Last updated: April 06, 2021

CFA exam / CBT FROM 2021

Computer-Based CFA Exams as of 2021

In 2021:

  • for level 1, there’ll be 6 CFA exam windows: in Feb, March, May, July, Aug, and Nov.
  • for level 2, there’ll be 3 CFA exam windows: in May, Aug, and Nov.
  • for level 3, there’ll be 3 CFA exam windows: in May, Aug, and Nov.

The registration for the new July level 1 exam, November level 2 exam, and August level 3 exam starts in Jan/Feb.

2021 CFA Exams Finally on Computers

The global pandemic situation accelerated CFA Institute's decision to move the CFA exam, all levels, to computer-based testing starting in 2021.

Here are the key changes to CFA exam:


  1. 1. All levels of the CFA exam move to computer-based testing (CBT) in proctored test centers worldwide. No more paper-based exams!
  2. 2. All 2021 CFA exam windows:
    • 6 for level 1: February, March*, May, July*, August, and November,
    • 3 for level 2: May, August, and November*,
    • 3 for level 3: May, August*, and November.
  3. 3. After registration, you'll need to self-schedule your CFA exam.
  4. 4. CFA exam registration fees generally stay the same but the new rescheduling fee is introduced.
  5. 5. Overall exam day experience changes, e.g. total testing time gets reduced to 4.5 hrs (2 x 135 minutes).
  6. For more detailed info, read on

* The new March CFA exam window (21-23 March 2021) is not available to everyone. It will be open for select postponed Dec 2020/Feb 2021 candidates and in particular for Feb 2021 candidates registered for their exam but unable to schedule their exam appointment because testing centers were at capacity. The new CFA exam windows available to all candidates are as follows: 18-26 July 2021 for level 1, 26-30 November 2021 for level 2, and 1-8 September 2021 for level 3 (categorized as the August window).

  1. Self-Scheduling and CFA Exam Windows
  2. Changes to CFA Exam Experience & Format
  3. Level 1 CFA Exam Format in 2021
  4. Level 2 CFA Exam Format in 2021
  5. Level 3 CFA Exam Format in 2021
  6. What Stays the Same?
  7. FAQ on CFA Exam and CBT

Self-Scheduling and CFA Exam Windows

With the CFA exam moving to computer-based testing, no longer will there be one single date when candidates are told to sit their exam. Instead, exam windows will be given when you'll be able to self-schedule your exam.

As a rule, CFA exam windows should be up to 10 days long. However, the exact length of exam windows can vary across test centers so check your test center info carefully. Also, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, in 2021 some exam windows are being extended.

You will be asked to self-schedule your CFA exam date via a dedicated platform within the exam window you choose:

CFA EXAM Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
FEB 2021 16 Feb - 1 March
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n/a n/a
MAY 2021 18-24 May
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25 May - 1 June
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25 May - 1 June
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JULY 2021 18-26 July
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n/a n/a
AUG 2021 13-30 Aug
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31 Aug - 4 Sept
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1 - 8 Sept
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NOV 2021 16-22 Nov
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26-30 Nov
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23-25 Nov
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Want to register? For detailed dates and registration fees, go to our dedicated 2021 CFA exam pages by clicking in the table above.


Scheduling is obligatory and you are not fully registered until you schedule your exam. Appointments are first-come, first-served so it's not a good idea to delay scheduling. You will be able to view all available dates, times, and test center options only when you start your scheduling process. When scheduling – search your test center by desired city, not just by country. Also, it's best if you select the whole exam window or some other wide date range. If you limit your preferred date range too much, you may be unable to choose your optimal CFA exam date and location.

2021 Changes to CFA Exam Experience & Format

Together with the transition of CFA exam to computer-based testing, there’s a number of crucial changes to the exam format and structure. But first have a look at the differences between CFA exams held before and in 2021:


Paper-Based Exam (before 2021) 2021 Computer-Based CFA Exam
193 test-centers around the world 400+ test-centers around the world
single exam day exam window: up to 10 days
- new rescheduling fee of $25*
6 hrs of testing time 4.5 hrs of testing time
whole exam day: 8.5 hrs whole exam day: 5.5 hrs
break between exam sessions: 2 hrs break between exam sessions: 30 min, optional
printed questions + answer sheet digital questions: new question types possible

* First, it was as much as USD 250 but now it's down to USD 25.

Together with the 2021 introduction of computer-based testing, many more proctored test-centers (with many fewer candidates at a time) are available globally. CFA exams are now held in the test centers provided either by Prometric or by British Council.

