CFA Exam: A Complete Guide

CFA, Test Preparation

CFA Exam A Complete Guide

Chartered Financial Analyst® has become synonymous with a successful career in investment and financial management. Not just being in demand, it is fast becoming a requisite for a successful career and quantum growth in professional life. Being a CFA® Charter holder equips one with the skills and knowledge for success in the field of investment. The Chartered Financial Analyst program guarantees credibility and highest ethical standards. Not considering acquiring this credential is a faux pas to be avoided by anyone interested in being a Portfolio Manager, Equity Research Analyst, Fund Manager, Wealth Manager, CFO, or Risk Consultant. Passing CFA exams is a stepping stone for accessing opportunities across the world. 

The CFA Program is conducted by the CFA Institute which conducts the Level I, Level II, and Level III exams. Upon passing all these levels, a candidate receives the CFA® Charter. 

Benefits of clearing CFA Exam

  • It’s Globally Recognised

With over 60 decades of experience in training for investment careers, this program is recognized and respected across the world, ensuring better visibility for a CFA Charter holder.

  • Wide variety of job opportunities

Banks, investment firms, asset management giants, and hedge funds companies demand the kind of training which the CFA program covers. With stress on not just Economics but also Portfolio Management, Equity Investments, Corporate Finance, among other areas, The CFA Program increases the prospects of lucrative employment offers.

  • Trains for real skills

The focus of the CFA Program isn’t just knowledge driven curriculum but acquiring skills needed in the real competitive world of the corporate universe. It pushes for development of a candidate in all aspects and makes the candidate ready to tackle the challenges of the job.

  • Saves time and money

Compared to programs like MBA, CFA isn’t all that heavy on resources like time and money. Those aiming for a career in finance can skip MBA and concentrate on receiving the CFA® Charter by attempting the exams. 

How to register for the CFA® Program?

To become a CFA candidate, you must enroll in the CFA® Program and register for the Level I exam. The registration has to be done on the official CFA website.

The CFA Institute is rather strict about its onboarding process and hence one must carefully go through the eligibility requirements given on the website. All important notifications regarding the exams and the Program are posted on the website regularly.

What is the eligibility required to pursue The CFA® Program?

As per CFA Institute website, a candidate has to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: the candidate must have attained a bachelor’s degree or a degree from an equivalent program.
  • Final-Year Student: A final year student of a bachelor’s program or an equivalent program can enroll for the Level I exam. But it is imperative that the degree course is to be completed before registering for Level II exam.
  • Work Experience: a combination of 4,000 hours of work experience and/or higher education acquired over three sequential years at least by the time of registration of Level 1 exam will be implemented from March 2021. Part-time work DOES NOT count.

CFA Levels and Syllabus

The CFA Institute clearly states the syllabus and the weightage the various topics carry, on its website. Candidates have to check the website for all the updated information. Topics and Weights are updated every year.

CFA® Level 1

Multiple-choice exam covers 10 topic areas focusing on the knowledge and comprehension of investment tools. 

TopicsWeightage (%)
Ethics and Professional Standards15-20
Quantitative Methods8-12
Financial Reporting and Analysis13-17
Corporate Finance8-12
Equity Investments10-12
Fixed Income10-12
Alternative investments5-8
Portfolio Management5-8

CFA® Level 2 

Multiple-choice exam consisting of item-sets. After 2021, Level II will be offered twice a year.

TopicsWeightage (%)
Ethics and Professional Standards10-15
Quantitative Methods5-10
Financial Reporting and Analysis10-15
Corporate Finance5-10
Equity Investments10-15
Fixed Income10-15
Alternative investments5-10
Portfolio Management10-15

CFA® Level 3:

Constructed response (essay-type) questions and item-sets with multiple choice questions.

TopicsWeightage (%)
Ethics and Professional Standards10-15
Quantitative Methods
Financial Reporting and Analysis
Corporate Finance
Equity Investments10-15
Fixed Income15-20
Alternative investments5-10
Portfolio Management35-40

Exam Pattern

  •  From 2021 the CFA exam has transitioned to being an online exam for all three levels. 
  •  30 are minutes allotted to pledge, tutorial, and survey
  • 135 minutes for session 1
  • 30 minutes for optional break
  • 135 minutes for session 2
  • Total testing time is 4.5 hours
  • Total appointment time is 5.5 hours

Exam Fees

  • Registration cost varies depending on when a candidate decides to  register for the exam. A one time enrolment fee of USD 450 is to be paid while registering for the Level 1 exam. 
  • Check the CFA Institute website for the Early Enrollment and Standard Enrollment Fees.
  • Rescheduling the exam will lead to USD 25 as rescheduling fee.

CFA Exam Cycle

For 2021

MonthsLevel ILevel IILevel III
Feb.Level I
MarchLevel I ( eligible candidates only)
MayLevel ILevel IILevel III
JulyLevel I  (registration opens Jan 19)
AugustLevel ILevel IILevel III 9 registration open Jan 19)
Nov.Level ILevel II  (registration opens Feb. 2)Level III

2022 Onwards

  • Level I will be offered each quarter
  • Level II and Level III will alternate each quarter
Feb.Level ILevel II
MayLevel ILevel III
AugustLevel ILevel II
Nov.Level ILevel III

Career Opportunities after CFA Program

CFA opens the path to many choices and openings. The list is long and with the world as your playing field nothing can stop you from availing them. The following are the arenas you can be a part of after becoming CFA Charterholder.

  • Corporate Banking
  • Quantitative Analytics
  • Asset management
  • Equities
  • Private Equity
  • Risk Management
  • Research
  • Derivatives
  • Wealth Management
  • Capital Markets
  • Trading

So if one is determined to crack the CFA exams, it is needless to say that skilled and dedicated guidance is imperative from the CFA®  Charter holder faculty.

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