Level 1 CFA® Exam: Structure, Topic Weights, Passing Score, Calculator

CFA exam review / EXAM STRUCTURE

CBT CFA Exam Structure

As of 2021, there's computer-based testing (CBT) for the level 1 CFA exam. The structure of the CBT CFA exam looks as follows:

  • LEVEL 1 CBT CFA EXAM = SESSION 1 break (optional) SESSION 2
  • START = 30 minutes allotted to pledge, tutorial, and survey
  • SESSION 1 = 2h 15 minutes = 90 multiple-choice questions
  • break = 30 minutes (optional)
  • SESSION 2 = 2h 15 minutes = 90 multiple-choice questions
  • TOTAL exam day = 5.5 hours, including 4.5 hours of test time
  • average time per question = 1.5 minute

Level 1 CFA Exam Topic Weights

Level 1 Topic Exam Weight No. of Questions Predicted no. of Questions Topic Group
Ethics 15-20% 27-36 28 I
Quantitative Methods 8-12% 15-21 18 II
Economics 8-12% 15-21 18 II
Financial Reporting and Analysis 13-17% 24-30 26 II
Corporate Finance 8-12% 15-21 16 III
Equity Investments 10-12% 18-21 20 IV
Fixed Income Investments 10-12% 18-21 20 IV
Derivative Investments 5-8% 9-14 10 IV
Alternative Investments 5-8% 9-14 10 IV
Portfolio Management 5-8% 9-14 14 III


Level 1 CFA Exam Topic Weights

Level 1 CFA Exam in the CBT Format

CFA Exam Passing Score

It is said that about 70% suffices to pass the CFA exam. The minimum passing score (MPS) is set for every exam individually and it is never made public.

It is the total score that counts, so you don't have to score over 70% for each topic to pass your level 1 exam. In an extreme scenario, you may get just a few points for one of the topics and you may still pass the exam if you excel in another topic.

Note, however, that as far as Ethics is concerned, the topic is of great importance because of the ethics adjustment. Are you interested in what former CFA candidates have to say about Ethics and the last days before the exam? Read: Ethics Mastery? Naah...

Approved CFA Exam Calculators

Only two calculator models can be used during the CFA exam:

Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional),

Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th anniversary edition, and HP 12C Prestige)

Most of the candidates use Texas Instruments calculators. We covered CFA exam approved calculators in more detail in TI vs HP post.

LAST UPDATE: 29 March 2022

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