LAST UPDATED: March 26, 2020

CFA Level 1: Learn ALL
About Your Exam

CFA exam / CFA Level 1

CFA Level 1 Exam

IMPORTANT: Due to COVID pandemic, CFA Institute has made the decision to postpone the June 2020 CFA Exam administration globally. Read more here

CFA level 1 exam is the first of the 3 levels of CFA exam, a prestigious financial certification introduced and held worldwide by CFA Institute. The level 1 exam is organized twice a year, in June and December. It is quite costly and rather hard but rewarding. Candidates are tested in 10 topics.

CFA exam

consists of 3 levels: CFA level 1, level 2, level 3

2020 CFA level 1 exam date

5 Dec

CFA exam cost

depends on registration fee deadline: for 2020 exams it’s USD 700, USD 1000 or USD 1450

Recommended study hours

300 study hours/CFA exam level

CFA level 1 pass rates

official: around 43%, real: even lower! (read below)

CFA level 1 study plan

10 topics scheduled into 300 hours of study and review week by week! 3 basic game changers: full control, maintained motivation, knowledge retention.

Your goal?

CFA® Charter – global gold standard in finance

Welcome to the CFA LEVEL 1 INFO CENTER – a place where you’ll find all you need to know about your CFA level 1 exam. Read on and learn about:

First Things First: Meet 5 CFA Requirements

To be able to sit for your level 1 exam, you must become a CFA candidate first, which means you need to enter the CFA Program. There are 5 entrance requirements concerning your education/work experience, knowledge of English, fee payments, place of residence and valid international passport, as well as your professional conduct.

CFA requirements you need to meet before you can register for your level 1 exam:

  1. EDUCATION: have a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree or be a final-year student (complete the degree before registering for level 2 exam).
    WORK EXPERIENCE (investment related or not): have 4 years of professional full-time work experience or a combination of professional full-time work experience and education totaling 4 years.
  2. KNOWLEDGE OF ENGLISH: CFA exam is held in English + CFA Curriculum you get after registration is in English, so you should know English quite well to take the exam.
  3. CFA EXAM FEE PAYMENT: you can register for your CFA level 1 exam only when you make due payments as presented below in more detail. If it’s your first registration ever – apart from the exam fee – you’ll also need to pay a one-time program enrollment fee.
  4. PLACE OF RESIDENCE AND INTERNATIONAL PASSPORT: you need to live in a participating country (currently, most of countries are in, while a few are excluded by the US OFAC policy) and have a valid international passport to both register and sit for your exam.
  5. PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT: as a CFA candidate, you are obliged to follow CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct and to confirm your commitment to the code and standards you need to submit – upon registering for your exam – a Professional Conduct Statement disclosing relevant reprimands, investigations, litigations, etc.

Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®) is a graduate-level program developed and run by CFA Institute, an association of investment professionals originating in the USA and spreading all over the world. As a CFA candidate and then CFA charterholder, you can enhance your analytical skills, gain your investment expertise, and improve your chances of career advancement. If there is one expression that can describe what you’re up for after signing up for the CFA exam, it’s disciplined self-study. As for now, the exam is pencil-and-paper and is given in test centers located in the majority of participating countries (note: you can submit a center change request). However, CFA Institute is planning to introduce computer-based testing for CFA L1 exam as of 2021 and even more test centers will be available then. More on the CFA exam day and structure below.

Nearest CFA Level 1 Exam Dates

June 2020


June 2020


5 December

252 days until the exam

5 December 2020

252 days until the exam

June 2020 exam: CFA Institute postponed the June 2020 CFA Exam administration globally due to the COVID pandemic. Read more here

NOTE: The year 2020 is the last year when CFA level 1 exam is organized twice, in June and in December. As of 2021, level 1 candidates will have 4 months to choose from: February, May, August, and November. The registration for the February 2021 level 1 exam will open on 16 June 2020. You can read more about CFA 2021 level 1 exams here.

Can I Still Register?

8 Aug 2019 STARTS 5 Feb 2020
11 March 2020 ENDS 9 Sept 2020

Remember: Registering for the exam means you need to pay the fee. Before you register, however, see if you are eligible for a scholarship. If you apply, wait for your scholarship before you register for the exam or you’ll lose it. Mind the final registration deadline, though! Check right below.

