Quick Ways to Uncover the Content

Level 1 & Level 2

CFA exam / Curriculum


CFA Program Curriculum: Quick Ways to Uncover the Content

Level 1 & Level 2




CFA Curriculum:
Richly Detailed Source of Knowledge

CFA curriculum is a richly detailed source of knowledge. There’s a separate curriculum for each of the 3 levels of the CFA exam. So, there’s:

  • CFA level 1 curriculum,
  • CFA level 2 curriculum, and
  • CFA level 3 curriculum.

CFA curriculum is aimed at developing the key skills and abilities that investment professionals need to possess. Every level of the exam focuses on different skills and abilities and covers different areas of the essential knowledge.

Here, we concentrate on the two first levels of the exam but some of the information may be useful also to level 3 candidates, who are kindly recommended to see our post about the CFA level 3 exam.




CFA Level 1 Books vs CFA Level 2 Books

A digital version of your CFA curriculum will be available to you after you register for the CFA exam you're about to take. You can also buy a print version of the curriculum. Then, you will get a set of six books (volumes). Naturally, the digital curriculum is also divided into books.

The reason why CFA curriculum is divided into books is because it is lengthy. Reeeally leeengthy. It’s more than 3000 pages to read and study for both your level 1 and level 2 exams.

CFA books are then further divided into smaller portions:

books (volumes) topics study sessions readings



CFA Curriculum in Numbers

books

topics

study sessions

readings

CFA level 1 Curriculum

6

10

19

57

CFA level 2 Curriculum

6

10

17

48

CFA level 1 Curriculum

6 volumes

10 topics

19 study sessions

57 readings


CFA level 2 Curriculum

6 volumes

10 topics

17 study sessions

48 readings


CFA LEVEL 1 BOOKS & TOPICS

There are 6 CFA level 1 books that include 10 topics.

The first CFA level 1 book includes 2 topics, namely Ethics and Quantitative Methods. The next 2 books are Economics and FRA, respectively. The fourth book is Corporate Finance and Equity. Then, there's Fixed Income and Derivatives. And the last sixth volume covers Alternative Investments and Portfolio Management. It's presented in the level 1 column of the table below.


CFA Books & Topics

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5

Volume 6

CFA level 1 Curriculum

Ethical and Professional Standards + Quantitative Methods

Economics

Financial Reporting and Analysis

Corporate Finance + Equity

Fixed Income + Derivatives

Alternative Investments + Portfolio Management

CFA level 2 Curriculum

Ethical and Professional Standards + Quantitative Methods + Economics

Financial Reporting and Analysis

Corporate Finance

Equity

Fixed Income + Derivatives

Alternative Investments + Portfolio Management

CFA level 1 Curriculum

Volume 1: Ethical and Professional Standards + Quantitative Methods

Volume 2: Economics

Volume 3: Financial Reporting and Analysis

Volume 4: Corporate Finance + Equity

Volume 5: Fixed Income + Derivatives

Volume 6: Alternative Investments + Portfolio Management


CFA level 2 Curriculum

Volume 1: Ethical and Professional Standards + Quantitative Methods + Economics

Volume 2: Financial Reporting and Analysis

Volume 3: Corporate Finance

Volume 4: Equity

Volume 5: Fixed Income + Derivatives

Volume 6: Alternative Investments + Portfolio Management


CFA LEVEL 2 BOOKS & TOPICS

For level 2, there are also 6 books and 10 topics. Level 2 topics are the same as level 1 topics and their order is identical. However, they are divided into books differenty as shown in the table above. Why the difference? From the candidate's point of view, there may be no logical explanation to this question. True, there are only 3 readings for Ethics now (no more GIPSes) and only 1 study session for Economics. But the first book is like 800 pages long, whereas e.g. the FRA book is like a half of it, with roughly 400 pages.


Study Sessions & CFA Readings

CFA L1 & L2 Topics L1 Study Sessions L1 Readings L2 Study Sessions L2 Readings
Ethics 1 5 1 3
Quantitative Methods 2 6 2 6
Economics 2 7 1 3
Financial Reporting and Analysis 4 12 2 6
Corporate Finance 2 5 2 5
Equity 2 6 3 8
Fixed Income 2 6 2 5
Derivatives 1 2 1 2
Alternative Investments 1 1 1 4
Portfolio Management 2 7 2 6


STUDY SESSIONS

Each level 1 and level 2 topic has its study sessions which are further divided into readings.

