free resources:


Remember, every CPCU® exam is different. No single exam is the same. Be sure to study ALL topics (not just our recommendation). This resource is intended to provide you with a general idea of where your focus should be. Make sure to thoroughly study every topic of this exam.

Difficulty rank, importance rank, and the advice provided in this resource are solely the opinion of AssociatePI. This resource is intended to provide you with a general idea of where your focus should be. Each exam administered by The Institutes is different. AssociatePI is not affiliated with The Institutes or involved in the exam writing process. Please be sure to thoroughly study every chapter and every topic of this course.

CPCU® exams are administered by the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (“The Institutes”). AssociatePI does not administer the actual exams, we are an independent resource of free content, advice, and study material for professional insurance education. This blog is intended for informational purposes only, to inform prospective students of the benefit of the CPCU® designation.

CPCU® and API are trademarks of the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (“The Institutes”). AssociatePI LLC is not affiliated with, associated with, endorsed by or otherwise supported or recognized by The Institutes in any way. AssociatePI LLC is not authorized by The Institutes to offer courses, practice examinations, or any other resources related to the Institutes’ designations or other programs.

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