Dec 2020 CFA® Exam Rules and Regulations Unveiled, Some New!

CFA exam / Policies


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  1. Wear a face covering that covers both your mouth and your nose at all times, from admittance to your testing center through dismissal. If you wish, also bring gloves, face shields, hand sanitizers, etc.
  2. The rule of social distancing will be in place. You will be seated apart from other candidates and asked to keep the distance during both check-in and departure.
  3. You will be allowed to keep all your personal belongings in a small bag that will fit in under your chair. However, you will not be permitted to access the bag from announcements until departure.
  4. You should bring your own bottle of water (sealed!), which must be kept on the floor for easy access during the exam.

CFA exam is regulated by numerous policies. 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 and refer them to phases of the CFA exam pathway at which they prove useful. These are the very basics you really need to know!


pre-exam | exam | post-exam

Pre-Exam Policies

Pre-exam policies govern the CFA exam registration process and they include e.g. the identification policy or CFA exam refund, deferral, and withdrawal rules.

Is Passport Required for CFA Exam Registration?

To register for the CFA exam, you must have a valid international travel passport (no other IDs are permitted). 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 registration account as well.

CFA Exam Refund, Deferral, Withdrawal

CFA exam registration also involves fee payment. A full refund of fee payment (both enrollment and registration) is possible within 3 business days. Otherwise, there is no refund and you forfeit your fees if you want to back out of the CFA Program.

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 a qualified deferral of your enrollment and registration status to some later date. Such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and may not be granted.

Also, after registration, a withdrawal option is provided to candidates of all levels. You need to submit an appropriate request form (mind the withdrawal deadline date which is until 5 days before the exam date!). Once the request is accepted, the withdrawal cannot be reversed. There is no refund or transfer of registration fees and you have to pay again if you decide to register for the same or upcoming exam. The benefit from withdrawal is that you can re-register for another CFA exam as soon as your withdrawal has been processed (allow for up to 3 days for processing). If you fail to withdraw, you'll need to wait until results for the current exam have been released (approximately 60 days after the exam date).

CFA Exam: Calculator Policy

Pre-exam policies also involve the calculator policy. You must have your own calculator in 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 or deferral

withdrawal option for all levels

authorized calculator

Exam Policies

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

CFA Exam Day Rules

The CFA exam consists of two sessions and you must sit for both of them, first morning, then afternoon.

morning session afternoon session
check-in 8.00 a.m. 1.00 p.m.
doors closed,
announcements begin
8.30 a.m. 1.30 p.m.
CFA exam starts 9.00 a.m. 2.00 p.m.
CFA exam ends 12.00 p.m. 5.00 p.m.

When organizing your exam day, allow for the check-in before every session (in the morning arrive at least one hour before the exam begins). You must bring your international travel passport and admission ticket with you. You will need both at the two check-ins.

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 printed on your admission ticket or you will not be let into the testing room.

Your admission ticket is also a document – it must be printed on an unused and decent piece of paper. Note that it is valid for an exact exam date and test center, which are given on the ticket.

You will not be admitted to the testing room if you are late more than half an hour after the exam starts. During the exam, you must remain seated in your designated place.

Do not open or read your test before the start of the CFA exam is announced. When doing the test, you must mark your answers on your answer sheet because only these answers are graded. Darken the whole oval (implying your answer) heavily with a No. 2 or HB pencil.

For level 3 essays, write your answers only on designated answer pages with an approved pen (black or blue ink) or pencil (No. 2 or HB).

Stop immediately after the end of the test is announced. Do not remove any sheets from your exam and take nothing with you from the testing room but the things you brought. You must not leave the testing room before each session ends.

Throughout your CFA exam, you must keep your admission ticket on your desk. Also, you're allowed to have your approved calculator and writing tools on your desk. Your passport must be kept in your bag on the floor and not accessed during your exam.

There is a restricted list of things you may have with you in the testing room. You may bring a small bag that fits in under your chair but you are encouraged to leave your personal belongings at home or in the car. In the bag, carry only the very few things you can't do without such as your passport, admission ticket, pencil or packed lunch (to be eaten during the break between the sessions) and bottled water (sealed!). Note that no personal belongings areas nor lunch cafeterias, or the like, will be available at test centers!

Importantly, you will be required to to wear a face covering that covers both your mouth and your nose at all times, from admittance to your testing center through dismissal. You will be asked to remove your face covering during ID verification. You may also bring gloves, face shields, hand sanitizers, etc. Face shields without a mask underneath are not permitted. Additionally, all candidates must comply with the social distancing requirement.


check-ins: passport and admission ticket necessary

be on time and stay till the end

give answers only on designated sheets

bring only necessary things

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 CFA Program laws.

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

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. You should be asked to read CFA exam policies before you are allowed to view your admission ticket. It is worth the time as it educates you about all effective regulations and keeps you away from any violation.

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

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