The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam is a globally recognized professional designation offered by the CFA Institute, aimed at financial and investment professionals. The CFA exam structure is rigorous and is designed to test the competence and integrity of financial analysts. Here is an overview of the CFA exam structure, which is divided into three levels:


Level I: Focus on Basic Knowledge and Comprehension

– Frequency and Format: The Level I exam is offered four times a year (February, May, August, and November) and is conducted in a computer-based test format.

– Subjects Covered: It focuses on basic knowledge and comprehension of investment tools, including quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity investments, fixed income, derivatives, alternative investments, and portfolio management and wealth planning.

– Question Format: The exam consists of 180 multiple-choice questions, divided into two 135-minute sessions. Questions test candidates’ understanding of ethical and professional standards, as well as their basic knowledge of investment concepts.


Level II: Application and Analysis

– Frequency and Format: The Level II exam is offered twice a year, in February and August, also in a computer-based test format.

– Subjects Covered: This level emphasizes the application of investment tools and concepts with a focus on the valuation of all types of assets. Topics include asset valuation, application of tools and concepts in investment valuation and analysis, and understanding of industry and company analysis.

– Question Format: The exam consists of item set questions (mini-cases of vignettes followed by 4 to 6 multiple-choice questions). The test is divided into two sessions, each containing a mix of item set questions.


Level III: Synthesis and Evaluation

– Frequency and Format: Like Level II, the Level III exam is offered twice a year (February and August) and is computer-based.

– Subjects Covered: The final level focuses on synthesizing all the knowledge, skills, and abilities learned in Levels I and II with an emphasis on portfolio management and wealth planning. This level tests candidates’ ability to manage portfolio investments and plan for wealth, considering both institutional and individual client needs.

– Question Format: The Level III exam includes item set questions and constructed response (essay) questions. The morning session contains essay questions that test the candidates’ ability to formulate investment strategies and propose solutions to real-world financial situations. The afternoon session consists of item sets.

Across all levels, the CFA exams require a strong foundation in ethical and professional standards. Candidates are expected to adhere to the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct. Passing these exams requires a significant investment of time and effort, with candidates typically studying for 300 to 400 hours for each level. The rigorous nature of the CFA exam structure ensures that those who earn the CFA charter are well-equipped with the necessary skills to excel in the global investment profession.