Unveiling CFA® Exam Rules for Refund, Deferral & Exam Taking

CFA exam / Policies

All CFA Exam Policies, incl. Exam Day Rules

Many Policies Govern CFA Exam

The CFA exam is regulated by numerous policies such as identification (passport) policy, calculator policy, deferral policy, or personal belongings policy. You must know them all or else you may cause yourself lots of trouble, including suspension from the CFA Program, termination of your participation, or invalidation of your exam results.

Below, we give you the gist of CFA exam rules and regulations governing both CFA exam registration and the CFA exam itself, all levels. These are the very basics you really need to know!


registration | exam day | post-exam

Is Passport Required for CFA Exam Registration?

To register for the CFA exam, you must have a valid international travel passport. If your passport has expired, you can use it to register but it must be updated before the exam.

When you update your passport, you must update the required data in your CFA Institute account as well. Note that it's also important that your name as stated in your passport exactly matches your name as given in your CFA Institute account. Otherwise, you won’t be allowed to take your exam and you will forfeit your fees.

CFA Exam Deferrals & Refund

CFA Exam Refund: Is Registration Fee Refundable?

Limited CFA Exam Refund

A full refund of the initial CFA exam fee payment that you make while registering for the CFA exam is possible within 14 days of payment (11:59 PM ET). Otherwise, there is no refund and you forfeit your fees if you want to back out of the CFA Program. The refund concerns only your initial registration fee, i.e., the registration fee (early or standard) + the enrollment fee if applicable. The refund does not include the CFA exam rescheduling fee paid to defer the exam even if it was postponed by CFA Institute.

CFA exam fees?

After these two weeks, your CFA exam registration fee is non-refundable.

CFA Exam Refund for Postponed Candidates

Even though the refund of the CFA exam is extremely limited, CFA Institute has introduced refunds for postponed candidates whose exam has been deferred twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, if your CFA exam has been postponed twice – and you won’t defer anymore – you'll be entitled to a refund. Be patient, though. First, it'll be checked if your exam can be rescheduled for you within your exam window. If not, you'll be able to proceed with your refund. CFA Institute will contact you directly via email if this option is available to you.

CFA Institute reserves the right to not issue refunds or deferrals if an alternate appointment time is available, even if you either cannot or do not want to take the exam on any of the alternate dates or times.

CFA Exam Deferral: Can I Delay My Exam?

Free Emergency Deferral of CFA Exam

If some special circumstances occur in your life, such as a death in your immediate* family or some serious illness, you may submit a request for an emergency deferral at no cost. You can submit your deferral request up to 3 days following the close of the exam window. Such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and may be refused, especially if not properly documented. However, if approved – your enrollment and registration status will be transferred to some later date. You'll have up to 12 months to defer your CFA exam appointment, depending on your exam level (published registration and scheduling deadlines apply).

CFA exam deferral?

Among the special circumstances that entitle you to free emergency deferral, you'll find:

  • life-threatening illness (candidate or immediate* family member)
  • death of a candidate’s immediate* family member
  • mandatory military deployment (candidate only) during the exam window
  • pregnancy (candidate only)
  • rescheduled exam by Prometric and after contacting Prometric, you are unable to find a new acceptable appointment date
  • government-ordered travel restrictions that prevent a candidate from attending the exam (official documentation required), and
  • a positive COVID test within 60 days of the candidate’s scheduled exam appointment (documentation required)

* Immediate family is defined for the purposes of emergency deferral as your spouse/domestic partner, child, parent, or sibling (grandparents are excluded).

When requesting your emergency deferral, you need to have proof to support your request. If your emergency deferral request is denied, you may choose to purchase your deferral.

Paid Deferral for CFA Candidates

If you register for your CFA exam and you wish to defer your exam date but you're not eligible for a refund or an emergency deferral – there's this new paid deferral that you can use. The deferral fee is USD 399 and you can use this option only once per one paid registration.

Paid deferral deadline for your CFA exam is:

  • if you've scheduled your CFA exam date – it's until up to 24 hours before your scheduled exam appointment, or
  • if you've NOT scheduled your CFA exam date – it's up to 3 days following the close of your registered exam window.

Paid CFA exam deferral gives you a right to postpone your exam appointment for up to 12 months according to new registration & scheduling deadlines. The option is available approx. a month before the exam window. Once you purchase the deferral, your registration and scheduled appointment will be canceled immediately. Your decision is binding and cannot be revoked.

Throughout your deferral period, both paid and emergency, you'll have access to your online CFA exam curriculum and it will be updated if your new CFA exam has a new curriculum.

CFA Exam Calculator Policy

When you register for your CFA exam, you need to decide what calculator to use while preparing for your exam. There's a special calculator policy that specifies what kind of financial calculator is acceptable. Mind that you must have your own calculator during the exam and it must be an approved one. There are 2 types of calculators authorized by CFA Institute:

  • Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional),
  • Hewlett Packard 12C (including HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th anniversary edition, HP 12C Prestige).

