How Difficult Is It to Pass the CFA® Exam?

How Difficult Is It to Pass the CFA® Exam?

If you are a financial professional earning a CFA charter will enhance your career and help you stand out. One of the first and most common questions candidates ask is how easy it is to pass the CFA exam.

Let us explore how high the pass rate is and what charterholders have to say about the challenges of taking the exam.

How High is the CFA Pass Rate?

The CFA Institute determines a minimum pass score using a unique method applied to all exam levels but is not made known to the public.

CFA Exam Pass Rates in 2019

The CFA Institute provided the following data for the exams carried out in 2019:

  • Level I (June) – 41%
  • Level I (December) – 42%
  • Level II – 44%
  • Level III – 56%

CFA Exam Pass rates in 2020

Due to the worldwide Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, all CFA exams (all three levels) were only conducted in December. The June 2020 exams were rescheduled.

The December 2020 CFA exam pass rates were as follows:

  • Level I – 49%
  • Level II – 55%
  • Level III – 56%

CFA Exam Pass rates in 2021

The computer-based Feb level I test was the first CFA exam held in 2021 and the pass rate was 44%.

May 2021 CFA exam pass rates were as follows:

  • Level I- 25%
  • Level II- 40%
  • Level III- 42%

In July 2021, only Level I of the CFA exams were held and the pass rate was 22%.

August 2021 CFA exam pass rates were as follows :

  • Level I – 26%
  • Level II – 29%
  • Level 3 – 39%

The CFA Institute has made changes to how they will release the pass rates. The CFA Institute will announce the level I pass rates four times in 2022 due to the additional exam sittings for 2021. The pass rates for Levels II and III will be made known for every exam window.

How Challenging is the CFA Exam?

As evidenced by the pass rate data, the CFA exam is not easy. Each level also gets progressively more challenging, and the number of candidates who successfully register and pass all three exam levels is negligible. It is possible to attain this success, but you should be prepared for the challenge when enrolling in the CFA program.

What do CFA Charterholders Say?

Think of CFA Exam Preparation as Long-term Training

Former CFA Program candidates and successful charterholders say that preparing for the exam is a long-term commitment that takes a lot of time. Think of it as preparing for a marathon, where you need to commit and consistently put in the work.

As a candidate, you should keep in mind that the exam tests your knowledge and skill to apply this knowledge to solve real-life problems. Therefore, you will not pass by cramming for the CFA exams. Consequently, you need to put in the recommended 300 hours of study for each level to develop the required skills.

Be Prepared to Make Sacrifices

Candidates need to make sacrifices in their lives to put in at least 300 hours of study for each level. This is more challenging if you study while working full time and giving up leisure and social time.

As a candidate, it is essential to have time management and organization skills to balance studies and other responsibilities. For example, creating a study plan as early as possible and adhering to it will help you put in the required hours.

Having Work Experience Makes Studying Easier

The CFA Program curriculum helps candidates in financial investments and portfolio management careers stand out. Consequently, the information is relevant, and working candidates can relate the concepts to real life. Candidates can retain the information better when applying what they learn.

What can I do to Increase my Chances of Passing the CFA Exam?

You should prepare for the CFA exams and be ready to put in many hours of study and practice for each level. The following study tips will help you have the best chance of success.

I. Set up a Study Routine and Adhere to it

To pass your exams, you need to understand the material and have the skills to apply this knowledge. The exam will test how to apply what you learned to different scenarios.

Setting up a study routine will help you attain this high level of understanding and application skills, and starting a study routine as early as possible will go a long way in helping you achieve this.

II. Pay Attention to the Core Areas of Study and Expected Learning Outcomes

As discussed above, there are some core areas of the curriculum that you need to master in your studies. During your study sessions, you should pay more attention to these topics to master them.

Specific learning outcomes refer to what you should be able to do by the end of your curriculum. The actual knowledge, skills, and abilities that the lecturer or instructor intends for you to learn or develop. Specific learning outcomes are measurable and tested, for example, asking you to explain, identify or analyze a concept.

Close attention to the core areas of study and understanding the expected learning outcomes will help you have a more focused study session.

Practice Taking the Exam Using Mock Tests

You must be familiar with the terms used in the tests and how to answer the questions effectively. Practice using mock exams and practice questions as many times as possible, leading to your scheduled test. Taking mock exams will enable you to identify any knowledge gaps and adjust your study sessions. You will also understand the terms used during testing, the calculations required, and how to apply the knowledge to solve problems.

Contact us at and access our extensive computer-based mock exam database. Our simulated exams are mimic the test at the end of your course and equip you with experience to help you pass any level.

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