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Preparing for Level I of the CFA® Exam

Studying for the Level I exam is crucial, and it takes a substantial effort.

There are no shortcuts. The one thing standing between you and success on the Level I CFA® Program exam is hard work. CFA Institute recommends you aim to spend at least 300 hours preparing for the Level I exam. Schweser’s Prepare • Practice • Perform® methodology gives you the structure you need to get the most out of the time you spend preparing.

Previous Knowledge

Prior to enrolling in the CFA Program, you are required to have a bachelor’s degree, or be in the final year of a bachelor’s degree program. That degree does not need to be in a particular area of study, but you will be in a much stronger position if your education is finance-based. The CFA Program is designed to be a supplement to a finance-related education and investment experience already completed by an investment professional. You don’t need to have a finance degree to sit for Level I, but you may face greater challenges than those who do have a finance-based education.

Study Tips and Tools

Looking for additional tips to help you prepare? Schweser has you covered.

  • Start early. Build your confidence by getting into a routine.
  • The tools in your study package are designed to work together. Use them all.
  • Find exam prep tips on the Schweser Blog.
  • Download our free eBook: CFA Fundamentals, 2nd edition.

How to Study

The Kaplan Way is a three-phase learning strategy: Prepare • Practice • Perform®. Using this methodology, we have built the most comprehensive study packages available for Level I of the CFA exam, designed to help you make the most of the time you spend preparing for the exam.

How Long It Takes to Study

The generally held notion is that candidates should spend an average of 300 hours studying for each level of the CFA Program exam. In a

2019 survey, Level I candidates reported spending an average of 303 hours studying for the exam.

Ready to Prepare for the Level I CFA® Exam?


View Study Packages

CFA Level I Exam Details

Registration and CFA® Exam Dates

July 2021

Level I July Computer-Based Exam Dates:
  • July 18–26, 2021
Registration and Scheduling Opens:
  • January 19, 2021
    Early Registration Deadline:
    • March 10, 2021
    Registration Closes:
    • April 20, 2021
    Scheduling Deadline:
    • May 11, 2021
    Rescheduling Deadline:
    • June 22, 2021


    Register for the CFA Exam


    Registration and CFA® Exam Dates

    August 2021

    Level I August Computer-Based Exam Dates:
    • August 13–30, 2021
    Registration Opens:
    • August 20, 2020
    Scheduling Opens:
    • November 3, 2020
    Early Registration Deadline:
    • February 11, 2021
    Registration Closes:
    • April 22, 2021
    Scheduling Deadline:
    • May 23, 2021
    Rescheduling Deadline:
    • July 22, 2021


    Register for the CFA Exam


    Registration and CFA® Exam Dates

    November 2021

    Level I November Computer-Based Exam Dates:
    • November 16–22, 2021
    Registration Opens:
    • August 20, 2020
    Scheduling Opens:
    • February 2, 2021
    Early Registration Deadline:
    • May 4, 2021
    Registration Closes:
    • July 20, 2021
    Scheduling Deadline:
    • August 15, 2021
    Rescheduling Deadline:
    • October 16, 2021


    Register for the CFA Exam


    Registration and CFA® Exam Dates

    February 2022

    Level I February Computer-Based Exam Dates:
    • February 15–21, 2022
    Registration and Scheduling Windows Open:
    • May 13, 2021
    Early Registration Deadline:
    • August 10, 2021
    Registration Closes:
    • November 1, 2021
    Scheduling Deadline:
    • November 17, 2021
    Rescheduling Deadline:
    • January 15, 2022


    Register for the CFA Exam

    Body of Knowledge

    The Learning Outcome Statements and core concepts in the CFA® Program are built on the Candidate Body of Knowledge (CBOK), a practice-based curriculum that is determined by thousands of CFA charterholders from around the world.

    All CFA exams are only offered in a computer-based format.

    Level I

    Candidates concentrate on the tools and concepts related to investment valuation and portfolio management, as well as an overview of how these processes fit within the guidelines of the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct. There are four Level I exam windows each year—February, May, August, and November. For 2021 only, CFA Institute added an additional exam window in July.

    Master these concepts with a comprehensive Level I study package:


    View Level I Packages

    Exam Format

      2021 Level I

      • Format: Computer-based and multiple-choice
      • Questions:
        • 180 equally weighted questions
        • Session 1: 90 questions
        • Session 2: 90 questions
        • Each session is 2 hours and 15 minutes long

      Learn more about the 2021 CFA exam changes »

      Our Level I study packages are built to replicate the exam, leaving no surprises on exam day. Begin your preparation today.


      Level I Study Packages

      Topic Weights by Level

      Level I

      For the 2021 Level I exams, the topics are weighted as follows:

      • Ethical and Professional Standards: 15%
      • Quantitative Methods: 10%
      • Economics: 10%
      • Financial Reporting and Analysis: 15%
      • Corporate Finance: 10%
      • Portfolio Management and Wealth Management: 6%
      • Equity Investments: 11%
      • Fixed Income: 11%
      • Derivative Investments: 6%
      • Alternative Investments: 6%

      For the 2022 Level I exams, the topics are weighted as follows: 

      • Quantitative Methods: 8-12%
      • Economics: 8-12%
      • Financial Reporting and Analysis: 13-17%
      • Corporate Issuers: 8-12%
      • Equity Investments: 10-12%
      • Fixed Income: 10-12%
      • Derivatives: 5-8%
      • Alternative Investments: 5-8%
      • Portfolio Management: 5-8%
      • Ethical and Professional Standards: 15-20%

      These topic weights were used to develop a Level I study plan you can follow to ensure complete coverage of the material. The study plan is included in all of our packages.


      Level I Study Packages

      Exam Results Available:

      December 2020 Exam:

      • January 28, 2021

      February 2021 Exam:

      • April 13, 2021

      May 2021 Exam:

      • Approximately 8-10 weeks after the exam window has closed

      July 2021 Exam:

      • Approximately 8-10 weeks after the exam window has closed

      August 2021 Exam:

      • Approximately 8-10 weeks after the exam window has closed

      November 2021 Exam:

      • Approximately 8-10 weeks after the exam window has closed

      February 2022 Exam:

      • Approximately 8-10 weeks after the exam window has closed

      May 2022 Exam:

      • Approximately 8-10 weeks after the exam window has closed

      CFA® Exam Requirements

      Candidate Eligibility Requirements

      To be eligible to enter the CFA® Program, you must accomplish the following:

      • Have a U.S. bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree
        • or select an exam window that is 11 months or fewer before your graduation month for your bachelor’s degree or equivalent program. Understand that you must complete your degree program prior to sitting for level II.
        • or have a combination of 4,000 hours of work experience and/or higher education that was acquired over a minimum of three sequential years and achieved by the date of registering for the Level I exam.
      • Meet the professional conduct admission criteria (during the application process, you will be asked to sign statements of Professional Conduct and Candidate Responsibility)
      • Be prepared to take the exams in English
      • Have a valid international travel passport (required for enrollment and exam registration)

      Enrollment and Exam Fees

      To enter into the CFA Program, candidates must pay a one-time registration fee of $450 in addition to the required enrollment fees for each Level. CFA Institute reference material and a partial mock exam are both included with candidate registration and enrollment.

      CFA Program exam fees range from $700 to $1,000, depending on your CFA Program exam level and when you register.

      How to Pass the 2021 Level I CFA® Exam