What Is CFA®? 9 Facts About CFA Exam

CFA exam / 9 facts


CFA® stands for Chartered Financial Analyst® and it is a designation, i.e. a title/a charter, that is recognized worldwide for its value. When you earn it – you can use it after your name as a title, e.g., Sam Sample, CFA.

Everything About CFA Exam in Short

About CFA exam: CFA exam consists of 3 exams (levels) and you need to be well prepared for each exam 'cos pass rates are rather low. Here’s a shortlist of everything you must know about the CFA exam, incl. pass rates, exam cost, required study material, or the recommended number of hours you should plan to prepare.

  1. Global Financial Standard
  2. The CFA designation is respected worldwide and it is called the golden standard of financial certification. After completing the CFA® Program, candidates get impressive knowledge about finance and ethical grounding. The boost in salary for those who succeed is big. It's even up to 50-70%.

  3. Three CFA Exam Levels
  4. The CFA exam consists of level 1, level 2, and level 3 exams. You need to pass all 3 levels. As of 2021, CFA exams move from traditional paper-based to computer-based testing. Starting in 2022, CFA exams will be available 4 times a year for level 1: in February, May, August, and November. Level 2 will be held 3 times a year and level 3 – 2 times a year. We explain more about computer-based CFA exams here

  5. Rather Low Pass Rates
  6. There are around 250 thousand candidates a year.

    The average level 1 pass rate is around 41%. The pass rate grows a bit for level 2 and level 3 – to roughly 45% and over 50%, respectively. However, the recent pass rates of 2021 and 2022 varied and were at times astonishingly low.

  7. CFA Exam Cost
  8. The earlier you register for the exam, the less you pay for it. For the newcomers to the Program, there is a one-time enrollment fee of USD 350 (as of 2023 exams; the fee used to be USD 450). Then, every time you want to take your CFA exam (all levels, incl. retakes), you need to pay a registration fee of USD 900 for early birds or USD 1200 for standard registration.

    As of 2023 exams, CFA exam registration fees are up by USD 200 for both early birds (from USD 700) and standard registration (from USD 1000).

    In the registration fee, the access to CFA Program curriculum is included. Check the applicable fees and deadlines here

    In 2023, the minimum cost of the CFA exam (all 3 levels) is up to USD 3050. The cost of USD 3050 allows for no retakes and assumes 3 early registration fees.

  9. CFA Exam Topics
  10. There are 10 CFA exam topics:

  • Quantitative Methods,
  • Economics,
  • Financial Statement Analysis*,
  • Corporate Issuers*,
  • Equity Investments,
  • Fixed Income Investments,
  • Derivative Investments,
  • Alternative Investments, and
  • Portfolio Management,
  • Ethics.

At levels 1 and 2, you are tested on all the 10 topics. In the level 3 exam, there is no more Financial Statement Analysis, Quantitative Methods, and Corporate Issuers. Read more about level 1 topics and level 2 topics.

* Before 2022, CFA Program curriculum referred to Financial Statement Analysis as Financial Reporting and Analysis (FRA for short) and to Corporate Issuers as Corporate Finance.

  1. Typical Exam Day
  2. Each exam level consists of 2 sessions with an optional break meanwhile. The total testing time is approx. 4.5 hrs (2 x 135 minutes for level 1 or 2 x 132 minutes for level 2 and level 3). The number of questions is 2 x 90 multiple-choice questions for level 1. For level 2, there are 2 x 44 questions formed into 11 item sets and for level 3 it's a mix of open-ended (essay) questions and item sets (like for level 2) per each exam session. You can read more on how exam day experience changes under computer-based testing

  3. Language of Testing
  4. The exam is given in English. So, to be able to take the exam and prepare for it, you need to have a good command of written English.

  5. How Long to Prepare for Exam
  6. It is said that an average candidate needs 300 hours to prepare well for each level of the CFA exam.

  7. CFA Exam Study Planning
  8. To pass your CFA exam, you need to plan out your preparation carefully. We devised the way for successful CFA exam prep with study planning lying at the heart of it. To check our study options, see here . We give you an advanced CFA Exam Study Planner with study lessons, videos, practice questions, printable notes (e-books), formulas app, mocks, etc. inside. Join us now:

Here’s a sample CFA exam study schedule as displayed in our new Study Planner 4.0:

CFA Exam Study Planner: PLAN VIEW

FIND your Study Plan in the PLAN tab View all the weeks of your CFA exam prep, see how much you’ve done and how much is still ahead of you, as well as customize your schedule using your Study Plan personalization options and the DRAG & DROP for both topics and study weeks.

CFA Exam Study Planner: STUDY VIEW

CFA Exam Study Planner: STUDY View You will be asked to focus on your current week of studying. You will know what to study (left-hand menu) and how much to study (benchmark study times). Here, you'll also find your study lessons, including videos, tests, PDFs, etc. At the end of the week, your hard work will be evaluated (hit the SUM UP button).

CFA Exam Study Planner: PROGRESS View You will be able to see your progress by topics and weeks. Each week your Chance to Pass score will go up or down.

CFA Exam Study Planner: PROGRESS VIEW

CFA Exam Study Planner: REVIEW View To learn, you must review. Use the special view of your Study Planner to review your study lessons, rewatch videos, revise formulas, etc.

CFA Exam Study Planner: REVIEW VIEW



Updated: Dec 6, 2022

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