LAST UPDATED: Feb 18, 2021

CFA exam / Results

When Will I Get My December 2020 CFA® Exam Results?

CFA Exam Results Released

December 2020 CFA exam results are expected on 28 January 2021 for level 1 and level 2, plus almost three more weeks for level 3. The table below shows our educated guesses for the nearest Dec exams based on how CFA Institute released results in the past.

The usual pattern for releasing CFA exam results: CFA exam date + 7.5 weeks for level 1 and level 2 (it’s always Tuesday or Thursday) or CFA exam date + 9.5 weeks for level 3 (this year it's a bit later).

Your CFA Exam Exam Date Your CFA Exam Results Expected On: Pass Rate
Dec 2020 Level 1 Exam 5/6 December 2020 28 January 2021 49%
Dec 2020 Level 2 Exam 5/6 December 2020 28 January 2021 55%
Dec 2020 Level 3 Exam 5/6 December 2020 17 February 2021 56%
Dec 2019 Level 1 Exam 7 December 2019 30 January 2020 42%

2021 study plans (all levels) are available:
create a free CFA study plan here

You’ll get your results to your e-mail. Just wait about 50 days if you took your level 1 or level 2 exam and add two more weeks for level 3 results:

  • Dec 2020 level 1 and 2 exams results available in late January 2021
  • Dec 2020 level 3 exam results available in mid-February 2021
  • Feb 2021* level 1 exam results available in early April 2021

* Feb 2021 level 1 exam will be the first computer-based CFA exam. For computer-based exams – results could be available sooner. Still, the exact date is not yet known even to CFA Institute emphasizing that the same MPS procedure will still be in place. Read more about CFA exam and CBT.

The e-mail message will tell you whether you PASSED or FAILED. Also, you will learn about your performance for given topics relative to other exam takers (go to your CFA Institute account for more details). This information can help you in your preparation for future exams.

There will be no new CFA Program
curriculum in 2021.
2020 curriculum (all levels) will apply to all CFA exams taking place at all 2021 exam dates!

In this post, you can also
learn about:

CFA Exam Passing Score:
What is the MPS?

To pass your CFA exam, you have to meet the minimum passing score (MPS) set individually for each ended exam. The MPS may vary across years but it probably never exceeds 70%. However, neither the MPS nor individual candidate score are ever released.

So, you will never know precisely how many points you scored or what percentage level you reached. All you can say is that:
if you PASSED you met the MPS or you were close enough for the ethics adjustment to pull you through,
if you FAILED you were below the MPS or the ethics adjustment worked to your disadvantage.

To maintain high grading standards, the MPS will be set as always also for new computer-based 2021 CFA exams..

When and How is the MPS Set?

The exact MPS value is set by the CFA Institute Board of Governors who gather about 6 weeks after the exam for level 1 and level 2 and again about a week later for level 3. The set MPS value falls within the valid range established using the modified Angoff method, which provides an empirical basis for the MPS settlement. Applying the method, a large and diverse group of CFA charterholders assesses both the exam difficulty and actual candidate performance before the MPS is finally determined.

So Much Info and You Still Feel Like You Know Nothing?

You’re right. CFA Institute is very secretive about our results and hardly any hard facts can be given to narrow the information gap. Let us, however, wrestle a bit and try to draw some conclusions from what we know.

First, we need to set some common ground.

Let’s take the level 1 CFA exam, for example. There are 2 exam sessions, each containing 120 exam questions. That makes 240 questions for the whole level 1 exam. If we assume every question is worth 1 point, we end up with the maximum total score of 240 points. For an incorrect answer, no points are deducted.

For new 2021 CBT exams, testing time shortens:
read more here

Keeping in mind the common ground assumptions and facts about CFA exam results we gave above, we are able to analyze some grading-related issues and dispel some popular myths:

Myth no. 1: The minimum passing score is above 70%.

Myth no. 2: I have to pass all the topics, to pass my exam.

Myth no. 3: I can’t do badly in Ethics! There’s Ethics adjustment!