CFA Exam Costs & Registration Deadlines

NEWCOMERS ONLY: $450 one-time program enrollment fee


each time you register to take and retake your level 1 exam (and later your level 2 and 3 exams)

June 2020
register before:
register before:
Feb 2020
register before:
March 2020
December 2020
register before:
register before:
(in 144 days)
register before:

Note: All the deadlines end at 11:59 p.m. ET.


Access Scholarship is available until:

15 September 2019 for *CFA 2020* exams

15 September 2020 for *CFA 2021* exams

IMPORTANT! It’s not a mistake. If you want to apply for CFA Access Scholarship, the deadline expires in September of the year before the exam you wish to take. That is why Access Scholarship application deadline for CFA 2020 exams passed. However, as of mid-April 2020 you can apply for Access Scholarship for CFA 2021 level 1 exams.

Other Scholarships (like for women or students) are available before:

early August 2020: for students (Dec 2020 exam)

September 2020: for women (Dec 2020 exam)

NOTE: Other Scholarships are subject to limitations, e.g. not all student can apply for students scholarship and women need to hurry up ‘cos the limit is reached way before the deadline!

Also, it’s not a rare thing that employers financially help their employees taking part in the CFA Program by reimbursing or paying for their CFA exams, either fully or partially. So, don’t hesitate to ask your employer for support.

How High Is CFA Level 1
Pass Rate?

41% 2019 42%
43% 2018 45%
43% 2017 43%

CAREFUL! This 40+ percent is the pass rate for those CFA level 1 candidates who actually sat for their exam. However, many register to take their level 1 exam but don’t even turn up on the exam day, which means that the "real" pass rate for all registered CFA level 1 candidates is even lower!

Why so low? See below


CFA Level 1 Topics In a Nutshell

CFA level 1 candidates are tested in 10 topic areas, each with its defined exam topic weight: Ethics (15%), QM (10%), PM (6%), FRA (15%), CF (10%), FI (11%), EI (11%), DI (6%), AI (6%), ECO (10%). While the most important level 1 topics are Ethics and FRA, the hardest trio is FRA, FI, and DI.


3 most important CFA L1 topics 3 hardest CFA L1 topics 3 easiest CFA L1 topics
Financial Reporting and Analysis (FRA) Fixed Income (FI) Portfolio Management (PM)
Ethical and Professional Standards (Ethics) Derivative Investments (DI) Corporate Finance (CF)
Quantitative Methods (QM) Financial Reporting and Analysis (FRA) Equity Investments (EI)


The 10 CFA level 1 topics are all covered in 6 books of the CFA level 1 curriculum. The topics content is further divided into smaller portions: topics study sessions readings. Overall, CFA level 1 curriculum is roughly 3000 pages long. That’s why candidates often look for more digestible study materials like videos, tests, or e-books. June and December exams always have the same curriculum. However, readings may slightly change from year to year.

Also, to organize your long and tough exam prep, you want to have a study plan with deadlines for topics and – ideally – also for readings, best if arranged weekly. This way you get a controllable and manageable study plan you can systematically follow. We explain more below .


CFA Exam Day: What to Expect?

CFA exam consists of two 3-hour sessions, morning and afternoon. For each session, there are 120 multiple-choice (a-b-c) questions, which gives you 1.5 minute per question on average. There is no penalty for giving a wrong answer (so you go ahead and guess if you don’t know ). We distinguish 3 types of CFA L1 questions: theory, computing, and reasoning questions.

CHECK-IN 8.00 a.m. 1.00 p.m.
DOORS CLOSED 8.30 a.m. 1.30 p.m.
CFA TEST 9.00-12.00 2.00-5.00
Theory questions
Computing questions
Reasoning questions
TOTAL: 240 questions

On the exam day, you must bring your valid international passport, admission ticket, approved CFA calculator (only different versions of TIBA II Plus or Hewlett Packard 12C are allowed), and writing tools (best No. 2 or HB pencils) with you. If you forget about any of these things, you won’t be able to take your exam! Also, it’s worth taking an eraser, a pencil sharpener, a wristwatch, and spare calculator batteries.

Best Way to Prepare
for CFA Level 1 Exam

Keeping in mind the 3000 pages of CFA curriculum and the low level 1 pass rates, you’ll need a sure-fire study strategy for your CFA exam prep. It’s best if it’s based on these 3 pillars:





ca. 300 hrs
& procrastination


ca. 43%
pass rates, or even lower!

It is common knowledge that you need approximately 300 study hours to get prepared for your CFA level 1 exam. That’s a lot. Take 5 months of prep, for example. It gives you an average of 60 hours per month, i.e. around 15 study hours every week.

