The CFA® Institute has introduced some major changes to the CFA® exam pattern. Owing to the pandemic, the CFA® Institute will only offer CFA® exams in a computer-based format from 2021. This might be good news for many, but the ones who preferred paper-based exams will have to adapt to the computer-based CFA® exam format.
All the three levels will be conducted in a computer-based CFA® exam format from 2021, which means only the exams attempted in 2020 will be the last exam offered in a paper-based exam format. The benefit of the transition to computer-based CFA® exams is that it will make scheduling exams and exam setups easier. The exams will be offered at more locations and centers, plus the frequency of the exams will also increase. Having said that, the Level I CFA® exam will be offered four times a year instead of two starting from 2021. The frequency of Level II CFA® exams and Level III CFA® exams has also doubled with exams being offered twice a year.
Earlier, all the candidates had to appear for the CFA® exams on a single predetermined date by the institute. With the new transition, candidates will have an option to schedule their CFA® exams on any day within the ten days predetermined exam window. The candidate can choose a date and location/center of their choice.
Level I CFA® exam
Level II CFA® exam
Level III CFA® exam
As displayed in the table, a candidate can opt for the Level I CFA® exam in the four months – February, May, August, and November. THE level II CFA® exam can be attempted in May and August, while the Level III CFA® exam can be attempted in May and November. Students who have already registered for the Dec 2020 attempt can reschedule their exams to 2021.
Key takeaways from the new CFA® exam rules and schedule:
- Students have the option to reschedule their December 2020 CFA® exams to 2021 for free, which means there will be no charges to reschedule the exams. Since there is uncertainty regarding the situation in Dec 2020, it is a good opportunity for students to rethink and opt for an exam at a later date
- The frequency of CFA® exams per year has doubled for Level I, Level II, and Level III. Level I will take place four times a year, Level I will take place twice a year and Level II will take place twice a year
- The CFA® exam months have been changed to February, May, August, November where Level I can be attempted in any of the four months, Level II can be attempted in May and August, and Level III can be attempted in May and November
- Candidates can opt for any CFA® exam date between the ten days window period offered by the CFA® Institute
- The number of test centers to increase due to computer-based CFA® exam testing format, and it is compulsory for the students to take the exam from any one of these defined test centers
- Precautions and measures will be taken for safety during the pandemic at all the test centers
In case a student had registered for the June 2020 attempt, which was postponed, and the future attempt scheduled also gets postponed, they will have an option to either reschedule their CFA® exam or claim a refund for the CFA® exam fee paid for the June 2020 exam. For candidates who already have an exam scheduled in December 2020 and wish to reschedule the CFA® exam to 2021, here’s how you can do it:
If you want to reschedule your Dec 2020 CFA® exam to 2021, sign in to your account on the exam registration portal. Go to the CFA® Program option/section and look for Manage Your Exam option. The instructions to withdraw from the exam have been listed there. Once you have withdrawn from the Dec 2020 exam, you can re-register for any attempt in 2021.
Note: The rescheduling option is only available before 21 October 2020.
However, there will be a slight change in the CFA® exam months for Level II from 2022. Instead of May, the exams will be conducted in February. Hence, candidates will be able to appear for Level II CFA® exams in February and August only.
Level I CFA® exam
Level II CFA® exam
Level III CFA® exam
Quick Summary of Changes: 2021 CFA® Level 1 Computer-Based Testing
Dec 2020 Level I CFA® Exam
Feb 2021 Level I CFA® Exam
|Exam Format for Level I||240 Multiple choice questions, split into 2 equal sessions:||180 Multiple choice questions, split into 2 equal sessions:|
|Locations||Exam offered in 87 locations globally||Exam offered in 400+ locations globally|
|If passed, when can I take the Level II Exam, at the earliest?||If you pass the Level I Dec 2020 exam, you can register for Level II May 2021 exam||If passed Level I Feb 2021 exam, you can register for Level II Aug 2021 exam (6 months minimum between exams)|
|If failed, when is the earliest I can retake Level I?||If you fail the Level I Dec 2020 exam, the earliest you can retake the exam is May 2021.||If you fail Level I Feb 2021 exam, the earliest you can retake the exam is August 2021 (6 months minimum between exams)|
|Exam results availability||Within 60 days of taking the exam||Results are not instantaneous, but would be faster than paper-based format (i.e. less than 60 days)|
However, despite increasing the frequency of the CFA® exam a year, there are some restrictions to the number of attempts a candidate can opt for in a year. As per the new CFA® exam pattern, a candidate cannot register for the next immediate exam month. That means if a candidate is appearing for an exam in May 2021, they cannot register for any examination in August 2021. They will be eligible to register for the CFA® exam taking place in November 2021. This rule applies to the candidate irrespective of the Level they are registering for and irrespective of whether they clear or they don’t clear the previously attempted examination. As per the above rule, there has to be a minimum of six months of gap between the two CFA® exam attempts. This restricts the number of attempts to two per year for a candidate appearing for any Level.
There will be some change in the CFA® exam format and duration as well from 2021. The duration of all the exams has been reduced from 6 hours to 4.5 hours. Along with the duration, the length of the CFA® exams has also been reduced. Level I CFA® exams full time will have a total of 180 MCQs, Level II CFA® exams will have 120 MCQ’s (20 cases with six questions each), and Level III CFA® exams will have essay type questions and MCQs.