Myth no. 4: Topic performance objectively indicates which topic areas definitely need improvement and which are fine.

Myth no. 1: The minimum passing score is above 70%.

Forget about it!

Actually, the MPS is most likely to be slightly below 70%. To prove this observation, let’s examine the following situation:

Assume the MPS of 75%. You are notified about your level 1 CFA exam result. In the topic performance information, you see you scored above 70% for every topic. Still, your exam score message says you FAILED. You feel confused: “How come I failed? All my topic scores are above the 70% threshold which according to CFA Institute is a reasonable signal of topic mastery”.

That is why it is impossible for the MPS to exceed 70%. Otherwise, you could always end up confused about your exam results like in our example.


To make the situation described above more clear-cut, let’s analyze it bit by bit.

From your topic performance information, you know you scored above 70% for each topic. So, your total score must have been above 70%. But since you know you failed, it must have been lower than the MPS (below 75% for our example). Perhaps you achieved 72% for each topic. You didn’t reach the MPS and that’s why you failed.

Even if our example is just a simplification, it shows well that for the MPS values above 70% there’s practically always a gap for those who may fail their exam despite having all their topic scores in the mastery range. Quite an undesirable situation for the candidates whose exam performance is on the verge of mastery, don’t you think?


If the MPS is above 70%, the grading system fails to be transparent. Thus, it’s most probable that usually the MPS fluctuates between 65% and 70%.

Myth no. 2: I have to pass all the topics, to pass my exam.

Do you?

But what does it actually mean to pass a topic? To score over 70%? Or to be above the MPS for the topic?

What you need to do to pass your CFA exam is to meet or exceed the MPS. But it holds true for your total exam score, not for separate topics. That’s a major principle!

Of course, if you score over 70% for every topic, it should ensure your passing the exam (see Myth no. 1 above).

However, consider the following example:

You receive your level 1 CFA exam results. You did poorly in 2 topics and moderately fine in 5:

*This is our assumption. CFA Institute never gives you exact scores or releases the MPS.

Does it mean the e-mail message says you FAILED?

No! The example illustrates how various scores for different topics still give you a PASS because you managed to meet the MPS of 69% set for your exam.


Your total exam score is what counts! As a rule, to pass you must meet or exceed the minimum passing score set for your exam. The math is merciless, however. If you do badly for any of the topics, you have to excel at some other. In other words, every topic scored below the MPS has to be offset by another topic scored way above the MPS. This way, your total score can meet the MPS criterion and you pass.

It All Starts With Your
CFA Exam Study Plan


CONTROL your CFA exam schedule WEEKLY!
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Myth no. 3: I can’t do badly in Ethics! There’s Ethics adjustment!

We’ve just said that the major principle behind passing the exam is meeting or exceeding the MPS.

So, even if you do badly on the Ethics questions but do great overall, you’ll pass your exam. Take a look at our example:

*This is our assumption. CFA Institute never gives you exact scores or releases the MPS.

In the level 1 CFA exam, the maximum value of points for Ethics is 36. You must have gotten only 12 questions right because you scored only 33%. But wait a minute. Other scores are great! It’s impossible you failed your exam. Your total score exceeds 70% by far, so it also exceeds the MPS of 67% set for your exam.

Be careful, though.

You may not manage to exceed the MPS much enough. If your final score just borders the MPS, poor performance in Ethics will definitely contribute to your failure in the exam. That’s because of the Ethics adjustment explained in our post: Why Your Ethics Score Matters.


You do not have to excel at Ethics to pass your exam. However, here are 3 reasons for which it is surely worth paying attention to Ethics:

1. The significance of ethical conduct at a workplace is unquestionable. The better you know the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct, the more sensitive you’ll be to possible violations and better equipped to handle various situations.

2. You will be tested on Ethics at every level of your CFA exam and every time Ethics will be counted among the most important topics.

3. Ethics adjustment is applied to borderline cases. A good grade for the Ethics questions may pull you through if your total exam score borders the MPS. But if your Ethics performance is weak, it may cause you to fail the exam.

