Passing the CFA exams program requires a strong discipline and a vast amount of studying. The three exams can be taken once a year in June, with the exception of Level I, which took place in December and June.
Although exams can be taken as many times as needed, each exam typically requires candidates for the study of over 300 hours. Based on the latest candidate survey conducted by the CFA Institute, the average candidate studied 308 hours for exams. Given the length of time spent studying, many candidates are discouraged from continuing the CFA program after failing one of the levels. To receive a card, each candidate must pass all three exams and have four years of qualified work experience in investment decisions.
Although the exams are difficult, there are more than 135,000 members across 150 countries and territories. Having the right CFA study material and the discipline to follow the plan are the essential skills for the passage of all three exams.
The tests cover topics, including ethics and professional standards, quantitative methods, economics, financial and analytical reporting, corporate finance, equity investments, derivatives, alternative investments, portfolio management and asset planning. The six-hour exam covers a wide range of topics, which is why most CFA charter holders recommend studying more than 300 hours. The books provided by the CFA Institute provide more material than is necessary to learn for the exam. Many candidates choose to study from an alternative source of preparation materials, such as scholarship books provided by Schweser. Classes, videos and online quizzes can also provide assistance in studying for exams.
The CFA Institute reports that historical passing rates for each level of examinations are typically between 40 and 50%. However, transit rates were much higher when the tests were started in 1963 and have been going down since then. The June 2016 results indicate that 43% of the candidates have approved Level I, 46% passed II level and 53% passed level III. Level III results typically have the highest step rates of all levels. About 20% of applicants who sign up for the exam do not end up presenting for the test. The average candidate lasts four years to receive a card.
While the test materials are very difficult, the exam questions are specially designed to trick candidates. For this reason, candidates must take many practice tests and go through practice questions to prepare for the exam and get a feel for the types of questions they will encounter. Level I has 240 multiple choice questions, Level II consists of 20 item-set questions and Level III has a combination of item-set questions and short essays. Although multiple level choice questions I have only three possible answers, candidates need to carefully read the questions to select the correct answers, which can often include none of the above and all of the above as possible answers. The pressure of time during exams also creates a bit of anxiety for the candidates.
Overall, the CFA exams are very difficult, but candidates can increase their chances to go through the study for over 300 hours using alternative preparation materials, answering all the possible practice questions and creating a structured study plan. . Finishing the entire CFA program can be very rewarding, and the designation is recognized by companies across the financial industry. Charter holders can advance in their investment career through the knowledge they earn and their access to the vast network of CFA professionals.