Students wanting to pursue the CFA Program often find themselves pursuing answers to a lot of questions instead. To help you avoid going round in circles gathering information, here below I have tried to present most of the information CFA aspirants should know about the CFA exam before deciding to jump in. Read along to get a hang of what you are looking at.
The Chartered Financial Analyst examination is an international certification provided by the America based CFA Institute. It is a well respected certification worldwide for investment and financial professionals. The CFA exam has three levels and clearing all three levels makes the candidate eligible to apply for the CFA charter. On completing the course you master portfolio management and investment analysis skills.
Eligibility to enroll for Level 1 of the CFA Exam
To be eligible to enroll for the level 1 of the CFA exams;
- You need to have a Bachelor’s or equivalent degree in any area or;
- Be in the final year of your bachelor’s program or;
- Have 4 years full time work experience in any field.
CFA Exam dates
The CFA Level 1 exam is conducted twice a year; in June and in December. CFA level 2 and 3 exams are conducted only once every year in June. They are usually conducted on a Saturday.
CFA Exam center locations
CFA exam is conducted in 170 cities in June and in 70 cities in December across the world. In India, CFA exam centers are located in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune. You can choose the center nearest to you while registering for the exam.
CFA exam fees
When you register for your CFA Level 1 exam you need to pay a one-time enrollment fee of US$ 450. Exam registration fees for each of the three levels are US$ 930 as on the date of writing. The fees are non-refundable. However in case of an exigency you may request the CFA Institute, by writing to them, to roll over your registration to the next exam date. They however may or may not oblige.
The exam fees include CFA Institute e-books and online mock exams.
CFA Exam Format
The CFA exams are 6 hour exams conducted over two sessions of 3 hours each, in the morning and in the afternoon on a single day.
In case of level 1 each session covers 120 multiple choice questions.
In the Level 2 exam, each session has 10 vignettes, followed by 6 questions each based on each of them. Therefore you will have a total of 120 questions on the level 2 exam compared to 240 questions on the level 1.
The morning session of the level 3 exam is in essay format containing 8-12 questions with several sub questions. Now here essay format does not mean the answers have to literally be essays. Answers in short bullet points are acceptable. Save time by keeping your answers short and to the point. Beware majority of the students are not able to complete the morning session of the level 3 exam. So keep it short. The afternoon session has 10 vignettes.
If you do not sit for the morning session, you cannot take the afternoon session. You must compulsorily sit for both the sessions or else you answers will not be graded.
Make sure you attempt all the questions as there are no negative markings for wrong answers.
CFA Exam Topic Weights
The topic weights are listed below;
|CFA Exam Topic Weights|
|Topics||Level 1||Level 2||Level 3|
|Ethical & Professional Standards||15%||10 – 15%||10 – 15%|
|Quantitative Methods||12%||5 – 10%||0%|
|Economics||10%||5 – 10%||5 – 15%|
|Financial reporting and analysis||20%||15 – 20%||0%|
|Corporate Finance||7%||5 – 15%||0%|
|Portfolio Management||7%||5 – 10%||40 – 55%|
|Equity||10%||15 – 25%||5 – 15%|
|Fixed Income||10%||10 – 20%||10 – 20%|
|Derivatives||5%||5 – 15%||5 – 15%|
|Alternative Investments||4%||5 – 10%||5 – 15%|
Different people hypothise different things about the minimum passing score or the net passing score on the CFA exam. The truth is nobody knows anything for sure, as the CFA Institute never comments on how it grades the answers, what is the MPS or what constitutes pass and what constitutes fail. So I suggest you pay equal attention to all subjects and ensure you clear them all, never mind the topic weights.
CFA Study materials
The study materials in the form of CFA Institute curriculum books come packaged with the exam registration. Besides these there are many CFA study guides and question banks available in the market.
You can read their reviews here below;
CFA Program Policies
The CFA exam policies are not to be taken lightly. Ensure you follow each one of them diligently. Not doing so may get you debarred from the exam and perhaps from the CFA Program itself.
CFA Exam Admission and Departure Policy
Ensure you arrive at the test location at least 1 hour in advance. On arrival your documents will be verified before you are permitted to enter the test room. Permitted verification document is your international travel passport only. The name on the passport should match the name on the admission ticket. So take care to use the name on your passport while registering for the exam.
The doors of the test room close half an hour before the start of the session. In case you arrive 30 minutes after the start of the session you will not be allowed to take the exam and nor will your fees be refunded.
Inside the test room you must sit according to the seat no. printed on your admission ticket.
After the exam you must remain seated until the proctors collect all the question and answer booklets and you are explicitly permitted to leave the room.
CFA Program Answer sheet / Exam Book Policy
You must not open your booklets before being told to do so by the proctors.
Your answers must be marked in the answer booklet only. Answers written in the question booklet will not be graded.
Answers must be marked by shading the appropriate ovals on the answer sheet with a No.2 or HB pencil only. For the essay portion of the level 3 exam you may use a blue or black ink pen.
For the essay portion of the level 3 exam, answers must be written in the designated pages only.
You can do scratch work in the question booklet only. Do not do any scratch work on your answer sheet or admission ticket. And don’t remove any pages from your booklets.
CFA Exam Calculator Policy
Only two calculator models are permitted to be used on the CFA examination;
- 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)
Ensure you buy your calculator well before the exam and practice using it well. You can buy the Texas BA II plus professional calculator through this site itself. Read the review here.
You are permitted to carry extra calculator cells to the exam room. However I suggest you change the cells before you go for the exam so that you don’t waste precious time changing calculator cells on the exam. Time is of essence on the CFA Exam.
CFA Program Identification Policy
As already mentioned before, only International Travel Passport is permitted. The name on the passport should match the name on the Admission Ticket. So take care to use the name on the passport to register for the CFA exam.
Present your original passport only and not a photocopy. The passport should be valid and should not have expired.
CFA Exam Personal Belongings Policy
The following items must be kept on your desk:
- Exam admission ticket
- Valid international travel passport
- Approved calculators
- Approved writing instruments
The following items may be kept on your desk, if needed:
- Manual pencil sharpeners (no knives)
- Erasers, with no paper holder or cover
- Loose calculator batteries (no packaging) and screwdriver for battery replacement
- Calculator cases and keystroke cards
- Eyeglasses, but not the eyeglasses case
- Wristwatches (analog and digital) with alarms and timers silenced; however, all smart watches are prohibited
The following items are permitted in the testing room but must remain in your pockets or under your chair when not in use:
- Wallet (money purse)
- Medicine, tissues, and other necessary medical or personal items
- Gum, hard candy, cough drops
- Eyeglasses case
The following items are not permitted:
- Food or drinks
- Baggage of any kind, including transparent bags, backpacks, handbags, tote bags, briefcases, luggage, carrying cases, passport covers, or pencil cases
- Study materials, including notes, papers, textbooks, or study guides
- Scratch paper, present/future value tables, or calculator manuals
- Highlighters, correction fluid, correction tape, or rulers
- Weapons of any kind
- Mobile phones, cameras, headsets, computers, tablets, wearable technology (such as fitbit® or other fitness tracking devices), smart watches, or any Bluetooth®-enabled or any remote communication or photographic devices
- Any type of desk clock or timer
Phew!! That covers about most of it. I know it’s a truckload of information to remember besides having to digest the study material but nobody said the CFA Program was a breeze!. Now I leave you to take your call…should you plunge in? ….or not?!
Ciao and all the best……