Note: Free Ethics videos are available for Soleadea users only. Click to set up your account (4 mini-steps only) & enjoy free videos inside your personalized study plan.

Myth no. 4: Topic performance objectively indicates which topic areas definitely need improvement and which are fine.

It’s not all that easy.

The information about your performance in different topics is meant to identify your strengths and weaknesses. However, there’s no objective truth about it. To prove the point, we analyze two opposing situations:


You scored poorly for Alternative Investments. Before the exam, you felt quite strong on the topic. What to trust? The numbers or your intuition?

Your December 2020 level 1 exam included only about 12 AI questions, while the topic runs for about 100 pages in the CFA Program Curriculum. So, the AI exam sample was quite small relative to the overall material on the topic. Notice that if you answered correctly just one more question, your AI score would be higher by as much as 8.3 percentage points. That would shift you up quite a bit!

So: Is AI definitely your weak point or was it just bad luck?

Before we can answer this question, we need to consider another example:


You scored poorly for Financial and Reporting Analysis. Weakness or misfortune?

This time the exam sample is bigger. The topic is quite extensive and your December 2020 test was expected to contain as many as 36 FRA questions. Every correct answer improved your topic score by roughly 2.8 percentage points.

*Note that Alternative Investments, Derivatives, and Portfolio Management all are given the same exam weight of 5-8%. We assume here that AI is the topic that gets the fewer questions in the CFA exam. Nevertheless, you should be aware that in your real exam questions may be distributed a bit differently among topics. Read here about the new level 1 topic weights.


For some topics, there are too few questions on the exam to definitely categorize them as your weakness or strength. In such cases, it may be hard to decide whether you know the topic poorly indeed or if it was just bad luck (or good luck for that matter because although you scored over 70%, you feel you still don’t know much about the topic). For topics with a bigger number of questions, exam results are more representative. It is more likely that they really indicate whether you need to improve the topic or if you managed to master it already.

You have to stay rational about it. To resolve doubtful situations in which your exam performance contrasts your intuition about a topic, an additional parameter may come in handy. Your mock exam scores can serve as good indicators. If you usually scored rather low for AI, and now your AI exam score is also poor, you definitely need to improve this topic area. If, however, you scored high in all the mock exams you took, the low exam result for AI may be just an accident. Still, it can’t harm you if you study even harder before your next exam.

Note: Free AI & FRA videos are available for Soleadea users only. Click to set up your account (4 mini-steps only) & enjoy free videos inside your personalized study plan.

What’s the New CFA Exam Results Format?

Here are the 2 most important things when you view your CFA exam results:

thin dashed black line & thick blue line

The thin dashed black line is the MPS set for your exam. The thick blue line is YOU.

When it comes to your exam score:

  • blue ABOVE black = you PASSED
  • blue BELOW black = you FAILED

In Jan 2018, CFA Institute introduced this new – more visual – way of informing CFA exam takers about their scores.

More visual means more attractive. However, it still lacks the transparency and concreteness candidates long for.

In line with what we’ve already said, no concrete value is attributed to neither the blue (YOU) nor the black (MPS) line. Moreover, if your score is close enough to MPS, your blue line may even overlap with the black MPS line, which – unfortunately – will not always mean you passed :/.

For the sake of visual presentation, you’ll also see:

  • a thick purple dashed line telling you that only 10% of all candidates scored higher than that, and
  • a thick black dashed line telling you that only 10% of all candidates scored lower than that.

Both these lines will be placed – respectively – above and below the thin dashed black MPS line. They are to show you how you did in the exam compared to others. (We hope you can always find your thick blue line in the close vicinity of the purple line and way above the MPS line!)

Last but not least, because different favorable & unfavorable factors may influence your exam score – you will find your thick blue line inside a light blue box (confidence interval). This is to show your true ability, which might be higher than the line (but on the exam day you had to face some unfavorable circumstances) or lower than the line (but in the exam you worked under favorable circumstances). The fact that CFA Institute is trying to allow for additional factors is actually good!

