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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the recent changes to the CFA exam, now is the best time to use a premier CFA exam prep. Wiley’s team of instructors includes top university professors and subject-matter experts who are invested in your success. In fact, many are involved in creating the CFA study material, delivering lectures, and mentoring you every step of the way.