CFA Exam

Updated July 2, 2021

What Is the CFA Exam?

The CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam is a professional qualification exam administered as a requirement to earn the CFA designation. The three levels of the exam are offered annually by CFA Institute to financial and investment professionals. 

The CFA exam was first offered in 1963. Originally offered in just the U.S. and Canada, the exam is now offered globally, with less than 50% of CFA candidates residing in North America.

CFA Exam Requirements

The exam is one requirement of becoming a CFA charterholder. To become a charterholder, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent or completing the final year of a Bachelor’s program.
  • Completion of all three levels of the CFA curriculum and passing each corresponding exam.
  • 4 years (48 months) of relevant, professional work experience as deemed by the CFA institute. Certain levels of the exam may be taken while this requirement is being completed.
  • 2 to 3 letters of recommendation.
  • Practice of and adherence to CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.

The Three Levels of the CFA Exam

  • Level I focuses on acquiring skills and basic knowledge from the domains of quantitative skills, financial reporting, economics, and ethics as the foundation for asset valuation and portfolio management.
  • Level II focuses on performing asset valuation and applying the tools and knowledge of financial reporting and financial analysis.
  • Level III focuses on applying portfolio management strategies to successfully use equity, fixed income, and derivative investments for both institutions and individuals.

What Are the CFA Exam Pass Rates?

Over the last decade, 38% of all candidates pass Level I, 43% pass Level II, and 54% pass Level III for an average overall pass rate of 45%. It takes the average candidate four years to complete all three levels.

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Rachel Siegel, CFA is one of the nation's leading experts at ensuring the accuracy of financial and economic text.  Her prestigious background includes over 10 years creating professional financial certification exams and another 20 years of college-level teaching.

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