CFA Exam Results New Format: Passed Exam

For your topic performance presentation, the rules applied are pretty much the same. You’ll get an estimation of:

  • your topic score in the exam (blue line – no exact value given again),
  • your true topic ability (blue confidence interval – allowing for different favorable & unfavorable factors),
  • your topic performance compared to other candidates (thick dashed purple and black lines – indicating 10% of the best vs worst topic scores).

These estimations are all set against the MPS-like 70%-value thin black line which is considered to indicate 'topic mastery'. Your topics performance is generally presented using separate blue lines.

Level 3 candidates will also find a similarly presented ‘essays vs item sets’ comparison showing their performance in the exam.

How High Are CFA Exam
Pass Rates?

In recent years, CFA exam pass rates are fairly fixed. They seem set around some favorite values:

Year Level 1 CFA Exam Pass Rates Level 2 Level 3
2015 42% (June); 43% (Dec) 46% (June) 53% (June)
2016 43% (June); 43% (Dec) 46% (June) 54% (June)
2017 43% (June); 43% (Dec) 47% (June) 54% (June)
2018 43% (June); 45% (Dec) 45% (June) 56% (June)
2019 41% (June); 42% (Dec) 44% (June) 56% (June)
2020 49% (Dec) 55% (Dec) 56% (Dec)

You need to realize one thing, though. It’s almost 50% for levels 1&2 and a bit over 50% for level 3 but of all candidates who actually took their exam. The pass rates do not include those who prepared for the exam but decided to stay at home (‘cos they were ill, unprepared or otherwise indisposed). So, the effective CFA exam pass rates are in fact lower even by 25%.

Yep. That many candidates chicken out before their exam! And we’re using this phrase on purpose because the vast majority out of this 25% were neither ill nor indisposed. They were simply so totally unprepared, they didn’t even want to give their exam a try. This seems particularly true for the level 1 CFA exam, where many candidates take their exam for the first time and don’t know yet what CFA exam prep entails.

Aware of the huge numbers of those badly prepared, we help all candidates – regardless of their exam level – stay on the right track with their preparation. Our CFA exam study planner 4.0 is based on 3 pillars: control, motivation, and knowledge retention. If you follow our guide, you’ll get yourself responsible and productive exam prep. Should you execute your study plan week by week and learn efficiently while studying, you’re bound to find yourself among those who passed .

What to Do if You FAIL Your CFA Exam? And if You PASS?

After you receive your CFA exam results and let the news sink in, you’ll be surely asking yourself this one little question: OK, what now?

Here’s a list of 6 things you should do if you FAIL your CFA exam (but also if you PASS it):

  1. Look at your blue line showing your overall performance in the exam.
  2. Compare your CFA exam topic results.
  3. Analyze the exam prep you had before your exam.
  4. Write down all your conclusions.
  5. Start your next preparation at least 5-4 months before your next exam.
  6. Have your own personalized CFA exam study plan and make sure you follow it.

Read on for the details. These depend on your personal exam experience.

There will be no new CFA Program curriculum in 2021.
2020 curriculum (all levels) will apply to all CFA exams taking place at all 2021 exam dates!

I Failed My CFA Exam By a Hair's Breadth

CFA Exam Results New Format: Almost Passed Exam

1. Look at your blue line showing your overall performance in the exam:

So, you are close enough to the MPS line to get a bit angry that you didn’t make it? Bummer… Keep your spirits up, though. It means you did quite a good job overall. OK. There are things you’ll need to improve. But the chances are high that your next CFA exam will be a success.

Below we help you identify your weak points, tell you what to focus on to improve, and suggest the best way of studying for you.

2. Compare your CFA exam topic results:

Take your time and scrutinize your topic performance. How many blue topic lines were over or close to the 70%-line and how many – way below? Focus on the latter ‘cos they indicate which topics you definitely need to improve. However, while studying don’t get tempted to neglect the topics you did well at this time. What you need to do is regularly review the contents of these topics and study the bits you felt insecure about. Your next exam may test you on different areas of the topics than it did this time.

