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The CFA Program® Exams

By Arif Irfanullah, CFA

Posted on 14-04-18 at 10:18 am

The Exams

The CFA Program has three levels.  The focus area and exam format for each level is shown below:


Level Focus Format
I Basic knowledge of ten topic areas and simple analysis using investment tools Two three-hour exams

120 multiple choice questions per exam

II Application of investment tools and concepts with a focus on the valuation of all types of assets Two three-hour exams

10 case studies per exam

6 multiple choice questions per case study

III Focuses on synthesizing all of the concepts and analytical methods in a variety of applications for effective portfolio management and wealth planning Two three-hour exams

Morning exam has a structured-response format (also called the essay exam)

Afternoon exam has 10 case studies with 6 multiple choice questions per case study (similar to the Level II format)



Topics and Weights

The topics and relative weights across the three levels are shown below:

Topic Area Level I Level II Level III
Ethical and 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
Equity Investments 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
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning 7 5-10 40-55
Total 100 100 100



Registration Deadlines and Fees

For the latest information about the deadlines and fees please visit the below link:


Useful Exam Calendar



There are multiple scholarship option available some which are listed below and you can also visit the link below to find out more about scholarships.

  • Access Scholarship
  • Women’s Scholarship
  • Student Scholarship


Pass Rates

Recent pass rates are as follows:

December 2017 exam pass rate:

  • Level I: 43%

June 2017 exam pass rate:

  • Level I: 43%
  • Level II: 47%
  • Level III: 54%

December 2016 exam pass rate:

  • Level I: 43%


How Much to Study

According to CFA Institute, June 2017 candidates reported the following number of study hours on average:

Level I 300 hours
Level II 328 hours
Level III 335 hours


While the numbers above give a sense for the hours of study required for each level, the amount of time you need to spend depends on your background, the speed with which you pick up new concepts and level of diligence with which you want to study the curriculum. You can use the following tool to estimate the time required to prepare for your exam:


We will cover this in more detail in the “How to Study” segment of this website.


Study Sessions and Learning Outcomes

The study sessions and learning outcomes are available here:



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