When choosing your CFA exam calculator, make no mistake and choose one of the above-mentioned.


valid international travel passport

extremely limited fee refund

new! emergency & paid deferrals

authorized calculator


valid international travel passport

extremely limited fee refund

new! emergency & paid deferrals

authorized calculator

What the CFA Exam Day Looks Like?

CFA Program policies that regulate the exam day itself are really copious. They include the identification policy, admission policy, or personal belongings policy. You can find the most important bits of these CFA exam rules below.

The CFA exam consists of two 135-minute sessions for level 1 and two 132-minute sessions for level 2 and level 3. There's an optional break meanwhile. You must sit for both of the sessions:

allow for 30 minutes of check-in procedures 30 minutes of an optional break between the sessions
135 (L1) or 132 minutes 135 (L1) or 132 minutes
LEVEL 1: 90 multiple-choice questions LEVEL 1: 90 multiple-choice questions
LEVEL 2: 44 item sets LEVEL 2: 44 item sets
LEVEL 3: 6 essay sets + 5 item sets LEVEL 3: 5 essay sets + 6 item sets

* More details about the CFA exam format.

When organizing your exam day, allow for the check-in procedures. Best arrive at least half an hour before your scheduled exam appointment. You must bring your valid international travel passport, which will enable identity verification.

Remember that your passport has to be an up-to-date original document issued by your country and certifying your identity. The information stated on your passport must exactly match the information given in your CFA Institute account or you will not be admitted into the testing room.

For computer-based CFA exams, there's no admission ticket. Your valid passport is the only document required.

Note that if you are late for your exam, you may not be admitted to the testing room. If you are refused admission, you forfeit your exam fees.

Before you are allowed into the testing room, there'll be a visual inspection of your person and your personal belongings such as your eyeglasses, calculator, or clothing. Also, a metal detector may be used to ensure you are not carrying electronic devices into the testing room.

What to bring to your CFA exam?

In the past, CFA candidates needed to remember to bring their No. 2 or HB pencils to the exam. Now, for the computer-based CFA exam, no writing tools are allowed in the testing room. Instead, you will be provided with scratch paper or an erasable writing tablet or whiteboard for use for your notes during your exam. You mustn't carry out any exam information or notes from the testing room.

Throughout your CFA exam, you must keep your personal items such as your calculator or keystroke card on your desk, in full view. In fact, you are encouraged to bring as few things as possible on your exam day and leave all dispensable belongings at home or in the car. You will be required to place all your personal items that are prohibited from the testing room, such as a snack, wallet, or jewelry, in a secure designated locker.


  1. Take your valid passport with you 'cos it is indispensable for identification purposes.
  2. Arrive at least 30 minutes before your exam to allow for the check-in procedures required by your test center.
  3. Bring as few items as possible. Here's a complete CFA exam checklist .
  4. Masks are no longer required in the testing room but check your local COVID-19 regulations, which may vary from area to area.

Importantly, you may bring a bottle of water into a testing room if you take your CFA exam in 2024. May 2023 CFA exam was the first CBT-format CFA exam when candidates were allowed to bring a bottle of water to the exam. The bottle (container) must be transparent and it needs to have a lid or cap to keep the bottle close when not used. The bottle will be inspected before you are admitted to the testing room.

Masks are no longer required during your CFA exam. However, it may vary locally, so best check the current COVID-19 regulations in your testing area. Also, if for some reason you feel that you want to wear your mask, you can. You'll be surely asked to take it off for identification purposes during the check-in process before you are admitted to the testing room but you are allowed to have and use a mask if you want.


check-in: arrive 30 min earlier, bring a valid passport

don't be late!

bring only necessary things, including a calculator

water is allowed!


check-in: arrive 30 min earlier, bring valid passport

don't be late!

bring only necessary things, including calculator

water is allowed!

Remember Standard VII (A): Conduct as Members and Candidates in the CFA Program of CFA Institute Code and Standards? Check also there for useful information or watch our free video inside your free study plan.

Post-Exam Policies

After you take your CFA exam, do not brag or complain about what was in the test you just took. You must not reveal any specific contents of the exam, or else you may end up being punished.

There is a list of sanctions CFA Institute may use in case a candidate violates any of the CFA Program policies.

There are also regulations set for CFA designation itself. As a CFA charterholder, you must obey certain rules concerning the way you use your title or talk about your designation.


control what you say or write

communicate your opinions right


control what you say or write

communicate your opinions right

Remember Standard VII (B): Reference to CFA Institute, the CFA Designation, and the CFA Program of CFA Institute Code and Standards? Check also there for useful information or watch our free video inside your free study plan.

The above is a short and selective summary of CFA Program policies. We strongly encourage you to read all the terms and conditions governing the CFA exam and provided by CFA Institute. It is worth the time as it educates you about all effective regulations and keeps you away from any violation.


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Updated: Feb 28, 2024

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