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This change gave candidates around the world greater accessibility and flexibility in taking the exam. The shift to a digital environment matches the real-world landscape CFA charters can expect in their careers. Here’s how this change will affect your CFA exam preparation as well as your testing experience.

CFA Computer-Based Exam – Key Takeaways

The new exam format brought a number of changes to your exam: format, preparation, and registration. Here are a few major differences to expect as you work toward your CFA charter.

  • Computer-based testing is now available for all three exams. While you can wave goodbye to paper-based exams, you can still bring your own calculator—Texas Instruments BA II Plus or the Hewlett Packard 12C. The CFA Institute provides writing materials for you to use during testing. Each test center has strict protocols in place to monitor for cheating in any form.
  • There are now 4 CFA exam windows. With the exception of the pandemic-related changes, in 2022 and beyond, the Level I computer-based exam will be offered in February, May, August, and November each year. Level II and Level III exams will be offered twice per year.
  • Registration is a 2-step process. Once you enroll, you are required to self-schedule your exam date. If you need to reschedule, there is a new rescheduling fee.
  • Total testing time is 4.5 hours. Tests are administered in proctored, socially distanced exam centers with strict security measures—not to mention more relaxed lunch breaks and flexible exam completion times.

Want to learn more about the CFA exam changes?

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Level I CFA Computer-Based Exam

The Level I computer-based exam is 4.5 hours, divided into 2 sessions of 2 hours and 15 minutes, with an optional break in between. The 270 minutes of testing time allows 90 seconds, on average, for each of the 180 multiple-choice questions.

Level II CFA Computer-Based Exam

The exam window for Level II is in February and August. The exam format remains the same: vignettes with 88 accompanying multiple-choice questions organized into 4- or 6-question sets. The computer-based exam is 4 hours and 24 minutes, divided into 2 sessions of 2 hours and 12 minutes, with an optional break in between.

Level III CFA Computer-Based Exam

The Level III computer-based exam is also 4 hours and 24 minutes, split into two equal sessions of 2 hours and 12 minutes with an optional break in between.

CFA Computer-Based Testing – What Will Exam Day Look Like?


Each testing center—as well as the exam proctors—has protocols in place to monitor candidates for any form of cheating. And while the potential for cheating with computer-based exams is consistent with paper-based exams, the CFA Institute has strict cyber-security measures in place and works continuously with IT experts to thoroughly define any potential risks and solutions.

Exam Day Schedule

The exam at each level is 4 hours and 24 minutes of testing time with an optional 30-minute break between the 2 exam sessions. Candidates may leave when their exam is finished.


The multiple-choice questions in the item sets of the Level II exam, and in the afternoon session of the Level III exam, are allotted an average of about 3.27 points each. Essay questions are allotted time based on their complexity and estimated length of completion.

Wrong answers do not count against you, but you do not get the points for an incorrect answer. The computer-based tests also include several trial questions that do not affect your score. These questions appear randomly during the exam and there is no indication which ones are trial questions.

Multiple-choice questions at Levels I and II, and in the afternoon session of Level III, are scored digitally. Essay and constructed response questions from the Level III morning exam are graded by a select team of CFA charterholders. After all questions are graded at an exam level, CFA Institute determines a passing score specific to that exam. 

COVID-19 and Candidate Safety at CFA Computer-Based Testing Centers

CPAs hold a variety of managerial and other positions, including corporate controller and even CFO or CEO.

Computer-based testing helps ensure the safety of all exam candidates by allowing for smaller test groups and improved social distancing. There are safety protocols in place, but they vary by location in accordance with local guidance. The protocols for your testing location will be sent to you in advance.

For more information, check out the CFA Institute’s computer-based testing updates.

How Do I Study for the New CFA Computer-Based Exam?

The CFA Institute notes the 2021 testing curriculum is the same as the 2020 version for all exam levels. New curricula have been developed for the 2022 exams.

To best prepare for the digital format, familiarize yourself with how the online tool looks and feels. This CFA exam tutorial lets you check out all the new features of the computer-based testing process.

For exam-specific study tips, we’ve compiled our top 3 tips for each level of the CFA exam below.

Top 3 Study Tips for the CFA Level I Computer-Based Exam

1) Knowledge, Comprehension, and a Little Application

The CFA Institute identifies that the exam questions are based on the Learning Outcome Statements (LOSs) at the beginning of each reading

Level I LOSs typically involve recalling basic information (knowledge), interpreting information in the candidate’s own words (comprehension), and applying knowledge or generalizing it into a new situation (application). Calculations are typically considered to be an application. Analysis, synthesis, and evaluation may be required in very limited circumstances.

2) Know Your Study Style

How do you like to study? Alone? With a partner? In a group? Maybe a mix of these? Do you study better with the computer, or do you prefer a book you can mark up?

The best thing is to experiment to discover your study style to ensure you have the best chance at success.

3) Don’t Ignore Ethics

Don’t rush through ethics because it may be trickier than you think. Give it the time it deserves.

For more exam tips, check out Wiley’s Level 1 CFA Study Guide.

Top 3 Study Tips for the CFA Level II Computer-Based Exam

1) Understand the Constructed Response Format

On the Level II exam, a vignette will be followed by 4 or 6 multiple-choice questions. The questions in each “item set” will relate only to the information provided by the vignette.

2) Analysis, Synthesis, and Some Judgement

Level 2 questions have limited testing of knowledge, comprehension, and application.

Instead, the item sets require candidates to break knowledge into parts and show the relationship among parts (analysis), bring together parts of knowledge to form a new whole and build relationships for new situations (synthesis), and to a limited extent make judgements about processes and methods based on the criteria given (evaluation).

3) Don’t Ignore Ethics

As with Level I, don’t rush through ethics. The focus at Level II will be primarily on recognizing and, more importantly, preventing violations of CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.

For more exam tips, check out Wiley’s Level 2 CFA Study Guide.

Top 3 Study Tips for the CFA Level II Computer-Based Exam

1) Understand the Essay Questions Format

There are 2 types of essay questions on the CFA Program exam: constructed (word-based) responses and calculation-based responses. To do your best when answering these questions, focus your studying on those formats.

2) Show Your Calculation Methods

For calculation-based questions that allow you to show your work, show how you arrived at your answer. If you make a simple math error, you may get points for successfully completing part of the calculation if the grader can follow your logic.

3) Provide Exactly What Is Asked for (and No More)

There’s no extra credit for the length of your answer; long-winded writing can potentially hurt your score as well as waste your time for other questions. Write your answers as succinctly as you can. Make use of bullet points and other formats to lay out your answer.

For more exam tips, check out Wiley’s Level 3 CFA Study Guide.

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