CFRE International uses a multiple-choice question format which is the "gold standard" of the certification industry and the most objective and reliable indicator for measuring the mastery of professional subject matter. CFRE certificants who volunteer from the countries where each version of the exam is offered draft individual questions. Each question must test something found within the comprehensive job analysis and be referenced to two published texts.
CFRE certificants who draft test questions are called Subject Matter Experts or SMEs. SMEs are current fundraising professionals who work in a variety of fundraising organisations of varying size and complexity. SMEs receive special training on how to write test questions and then volunteer their time to develop test questions. About 40% of draft test questions finally become questions found on the CFRE exam.
Multiple-choice questions have three parts: 1) a stem; 2) a correct answer and 3) distractors. Some exam items have stems which are short introductory statements, while others have longer stems that provide a great deal of information or present a situation. Some exam items are complete questions, ending with a question mark. Others are incomplete sentences ending with a colon (:), with the four options being possible completions of the sentence.
There is, in fact, only one best correct answer for each test question. Some candidates look for information not contained in the stem and think, "Well, the answer depends on this or that." This is not the case. All information need to answer the question is presented to candidates. There are no "trick" questions. CFRE test questions are based on best practices and are supported by professional literature. There is only one most correct answer.
The incorrect answers are known as distractors. Although these answers are not designed to fool the candidate, these options act as plausible but incorrect information that must be distinguished from the correct information in the key (correct answer).
These draft questions are then checked and revised by a second group of CFRE certificant reviewers before being validated and ultimately added to the live question bank for pre-testing. The additional 25 questions that candidates answer on each exam are being pre-tested for future certification use. Each year approximately 25-30% of the exam's content is changed. New exam versions are issued every two years.