CFA level 1 exam is the first of the three-tier exams we need to go through in the CFA Program. It involves basic knowledge and comprehension questions focusing on investment tools, and some questions will require analysis.
CFA Level 1 Curriculum
The syllabus is diversified with an emphasis on financial reporting and analysis, ethical and professional standards, economics and quantitative methods.
Some of these topics will be repeated in Level 2 and 3, but with less emphasis.
The focus of this level is on testing of knowledge and comprehension, instead of analysis and application.
We have a page that discuss Level 1 syllabus extensively.
CFA Level 1 Exam Format
Level 1 is 100% multiple choice questions. There are 120 questions in the morning session and 120 in the afternoon, and each session is 3 hours long. This implies you have 90 seconds per question on average.
All questions are equally weighted and positively graded. Each question is independent of each other.
CFA Level 1 Pass Rates
The pass rate has been consistently below 50% but has stabilized in the last 10 years.
Don’t be scared by this statistics — one main reason is the low barrier entry of the exam itself. Remember that a bachelor degree or work experience in ANY industry can get you qualified for the exam, which means a fair number of candidates do not have prior knowledge in finance or investment. If you pick the right CFA review material and spend sufficient time preparing for it, you have a much higher chance of success.
If you look at the statistics of Level 2 and 3 (when the “casual” candidates are screened out), the latest pass rate is 46% and 54% respectively. It’s still difficult to pass, but you see a reasonable level that is more aligned with the other professional exams.
3 Things to Know before the Registration
CFA Level 1 Exam Date
Level 1 is offered twice a year, on the first Saturday of June and December. This is different from Level 2 and 3 which are offered only in June.
CFA Level 1 Exam Fee
There is a one-time enrollment fee of $450 once you enter the CFA program. Then, when you are ready, pay for the Level 1 exam fee, which ranges from $650 to $1,280 depending on the time you register.
To maximize the saving, aim for the early bird which is as early as 9 months before the exam day. This means mid September for June exam, and mid March for December exam.
Exam Grading and Results
Results of Level 1 exam is typically released within 60 days. The fastest and most convenient way is to check the score online (candidate ID required). The minimum passing score is different from year to year.