CFA Level 1 exam is the first of the three-tier tests to pass in the CFA Program. It involves basic knowledge and comprehension questions focusing on investment tools, and some questions require analysis. Plus, the CFA Level 1 syllabus changed somewhat in 2022, so let’s review the content you need to know to pass.
The CFA Level 1 exam focuses on knowledge and comprehension instead of analysis and application.
The syllabus is diversified with emphases on ethical and professional standards, tools, portfolio management and analysis, and assets.
The rest includes corporate finance, equity, fixed income, derivatives and portfolio management, most of which will be repeated in Level 2 and 3 with more emphasis.
Basically, here’s what you will encounter on the Level 1 exam:
In fact, we have a page that discusses the CFA Level 1 syllabus extensively.
Level 1 is 100% multiple choice questions. There are 120 questions in the morning session and 120 in the afternoon, and each session is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long. Therefore, you have 90 seconds per question on average.
All questions are equally weighted and positively graded. Each question is independent of the others.
The CFA Level 1 exam is only given during certain times of the year. Here’s a list of the upcoming CFA exam dates for Level 1:
Please note that the test dates for Levels 2 and 3 are limited, too. Therefore, you should strategize when you’d like to start your CFA journey.
You can find detailed discussions here:
The pass rate has been consistently below 50% but has stabilized in the last 10 years.
Don’t be scared by these statistics — one main reason is the low barrier of entry to the exam itself. Remember that a bachelor’s degree or work experience in ANY industry can qualify you 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 for Levels 2 and 3 (when the “casual” candidates are screened out), the latest pass rate is 42% and 48.5%, respectively. It’s still difficult to pass, but you see a reasonable level that is more aligned with the other professional exams.
There is a one-time enrollment fee of $350 once you enter the CFA program. Then, when you are ready, pay for the Level 1 exam fee, which ranges from $900 to $1,200 depending on the time you register.
To maximize the saving, aim for early bird CFA registration, which is as early as 9 months before the exam day.
Results of the Level 1 exam are 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.