New Level 1 Topic Weights for Dec 2020 CFA® Exam

CFA Exam: Level 1 / Topics / 2020 Weights

Last Updated: July 2, 2020

As of the Dec 2020 exam, CFA Institute introduces new level 1 CFA exam topic weights. For the first time, level 1 weights are given in ranges, which impacts your level 1 exam greatly. It means you won't know how many questions exactly to expect for each topic.

The table shows the weights of all level 1 CFA exam topics for your Dec 2020 exam:

Level 1 Topics Minimum Topic Weight Maximum Topic Weight
Ethics 15% 20%
Quantitative Methods 8% 12%
Economics 8% 12%
Financial Reporting and Analysis 13% 17%
Corporate Finance 8% 12%
Equity Investments 10% 12%
Fixed Income Investments 10% 12%
Derivative Investments 5% 8%
Alternative Investments 5% 8%
Portfolio Management 5% 8%

Before the change, topic weights were given as single values and they were as follows: Ethics (15%), FRA (15%), EI (11%), FI (11%), QM (10%), ECO (10%), CF (10%), DI (6%), AI (6%), and PM (6%).

As you can see, the most important topics still are:

  • Ethical and Professional Standards (Ethics), and
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis (FRA).

You should devote around one third of your study time to these 2 topics.

Predicted Number of Questions for Level 1 CFA Exam Topics

Dec 2020

What you can see below in the 'Predicted no. of questions' column is an example of how your exam questions may be distributed among the topics in your test. We also give you the minimum and the maximum number of questions for each topic. The values are directly derived from the new weight ranges given above.

Level 1 Topic MIN no. of questions MAX no. of questions Predicted no. of questions
Ethics 36 48 40
Quantitative Methods 19.2 28.8 24
Economics 19.2 28.8 24
Financial Reporting and Analysis 31.2 40.8 36
Corporate Finance 19.2 28.8 20
Equity Investments 24 28.8 26
Fixed Income Investments 24 28.8 26
Derivative Investments 12 19.2 14
Alternative Investments 12 19.2 12
Portfolio Management 12 19.2 18
SUM 208.8 290.4 240

IMPORTANT! The whole Dec 2020 level 1 CFA exam includes 240 questions, 120 in the morning session and 120 in the afternoon session. However, this will change in 2021 when the level 1 exam moves to computers.

Our prediction is just an educated guess and the actual number of topic questions may differ. When the MIN and MAX ranges are considered, this is what you can expect in your Dec 2020 level 1 CFA exam per session:

  • the highest number of questions for Ethics and FRA (ca. 20 per topic for each exam session),
  • similar number of questions for QM, Eco, CF, EI, and FI (10-14 per topic for each exam session),
  • also several questions for DI, AI, and PM (6-9 per topic for each exam session).

Dec 2020 Level 1 CFA Exam Topic Weights

Here are the average level 1 topic weights for the Dec 2020 exam:

  • Ethics: 17.5%
  • FRA: 15%
  • Equity: 11%
  • Fixed Income: 11%
  • Quantitative Methods: 10%
  • Economics: 10%
  • Corporate Finance: 10%
  • Derivatives: 6.5%
  • Alternatives: 6.5%
  • Portfolio Management: 6.5%
  • TOTAL: 104%
  • Ethics: 17.5%
  • FRA: 15%
  • Equity: 11%
  • Fixed Income: 11%
  • Quantitative Methods: 10%
  • Economics: 10%
  • Corporate Finance: 10%
  • Derivatives: 6.5%
  • Alternatives: 6.5%
  • Portfolio Management: 6.5%
  • TOTAL: 104%

The pie chart below presents the level 1 topic weights as if they were single values (it uses the average weights). This is the simplest way to illustrate the new topic weights:


As you can see, the sum of all average topic weights is over 100%. That is why on the chart, you will see slightly lower values for the topics. This only proves that the weights given in ranges yield no certain outcomes when it comes to the number of questions in your exam. You can even expect a various number of questions for topics with the same exam weights, which we showed in one of the tables above. For example, you can get 14 questions for Derivatives but 12 questions for Alternatives even though both topics are in the same weight range.

IMPORTANT! Even though topic weights change, the difficulty of topics stays pretty much the same.

CFA Exam Topics Difficulty

The difficulty of topics is a subjective criterion. What is difficult for one candidate need not be difficult for another. When we define a topic as difficult, it means that the concepts it covers are usually said to be difficult.

3 hardest level 1 CFA exam topics: what are they & why? READ HERE

Are there any easy topics in level 1 CFA exam?

While making your level 1 study plan, you should definitely take topics difficulty into account. Factor it in if you consider a certain topic (or its part) to be difficult (or easy). If you have no idea, though, you can count on our help. Our free study planner, takes topics difficulty and importance into account. The implemented topic sequence is optimal:

  • more challenging topics are coupled with more easy ones allowing you to take a sort of break meanwhile,
  • where possible, topics are coupled based on the similarity of concepts,
  • Ethics and FRA are scheduled relatively upfront to ensure they are thoroughly studied.

The time scheduled for each topic depends on its difficulty, the number of pages in the Curriculum, and the topic weights in your exam.

While creating your personalized CFA exam study schedule, you can choose the topic sequence you like:

  • Soleadea topic sequence based on CFA exam topic length, difficulty, and importance (highly recommended ):
  • CFA Program curriculum topic sequence: ETH, QM, ECO, FRA, CF, EI, FI, DI, AI, PM, or
  • CFA Program curriculum topic sequence but with Ethics at the end: QM, ECO, FRA, CF, EI, FI, DI, AI, PM, ETH.

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