NOTE: The visual presentation of your topic performance is meant to help you draw some useful conclusions and aid you prepare for your next CFA exam. Even if it’s far from ideal, it has some valuable information for you if you can give it the right meaning.

3. Analyze the exam prep you had before your exam:

Topics analysis is one thing. But then there’s also an issue of your attitude. There’s always something we can do better. Think what it is for you when it comes to the way you study. Perhaps you lost too much time not following your study plan but postponing your study hours? Or you had no study plan at all?!?! Maybe you practiced too little leaving tests till after you read all the topics? That’s a mistake. You should do exam-type questions systematically all over your exam prep. Practice and theory should intertwine. Then, there’s also an issue of review. Few candidates do it on a regular basis (perhaps that’s why the pass rates are so low…). In your case, spaced revision throughout whole exam prep (not just a week or two before the exam) is especially important! Why? Because while you focus on the topics you need to improve, you also need to review the topics you did well at to make sure you lose no points here next time.

4. Write down all your conclusions:

Better plan? More practice? Spaced review? As soon as you know what to change about your exam preparation, write it down and pin the list in a visible place. It’s the best way to hold yourself accountable. As time passes, all your resolutions will start to fade. But then it’s all there – written down point by point. A sheer look at the list reminds you of what you want to do better this time.

5. Start your next preparation at least 5-4 months before your next exam:

It’s up to you to decide how many months of preparation you need. But we’d like to encourage you to make it at least 5-4 months. This is an average study time period for CFA exam candidates. The shorter your exam prep is, the more intensive it needs to get. Otherwise, you risk ending up with a result like the one you got lately.

6. Have your own personalized study plan and make sure you follow it:

You certainly need a good study plan. And we’re not saying it because we have this CFA exam study planner 4.0 for you. We’re saying it because there’s no other way you can successfully control your whole exam prep. You need to take so much into consideration, now also your personal topics experience, practice needs, spaced review, or whatever it is you want to improve. When using our study planner, you can choose the difficulty for all topics according to your topic performance in the previous exam. You can also control your progress week by week by summarizing your weekly study achievements. If you opt in for our paid program, you’ll get major motivational boosts (e.g. your improved Chance-to-Pass-ScoreTM) hand in hand with top study hints in the form of inbox messages to help you develop your study routine. Also, your review sessions will be properly scheduled in your study plan and some extra tools will be available for you to practice more.

I Failed My CFA Exam
By a Lot...

CFA Exam Results New Format: Failed Exam

1. Look at your blue line showing your overall performance in the exam:

So, you are close enough to the thick dashed black 10th percentile line to get scared you’ll never make it? Not the way you imagined it?

Here’s what you need to do >> You need to rethink your approach completely! Ask yourself why you WANT to become a CFA charterholder (and how much you WANT it?). Then >> Follow our guide: take this revolutionary road and experience revolutionary effects .

2. Compare your CFA exam topic results:

Not too many satisfactory scores, huh…? Generally, you’ll need to work hard for every topic before your next exam. Unless there’s a topic you did reasonably good at. Perhaps you widely use this topic’s concepts at work? Or you simply studied this topic more thoroughly? If the latter’s the case, try to build on this experience and think what exactly made this one topic score different than others?

3. Analyze the exam prep you had before your exam:

Even though you feel devastated by your CFA exam score, you need to know one thing. Not all of your exam prep was a fiasco. There were some bad things and some good things about it. Now it’s time to face the truth and call it all by name. What did you do right? What did you do wrong? This is probably the biggest step for you. Unless you can draw some meaningful conclusions, you won’t be able to carry on successfully.

4. Write down all your conclusions:

This is the only way to take your next exam prep seriously. Divide a sheet into two. Make the TO DO list and the NEVER TO DO list side by side. If you don’t make it, your next exam prep won’t be any different. Again: out of control, poorly executed, and letting your goal get out of perspective.

5. Start your next preparation at least 5-4 months before your next exam:

5-4 months is an average study time period for candidates. However, the shorter your exam prep is, the more intensive it needs to get. Bearing in mind how much work there’s in front of you, you should aim at a sufficiently long exam prep for you. 5 or 4 months may not be enough but we make even 8-month study plans available to our users.

