Did you know that after the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of CFA candidates plummeted from over 270,000 in 2019 to fewer than 150,000 in 2022?
It seems the CFA Institute has realized that if it wants its cherished certification to remain relevant in a rapidly changing investment environment, it has to adapt.
On 21 March 2023, CFA Institute announced some changes for the 2024 CFA exams, including:
- modifications to the curriculum, especially for level 1 candidates,
- better recognition of CFA candidates' accomplishments thanks to digital badges to be used when you pass your level 1 & level 2 exams,
- practical skills modules (PSMs) to help CFA candidates better prepare for the future.
In this blog post, we break down these changes and examine their implications for level 1, level 2, and level 3 candidates. But before we do that, let's have a closer look at what a PSM is since it's going to affect CFA candidates of all levels.
PRACTICAL SKILLS MODULES (PSMs) in CFA EXAM:
- PSM is an additional CFA exam learning module aimed at developing your practical skills based on some extra study materials.
- PSMs will be excluded from testing so you can complete your required PSM whenever you like, either while preparing for your CFA exam or after the exam but before the results are released.
- You will be required to complete at least one PSM per level.
- You can complete more than one PSM or you can switch between PSMs meanwhile. The bottom line is that you MUST complete at least one of them. Each PSM takes 10-15 hours to complete.
- If you won't complete your PSM before your CFA exam results are released, you'll be given additional 90 days to do your PSM. You'll get your result only after you complete your PSM.
- PSMs will cover different topics to choose from such as financial modeling, analyst skills, or Python programming.
- Level 1 & level 2 PSMs will be there in 2024, while level 3 no sooner than in 2025.
- PSMs are added in response to employers who need their future employees to be more practical.
Brief Overview of All Changes in the CFA Program
5 changes that will impact current and future CFA candidates starting in 2024:
- Expanded eligibility for level 1 candidates.
- Streamlined level 1 curriculum and additional practice materials.
- Practical Skills Modules (PSMs) added to enhance real-world applicability.
- Level 3 candidates offered specialized pathways in 2025.
- Digital badges introduced for improved recognition.
2024 Changes for Level 1 CFA Candidates
Expanded Eligibility & Enhanced Learning
As a level 1 candidate, you stand to benefit from the most substantial changes introduced in the CFA Program. Listed below are the key modifications that impact your preparation and exam experience:
- Expanded eligibility: University students with two years remaining in their undergraduate studies (23 months to graduation) can now take the level 1 CFA exam. This change boosts your career prospects and chances of securing internships or entry-level jobs.
- Practical Skills Module (PSM): Beginning in February 2024, level 1 candidates will be required to complete at least one PSM designed to develop practical skills in areas like financial modeling or Python programming. You'll be able to choose the PSM that interests you. Plan to allocate 10-15 hours for your PSM. PSMs are separate from the main curriculum and can be completed anytime, but not later than after the exam and before the results release date. They include videos, multiple-choice questions, guided practice, and case studies to better develop your practical skills.
- Streamlined curriculum & practice pack: 2024 level 1 content has been refined to focus on practical relevance. That's why some introductory financial topics were removed from direct assessment. They will be still available as optional pre-read materials to help you fill knowledge gaps but they will be excluded from testing. Additionally, a practice pack containing 6 additional mock exams, 1,000 extra practice questions, and an exclusive exam day experience can be purchased to optimize your preparation. The level 1 practice pack will be available for purchase for $299 from May 2023 with February 2024 Program enrollment and exam registration.
Before you decide to skip the optional reading, make sure that you can really do it. Some very crucial basics, like the time value of money (TVM), are there and you don't want to skip them unless you mastered them before.
If you are a current level 1 candidate, these changes will not impact your exam. However, starting with the 2024 CFA exams, completing a PSM will be obligatory plus you'll be able to benefit from the streamlined level 1 curriculum and additional practice questions and mocks.
|Summary of 2024 Changes for Level 1 CFA Candidates|
|Expanded eligibility||Level 1 exam allowed in the 2nd year of undergraduate studies|
|Practical Skills Module (PSM)||Mandatory experiential learning module starting in February 2024|
|Streamlined level 1 curriculum||Focus on practical relevance and optional pre-read materials|
|Optional practice pack||Additional mock exams, practice questions, and exam day experience for $299|
2024 Changes for Level 2 CFA Candidates
Mastering Core with Enhanced Practical Skills
If you're preparing to take the level 2 exam, the most significant change you'll encounter is the addition of Practical Skills Modules. The level 2 curriculum will remain mostly unchanged, but you'll be required to complete a PSM starting in May 2024:
- Practical Skills Module (PSM): Beginning in May 2024, level 2 candidates will be required to complete an experiential learning module focusing on advanced practical skills. As with level 1, PSM completion is flexible and can be done at any point during your exam preparation period, but no later than before exam results.
- Curriculum stability: The level 2 curriculum largely remains unchanged. However, it's important to stay informed about any minor updates to ensure you're studying the most relevant material.
If you're a current level 2 candidate, this change will not impact your upcoming exam. Future candidates, however, should prepare to complete a PSM as part of their level 2 requirements.
|Summary of 2024 Changes for Level 2 CFA Candidates|
|Practical Skills Module (PSM)||Mandatory advanced experiential learning module starting in May 2024|
|Curriculum updates||Level 2 curriculum for 2024 remains mostly unchanged|
2025 Changes for Level 3 CFA Candidates
Pioneering Specialized Pathways for Tailored Experience
As a level 3 candidate, you can look forward to an exciting change starting in February 2025 – the introduction of specialized pathways. The traditional Portfolio Management track will remain, but you'll also have the option to choose between two new pathways:
- Specialized pathways: At level 3 CFA exam registration, you'll have the choice between the traditional Portfolio Management pathway and the newly introduced Private Wealth and Private Markets pathways. Each pathway shares a common core curriculum (around 70%), reinforced by specialized content tailored to your chosen focus.
- Practical Skills Module (PSM): Continuing the trend, level 3 will also require PSM completion, beginning in 2025. This ensures a well-rounded skill set as you enter the professional world.
Current Level III candidates won't be affected by this change, but future candidates can benefit from a more specialized and tailored exam experience.
|Summary of 2025 Changes for Level 3 CFA Candidates|
|Specialized pathways||Specialize in Portfolio Management, Private Wealth, or Private Markets as of Feb 2025 CFA exam|
|Practical Skills Module (PSM)||Mandatory PSM starting in 2025|
Digital Badgesfor All CFA Candidates & Charterholders
Embracing the need for enhanced recognition, CFA Institute is introducing digital badges for level 1 and level 2 candidates starting in 2023. These badges will help you showcase your achievements, dedication, and skill set while giving potential employers an instant verification of your accomplishments. Designed to improve recognition of your achievements, these badges feature one-click social sharing and instant verification for employers and colleagues.
The initiative extends to past candidates and current CFA charterholders as well.
Takeaway: CFA Program Adapts to Your Needs
In response to a changing investment landscape and candidate needs, CFA Institute is introducing critical updates to its program. These changes aim to make your CFA exam journey more relevant and rewarding, ultimately setting you up for a successful career in the investment industry. The new curriculum elements, like Practical Skills Modules and specialized pathways, will help you develop the essential skills desired by employers while driving your career in the investment industry.
Stay informed, embrace the changes, and remember: your ongoing dedication to learning is the key to achieving the coveted Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Good luck!
Published: March 23, 2023
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