Level I CFA Exam Structure – how does it all work?

The Level I CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam is the first of three levels in the CFA program, which is a globally recognized certification for finance and investment professionals. The Level I exam serves as an introduction to a broad range of fundamental concepts and tools used in finance and investment management. Here’s an overview of the Level I CFA exam structure:

1. Format:

  • The Level I CFA exam is a multiple-choice, computer-based test.
  • It consists of two sessions, with a morning and afternoon session.
  • Each session contains 90 questions, for a total of 180 questions in the Level I exam.
  • The questions are divided into two categories: “Item Set” questions and “Stand-Alone” questions.

2. Content Areas:

  • The Level I exam covers a wide range of topics, including:
    • Ethical and Professional Standards
    • Quantitative Methods
    • Economics
    • Financial Reporting and Analysis
    • Corporate Finance
    • Equity Investments
    • Fixed Income
    • Derivatives
    • Alternative Investments
    • Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning

3. Exam Duration:

  • The Level I CFA exam is a one-day examination.
  • Each of the two sessions is three hours long, making the total exam duration six hours.
  • There is a break between the morning and afternoon sessions.

4. Exam Date:

  • The Level I CFA exam is offered twice a year, typically in June and December.

5. Pass/Fail Outcome:

  • Candidates are informed whether they pass or fail the exam but do not receive specific scores.
  • The CFA Institute sets a minimum passing score for each exam, which is determined through a statistical process.

6. Registration:

  • Candidates need to register for the exam through the CFA Institute’s website.
  • There are registration deadlines, and candidates are encouraged to register well in advance.

7. Study Time:

  • The recommended study time for the Level I CFA exam is around 300 hours.

8. CFA Institute’s Ethical and Professional Standards:

  • The CFA Institute places a strong emphasis on ethical conduct. A portion of the Level I exam is dedicated to the CFA Institute’s Ethical and Professional Standards, which candidates are required to follow as charterholders.

9. Study Materials:

  • The CFA Institute provides a curriculum for each level of the exam, and candidates are encouraged to use these materials in their preparation.

Passing the Level I CFA exam is the first step toward obtaining the CFA charter. Candidates who successfully pass Level I are eligible to proceed to Level II of the program. The CFA designation is highly regarded in the finance industry and demonstrates a strong foundation in investment management and financial analysis.

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