Moreover, instead of single-day testing, there will be an exam window of up to 10 days when you’ll be able to self-schedule your exam. The exam window will depend on demand and can vary from city to city. Also, in some locations, the exam will be given twice a day. Finally, within your chosen exam window, you'll be able to reschedule your exam day. This additional service will be paid USD 25.

As far as the test goes, there will be less testing time and fewer questions per exam session. In fact, the whole exam appointment will be shorter:


2020 CFA Exam Day 2021 CFA Exam Day
30 minutes of announcements 30 minutes allotted to pledge, tutorial, and survey
MORNING SESSION: 180 min SESSION 1: 135 min
BREAK: 120 min OPTIONAL BREAK: 30 min

This CFA exam day schedule applies to all levels. Before your exam begins, there will be enough time for a brief orientation to the test center and the computer software. Your exam will be divided into two sessions, 135 minutes each, with an optional break meanwhile. When you end one session of your exam, you won’t be allowed to go back (regardless of whether you take your break or not). But you can go back and forth within one session.

The testing time is reduced to max. 4.5 hours total. However, based on psychometric research, this is claimed enough to see if a candidate should pass the exam. Within this time, some trial questions will be included. This is called pretesting and is commonly used before new types of questions become scored questions. You will not know which questions are experimental but don't worry – they will not contribute to your final result.

During your CFA exam, you will be provided with writing materials such as a whiteboard or an erasable writing tablet. You're not allowed to have your own writing tools or scratch paper in a CBT exam.

Also, since the break is optional, you should be able to leave and go home as soon as you finish, even if the time is not yet up. During paper-based exams, it was required that candidates stay in until the exam ends.

Level 1 CFA Exam Format in 2021

Level 1 CFA exam questions are free-standing multiple-choice questions. Only one answer is correct but there’s no penalty for choosing the wrong answer. Here's how your level 1 CFA exam will look like structure-wise:

SESSION 1 (135 min)

  • 90 multiple-choice (a-b-c) questions
  • average time per question = 1.5 min
  • Group I: Ethics questions
  • Group II: Investment Tools (Quantitative Methods, Economics, and FRA) questions

SESSION 2 (135 min)

  • 90 multiple-choice (a-b-c) questions
  • average time per question = 1.5 min
  • Group III: Corporate Finance and Portfolio Management questions
  • Group IV: Investment Assets (Equities, Fixed Income, Derivatives, and Alternative Investments) questions

TOTAL = 2 x 90 = 180 multiple-choice questions (how many per topic?)

IMPORTANT! As many as 20 out of the 180 questions are expected to be trial questions, which makes it 160 questions that will really count (still you need to answer all the questions 'cos there’s no knowing which questions are pretesting and which are for real). As with paper-based exams, you will still have 1.5 minutes per question.

NOTE: Level 1 topics are divided into groups! In your exam, you'll find different groups of topics during SESSION 1 and SESSION 2. Questions may be shuffled within a group. Also, remember that once you finish the first session you won’t be able to go back. But you can go back and forth within one session.

More about Level 1 exam? See here

Level 2 CFA Exam Format in 2021

Level 2 CFA exam questions are arranged into item sets, i.e. 4 or 6 multiple-choice questions topped with a vignette (case description). For each multiple-choice question, only one answer is correct. Questions are never free-standing, i.e. they always refer to the corresponding vignette! Here's how your level 2 CFA exam will look like structure-wise:

SESSION 1 (ca. 135 min)

  • item sets, 1 item set = vignette + 4 or 6 multiple-choice questions
  • 44 multiple-choice (a-b-c) questions >> divided into item sets of 4's or 6's
  • average time per question = ca. 3 min
  • each multiple-choice question is worth 3 points

SESSION 2 (ca. 135 min)

  • item sets, 1 item set = vignette + 4 or 6 multiple-choice questions
  • 44 multiple-choice (a-b-c) questions >> divided into item sets of 4's or 6's
  • average time per question = ca. 3 min
  • each multiple-choice question is worth 3 points

TOTAL = 2 x 44 = 88 multiple-choice questions = ca. 18 item sets?

