Candidates sitting to take the CFA exam

Posted by: Kaplan Schweser
Published: January 23, 2018

If you have considered sitting for Level I of the CFA® exam, you probably have questions. You’re always welcome to reach out to our knowledgeable Student Support team with any questions you have about preparing for the exam. We’ve also created this article to answer some of the most common questions we receive from people preparing to take the first step toward becoming a CFA charterholder.

What is a CFA®?

Let’s start with the basics. CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst®. It’s a professional designation administered by CFA Institute. According to CFA Institute, it’s the most respected and recognized investment management designation in the world.

How do I earn the CFA® charter?

In order to earn the CFA charter you must pass a series of three exams, in order: Level I, Level II, and Level III. Each exam builds on the mastery demonstrated by achieving a passing score on the previous exams.

Is the CFA® charter a degree?

It is not a degree. It’s a professional certification that demonstrates mastery of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management. Candidates do often weigh the benefits of the CFA charter against those of an MBA, which may be a contributing factor in this common misunderstanding.

What is the CFA® Level I exam date?

The 2018 Level I CFA exam will be offered on June 23, 2018. Previously, the exam had been offered earlier in the month of June, but CFA Institute made the move to a later exam date in 2018. CFA Institute also offers the CFA Level I exam in December. The 2018 December Level I exam date is December 1, 2018. The Level I exam is the only CFA exam offered twice per year.

What are the requirements to sit for the CFA® exam?

An individual wishing to enroll in the CFA Program and register for the Level I exam for the first time must possess an international travel passport. In addition, candidates must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Have earned a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree, or be in their final year of a bachelor’s program.
  • Have accumulated four years of applicable professional work experience (not required to be investment related).

Candidates may also have a combination of full-time professional experience and education that totals a minimum of four years. The four years of experience/education must be accrued prior to enrollment in the program.

What is the format of the Level I CFA® exam?

The Level I CFA exam is composed of 240 multiple-choice questions, covered in two 3-hour exam sessions. Candidates must attend both the morning and afternoon session, and 120 questions are asked in each. Both sessions cover all of the Level I topics.

What subjects or topics are tested on the Level I CFA® exam?

The June 2018 and December 2018 Level I CFA exam will cover the following topics:

  • Ethical and Professional Standards
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Economics
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Portfolio Management
  • Equity
  • Fixed Income
  • Derivatives
  • Alternative Investments

What are the Level I CFA® exam topic weights?

The weights of the Level I exam topics are subject to change on a year-to-year basis, at the discretion of CFA Institute. For the June 2018 and December 2018 Level I exams, topics are weighted as follows:

TopicExam Weight
Ethical and Professional Standards15%
Quantitative Methods12%
Economics10%
Financial Reporting and Analysis20%
Corporate Finance7%
Portfolio Management7%
Equity10%
Fixed Income10%
Derivatives5%
Alternative Investments4%

How much time does it take to study for the Level I CFA® exam?

The average candidate for the Level I CFA exam should spend roughly 300 hours over the course of six months preparing for the exam.

How hard is the Level I CFA® exam?

The CFA exam as a whole is difficult, by design. It’s an exclusive designation that truly demonstrates mastery. The pass rate for the June 2017 Level I CFA exam was 43%. According to CFA Institute, only 20% of candidates who begin the program actually earn the charter. You can greatly improve your odds of success by learning from other candidates’ experiences, and avoiding common pitfalls in your preparation.

How much does it cost to sit for the Level I CFA® Exam?

How much you’ll pay to sit for the Level I CFA exam depends on how early you register. CFA Institute has early, standard, and late registration deadlines, and the price goes up the later you register. The early registration fee is $650. If you register by the standard deadline you’ll pay $950. Late registration will cost you $1,380. There are two really good reasons to register early. First, you will save anywhere from $300 to $730, which you could invest into a CFA prep course. Second, the earlier you commit to sitting for the exam, the sooner you can begin preparing.

Now that you’ve gotten a basic tutorial on the common questions people have about the Level I CFA exam, learn why this designation is so widely sought after and respected. If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out to our Student Support team for the answers you need to take this next step in your career.