In your CFA curriculum, you will find the study sessions enumerated before you start each topic. There, you will also see the so-called topic level learning outcome which – in general terms – describes what you should know after reading and studying each topic.

CFA CURRICULUM READINGS

For every CFA reading, there is also a more detailed list of things you should be able to do when you’re through with the reading. These are the learning outcomes (LOS) – note the command words used to define the skills and abilities you should acquire.

As a rule, all the readings are obligatory and they form the basis for the exams. However, there are also some optional segments in the CFA curriculum. These fragments are clearly marked as optional and they give you some additional information you will not be tested on in your exam. They are included in the curriculum alongside the required bits to make you understand things better.

All throughout the readings, you will find many bolded words and phrases. These are the words and phrases that have been defined for you in the glossary (available at the end of every volume for your convenience). There are also numerous examples, tables, figures, exhibits, and formulas. Their role is to illustrate and better describe the concepts and situations explained in the curriculum.

Each reading closes up with a bulleted summary followed by practice problems (end-of-reading questions) with solutions.


Note that all the examples, tables, figures, exhibits, formulas, and practice problems are part of the curriculum and they form the required segments. Take this to your heart because exam questions are often based on the examples in the curriculum or the end-of-reading questions. Exam questions are also based on one or more LOSes.


CFA Topic Weights

CFA topics are given different exam weights if you compare CFA level 1 and level 2 exams. It means you will get a different number of questions for a particular topic depending on whether you’re a level 1 or a level 2 candidate (for CFA level 1 topic weights, see here, and for CFA level 2 topic weights, see here).

So, depending on the exam level, the focus is on different topics:

as a CFA level 1 candidate, you should particularly focus on Financial Reporting and Analysis, Ethics, and Quantitative Methods. These are the 3 most important level 1 topics. Also, Equity and Fixed Income are given high weights in the level 1 exam. Moreover, Fixed Income, Derivatives, and FRA are considered to be the 3 most difficult level 1 topics.

as a CFA level 2 candidate, you should put effort into Equity Investments, Financial Reporting and Analysis, Fixed Income, and Derivatives. Equity has always been important in the level 2 exam (though its weight got reduced in 2019) and the last 3 topics are the most challenging when their difficulty is taken into account. Also, never ignore Ethics and pay attention to Portfolio Management, which get particularly significant in the level 3 exam!


Form and Focus of the Exam

most important topics

most difficult topics

focus of the exam

form of the exam

CFA level 1

FRA, Ethics, QM, EI, FI

FI, DI, FRA

investment tools (comprehension)

multiple choice questions

CFA level 2

EI, FRA, FI, Ethics,PM

FI, DI, FRA

asset valuation (analysis)

item sets (vignettes)

CFA level 1

most important topics: FRA, Ethics, QM, EI, FI

most difficult topics: FI, DI, FRA

focus of the exam: investment tools (comprehension)

form of the exam: multiple choice questions


CFA level 2

most important topics: EI, FRA, FI, Ethics, PM

most difficult topics: FI, DI, FRA

focus of the exam: asset valuation (analysis)

form of the exam: item sets (vignettes)



When studying your CFA curriculum, you will do wisely if at the back of your mind you will remember also about the form and focus of your exam. Both these aspects should determine the way you prepare for it:

if you’re a CFA level 1 candidate, be sure you develop the general understanding of investment tools.

if you’re a CFA level 2 candidate, focus on asset valuation and practice your analytical skills.

Also, get accustomed to the form of the exam as you study – test your knowledge as often as possible using exam-type questions to optimize your chances of passing the exam.


You can find exam-type QUESTIONS inside our CFA Study Planner:


CFA Curriculum - Summing Up

Let’s state it explicitly: To pass your CFA exam, you must know your CFA curriculum well. So, if you don’t have enough time to read it from cover to cover (or from the first to last e-page), you should at least flick (or scroll) through it every now and then so as to study the bolded bits or analyze all types of examples, practice problems or exhibits.

And if you’re struggling with your study time, here’s for you a tricky way to aid curriculum absorption:

GET YOUR CFA CURRICULUM SQUEEZED OUT AND SHRUNK INTO PALATABLE STUDY CONTENT!

Our bite-sized video lectures give you a solid background for your further detailed study of the CFA curriculum. Easy to digest because based on the core issues illustrated with numerous examples, our videos will help you gain the general understanding of all 10 topics tested in the exam (plus they’re great for the revision time).

You can find bite-sized videos inside our CFA Study Planner:


Watch Videos Inside Your Study Plan