Changes to CFA® Exams in 2021

Changes to CFA® Exams in 2021

Exam Postponements in 2020

In 2020, Coronavirus disrupted the normal functioning of the whole world.  For this reason, CFA Institute decided to postpone the CFA exams, and in so doing, allowed candidates an extra 6 months to study. Postponing exam dates directly translates to more study time! All other factors held constant; more study time directly translates to increased chances of passing the various exams. Who wouldn’t want to increase their chances of passing the exams?

Exam Dates for 2021

Before 2021, level I of the CFA exam was held only twice a year, in June and December. Starting in 2021, CFA Institute will now be offering the exams four times a year, with each quarter having an exam date. The exams will be offered in February, May, August, and November. It is, however, essential to note that the Institute will not permit candidates to book consecutive exam dates. To allow candidates to have at least 300 hours of study time, the Institute will require candidates to have at least six months waiting period between exam levels.

2021 Changes to the Waiting Period between CFA Exam Levels

Consider a candidate X. Assume that X passes all her exam levels on her first attempt. If X sits for her level I exams in December 2020, she will attempt level II in May 2021 and level III in November 2021. After that, X will be eligible for a CFA charter.

If she sits for her level I in Feb 2021, she will attempt level II in Aug 2021 and level III in May 2022. After that, she will be eligible for a CFA charter. If she decides to sit for her level I exams in May 2021, she will be allowed to attempt level II exams in Feb 2022 and level III in Nov 2022 and will, after that, be eligible for a CFA charter.

Assume that X fails level I on her first attempt, December 2020. X will be required to repeat level I in May 2021, and upon passing, X will be permitted to attempt level II in Nov 2021.

The above shows that the Institute requires at least six months waiting period between exam dates.

CFA Exam Duration

In 2020, level I of the CFA exams were offered in two three-hour sessions (morning and afternoon session). Come 2021, following the changes made, CFA exams will be offered in two sessions of two hours and 15 minutes each (2.25 hours). In addition to the time reduction, candidates will be free to walk out of the exam session as soon as they finish, even if the exam is still in session.

CFA Exams Number of Questions

Were you worried about the time reduction, as discussed above? Worry no more. The Institute has reduced the number of questions of level I of the CFA exams from 240 to 180. The computer-based exams will be held in two sessions (morning and afternoon session) of two hours and 15 minutes each. Not only that, but candidates will have up to 7 days to attempt their exams as compared to the traditional one-day exam.

However, the reduction in time and the number of questions should not be confused for more straightforward exams. The Institute is well known for setting rigorous exams that test on a wide array of concepts, and this will remain.

Paper-based to Computer-based Exams

The December exams are the last of the paper-based exams. Come 2021, level I exams will be computer-based. This is a move made by the CFA Institute to better align with the market demands of the profession and solve the social distancing problems required by most governing bodies.

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What remains?

Despite all these changes, there are a couple of things that will remain as they are.

  1. Exam topics – The Institute will still test on ten topics (Ethics, Quantitative Methods, Economics, Financial Reporting and Analysis, Corporate Finance, Equities, Fixed Income, Derivatives, Alternative Investments, and Portfolio Management). The percentage of questions allocated to each topic will remain.
  2. Exam pass rates – In its quest to remain the unrivaled professional paper in the financial sector, the Institute has not relaxed its pass rate. As such, we should still see an average pass rate of around 42% for level I, 44% for level II, and 56% for level III. Source:
  3. Registration fee – For 2021 exams, the level I registration fee is between USD 700 and USD 1000, plus a one-time fee of USD 450 to register onto the CFA Program (only at level I). Also, note that there is a USD 250 rescheduling fee if you wish to modify the date of your exam. Source:

Final Word

CFA Institute recommends 300 hours of study time to pass each exam. Before embarking on the journey to becoming a financial analyst, candidates need dedication and motivation, because this will likely be one of the hardest things they have done in their lives.

However, the CFA® Preparation Platform offered by AnalystPrep might help candidates increase their chances of success. AnalystPrep offers video lessons and study notes covering the full curriculum, question bank and mock exams to practice solving as many practice questions as possible, and many other helpful study tools such as a formula sheet.

You may start your preparation here:

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