It is hard to control 300 hours or even 60 hours. But 15 hours a week? That you can control! So, break down those 300 hours to smaller study times you can easily control and manage from week to week of your exam prep.

Otherwise, procrastination may seriously endanger your CFA exam preparation. It is too easy to postpone, especially if the consequences are delayed into the future. Many people choose to overlook these consequences in favor of immediate gains such as a night with a movie instead of curriculum. But, in the end, they end up with too many CFA readings piled up and impossible to cover before their exam.

That is why you need to constantly maintain your motivation to study week by week. To better understand why it’s so important, consider this: as many as 25% of CFA level 1 candidates do not show up for their exam because they feel they didn’t learn enough to take it. What it means is that the effective pass rate is even lower! If out of 100 candidates registered for the CFA exam, only 75 actually take it, then – with the pass rate of 40+ percent – only a bit over 30 out of 75 exam-takers pass, which gives us the "real" pass rate for all registered CFA level 1 candidates of ca. 30% instead of 43% or 45%.


Procrastination and lack of motivation are also a problem when it comes to revision. The majority of candidates put off reviewing the study material until last weeks before the exam, which is a huge mistake. It makes your forgetting curve even steeper (after one day only, we forget up to 65% of what we study the previous day!) and leaves your learning curve totally unattended.

Forgetting Curve
Learning Curve

To be sure you’ll really learn all 10 topics just in time for your exam, it’s best you have your study plan scheduled weekly and revise regularly. Benchmark study times for weeks and readings and a proper review system in place make it is easier to stay motivated and hold tight to the benchmarks and recommendations, and then to pass the exam. If you also feel this is the way to go, you can find all this and more inside the different variants of our CFA Study Planner.

Your CFA Level 1 Study Plan


8 months

until your Dec exam

8 months

until your Dec exam

Get CFA Study Schedule:

& see how to make the most of your study time!

What Calculator to Get
and Other CFA Policies

As a CFA level 1 candidate, you also need to know all CFA rules and regulations. There are many but your failure to be in compliance may result in your inability to take the exam, voiding your CFA level 1 exam result or even suspension in the CFA Program.

CFA Policies include (but are not limited to):

  • Calculator Policy
  • CFA Program Refund Policy
  • Identification Policy
  • Withdrawal Option
  • Qualified Deferral
  • Admission And Departure Policy
  • Answer Sheet And Exam Book Policy
  • Personal Belongings Policy

We've prepared a detailed summary for you. Just set up a free CFA study plan and get access to our free CFA Policies PDF:

When Will I Get
My CFA Level 1 Results?

JUNE 2019
6 August 2019

30 January 2020

JUNE 2020
28* July 2020

* These are our educated guesses based on how CFA Institute released exam results in the past. The usual pattern: your exam date + 7.5 weeks + it’s almost always been Tuesday.

You’ll get your results to your e-mail. Detailed results are also available on the CFA Institute website from the level of your account. Apart from the PASSED or FAILED information, you will also learn about your performance for given topics relative to other exam takers. The CFA exam results are presented visually with the thick blue line illustrating how you scored, both in the exam and for different topic areas. No exact scores are given, though.

IMPORTANT! Only after you receive your CFA level 1 exam result may you register for the next exam.

CFA Results New Format: Passed Exam

MPS, Ethics Adjustment,
CFA Grading

CFA Passing Score: What is MPS?

Every CFA exam has its MPS individually set when it’s over. Minimum passing score (MPS) is the threshold value determining who passes and who fails the CFA exam. Both the MPS and individual candidate score are never released. However, in all likelihood, MPS is usually slightly below 70%.

What is CFA Ethics adjustment?

CFA Program aims at promoting ethical culture in the investment industry. That’s why the Ethics topic is said to be particularly important in the CFA exam and there’s the so-called ethics adjustment. Your Ethics result can help you pass or fail if you are a borderline candidate, i.e. if your total exam score borders the MPS. According to the Ethics adjustment:

  • Good Ethics result for a borderline candidate means a Passed Exam.
  • Poor Ethics result for a borderline candidate means a Failed Exam.

What is CFA grading like?

Your answer sheet will be checked by the scanning equipment, which sees the marks made by a No. 2 or an HB pencil best. To pass, you must score higher than the MPS set for your exam or your Ethics result must be good enough to pull you through if you are on the border.

You don’t need to pass all the topics. It is the overall exam score that counts!

Haven’t found the info you were looking for?

Share your problem in the comments below . We’ll try to help