6. Have your own personalized CFA exam study plan and make sure you follow it:

Your next CFA exam prep needs to be revolutionary. That’s why you need a study plan that makes you work! Use this CFA exam study planner 4.0 to stay in control of your preparation. Personalize your study schedule so that it fits you. If it fits you well, it’ll be easier to follow. While customizing: (1) choose your start date; (2) specify which topics are easy, moderate, or difficult to you; (3) plan your holiday weeks (especially if you’re opting for more than 5 months of preparation – some rest will do you good!); (4) sign in for motivational messages if you feel you lack motivation and a proper review system if you don’t know how to study efficiently. You’re on the right track. Just keep on going .

I Passed My CFA Exam!
New Is Before Me...

CFA Exam Results New Format: Passed Exam

1. Look at your blue line showing your overall performance in the exam:

Congrats on passing your CFA exam! The next level’s waiting for you . New exam means a new challenge and new rules. You’ll do best if you start your new preparation with the analysis of your recent achievement. Because the closer you are to the MPS line, the more you may want to improve your studying process.

Below we show how you can do better. And there are at least two reasons why you should aim at doing better. Firstly, each next CFA exam level is harder than the previous one. Secondly, it’s not just a cliché – it’s a fact supported by fairly low and fixed pass rates. Every year, only around 50% of the successful-in-previous-level candidates pass their NEXT CFA EXAM. (The third reason we can think of is your natural desire to grow, which we strongly advocate .)

2. Compare your CFA exam topic results:

Start your analysis by looking at your topic performance. First, look at your Ethics score. Remember you will be tested on the same Code and Standards at each level of your CFA exam. Your latest Ethics result can tell you a lot. If it’s highly satisfactory, it says you should keep on studying Ethics the way you did (also, to a certain extent, it may be a good benchmark for studying other topics). If your Ethics score is unsatisfactory, you know you need to be more serious about this topic now. Also, pay attention to the topics you scored the lowest. Aren’t they your Achilles heel or was it just an accident? That’s important because topics often share some common concepts across exam levels. Identify all the topic areas common for your previous and next exam. Then, think how well you know it and how much you’ll need to improve.

3. Analyze the exam prep you had before your exam:

You never err by asking yourself what you did right and what you did wrong. Your exam prep is no exception. This way you develop your skills and competencies and you grow both as a student and as a human. Perhaps you’d like to be more organized and regular about your study hours? Or maybe you struggled with the motivation to study? Finally, you surely neglected spaced revision. Obviously, it was a mistake because it’s the best way to keep your learning curve up, not falling.

4. Write down all your conclusions:

Better organization? Maintained motivation? Study content revision? All this may be on your growth list. Your next CFA exam prep needs to be more advanced than the previous one because your next exam is going to be more advanced than the one you just passed. And we hope you’re not going to take it easy now just because you were successful once? Your next success is not coming cheap – you need to earn it!

5. Start your next preparation at least 5-4 months before your next exam:

If your previous exam prep was longer than that, feel free to stick to your way. All we’re saying is that the majority of CFA exam candidates do 5-4 months of prep. You need to choose what’s best for you and – since you already had quite a successful exam prep – you surely know it best. No matter the prep length – just make sure it’s approached responsibly and productively!

6. Have your own personalized CFA exam study plan and make sure you follow it:

A good study plan is a must for every successful exam preparation. We hope you agree. Here you can create your free CFA exam study plan and personalize it according to your needs. It puts you in control of your whole exam prep. Week by week you see your progress as you study readings. With our paid plans, you also get to know how long to study each reading. These estimations can be particularly helpful since you have no experience in preparing for the next exam level. To keep your motivation strong (and to add some fun to studying), you’ll also get your Chance-to-Pass-ScoreTM estimated and illustrated. It grows when you’re doing fine, i.e. when you mark your readings green for done, summarize your study achievements week by week, or do your spaced revision sessions scheduled throughout your whole preparation. Good luck with your upcoming prep!