More about Level 2 exam? See here

Level 3 CFA Exam Format in 2021

Level 3 CFA exam consists of both open-ended (constructed response) questions and item sets (like for level 2). Here's how your level 3 CFA exam will look like structure-wise:

SESSION 1 (ca. 135 min)

  • constructed response questions = vignettes followed by several related items that require a written response
  • 8-11 constructed response questions
  • some multiple-choice (a-b-c) items + written response are possible (e.g. choose whether Portfolio A, B, or C is the best for the client, then justify your response in a few sentences)
  • varying point value & time per question (assume 1 point = 1 minute, points are stated separately for each item)

SESSION 2 (ca. 135 min)

  • item sets, 1 item = vignette + 4 or 6 multiple-choice questions
  • 44 multiple-choice (a-b-c) questions >> divided into item sets of 4's or 6's
  • average time per question = ca. 3 min
  • each multiple-choice question is worth 3 points

More about Level 3 exam? See here

What Stays the Same?

Even though the CFA exam administration transforms greatly as of 2021, some things remain the same. We think it’s worth highlighting, especially when you hear so much about changes:

  • 2020 curriculum still applies in 2021, it's still over 3000 pages and all topics are the same.
  • It will still take you around 300 hrs to prepare for your exam.
  • The format of exam questions is still going to be the same, so multiple-choice questions for level 1 and item sets for levels 2 and 3 (+ open-ended questions for level 3).
  • It’s still the same time per question in your exam and questions must be consistent with LOSes stated in your curriculum.

  • Topic weights are generally the same (though now given in ranges also for level 1).
  • As before, wrong answers do not count against you so you should go with your intuition whenever you're not sure about the answer.
  • Only approved calculators will be allowed in the exam.
  • You still need to have a valid international travel passport with you on the exam day.
  • As always, the Minimum Passing Score (MPS) will be established after each exam by a Board of Governors. That is why results should not be expected much sooner (usually results are released after approx. 7-8 weeks for level 1 and level 2 and 9-10 weeks for level 3).

FAQ on CFA Exam and CBT

What does it mean to self-schedule my CFA exam?

There’s no longer one single date when candidates are told to sit their CFA exam. Instead, there’s an exam window of up to 10 days when you can take your exam. You’ll be asked to self-schedule your exam day. In other words, it’s up to you to decide on which day exactly you want to take your exam. When you make up your mind, you’ll have to register for the exam and then schedule it using the so-called ProScheduler available on a dedicated platform (no additional payment). Importantly, when planning your exam date remember that the range of the exam window may vary across test centers.

Can I take my CFA exam at home using my computer?

There's a limited CFA Exam Online Proctored Testing option available to select canceled Feb 2021 level 1 candidates, who'll be able to take their exam from home due to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, even though from 2021 the CFA exam moves to computer-based testing, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to take your exam online, at home. There will be numerous proctored test centers available globally where candidates will sit their exam.

Note that computer-based or digital does not mean online. Still, the fact that the CFA exam will be delivered on computers will affect how the test will look like. For example, it’ll be probably like a huge question pool from which the test questions will be drawn. Also, some new types of questions may appear to better reflect the day-to-day application of tested concepts to professional work and reality.

Is the computer-based CFA exam going to be more difficult?

A computer-based exam is going to be different but – since it'll be held in proctored test centers – the testing process shouldn’t affect the difficulty of the exam substantially. For example, there will be fewer questions in the exam (a change supported by psychometric research) but there appears a possibility for new types of questions thanks to the digital environment. Crucially, it’s still the same time per question, e.g. 1.5 minutes for level 1, and the scope of the exam (i.e. tested topics) remains unchanged.

NOTE: There have been many concerns about the impact of CBT on the value of the CFA exam. However, CFA Institute believes that this transition will enhance the quality of testing and the relevance of the exam.

Why CBT?

CFA Institute's decision to make CFA exams, all levels, computer-based has been accelerated by the global situation impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There's a number of reasons why moving CFA exams to CBT is beneficial:

  1. 1. PROFESSIONALISM: Computer-based testing and digital environment better reflect today’s workplace of financial analysts and investment managers.
  2. 2. TESTING IMPROVEMENT: Both problems and problem solutions can be better modeled.
  3. 3. ACCESSIBILITY: Globally, many more proctored test centers will be available + the exams will be delivered more often than in the past.
  4. 4. MONITORING: There will be better monitoring for cheating, which will provide equal chances to all candidates.
  5. 5. HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERNS: The exams will be held in secure computer labs with many fewer candidates at a time (thanks to multi-day exam windows, more exam administrations per year for each level, and a greater number of test centers worldwide), which will facilitate social distancing and adherence to other safety measures.
  6. 6. CONVENIENCE: Computer-based testing in secure computer labs is more convenient and safer in the COVID-19 impacted world.
  7. 7. UNCERTAINTY REDUCED: It is hoped that CBT exams will be less likely to get canceled. Still, special safety protocols may be in place depending on the local recommendations and requirements.

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