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There are two possible results for the CFA exam: pass or did not pass (fail). For Level 1 and Level 2 results (and Level 3 if you fail), you will also get a performance report with information about how you did on each topic level.
To pass, candidates must score at or above the minimum passing score (MPS). This score is set by the CFA Institute Board of Governors, and it is not determined until after each exam has been administered. This is so the CFA Institute can ensure fair scoring in consideration of exam difficulty and candidate performance.
You will be notified that your CFA results have been released via email. Your results can also be viewed on your CFA Institute account once available.
Here is when you can expect to receive your CFA exam results (all timeframes are approximate):
Individual CFA exam results are only released to the candidate and will not be released to a third party. CFA Institute may, however, provide local chapters with lists of passing candidates.
CFA Institute does publish aggregate percentile scores so candidates can get a sense of their performance relative to other candidates. The CFA exams are designed to demonstrate competency rather than signal potential performance. Candidates or charterholders should not use comparisons between personal and aggregate scores to imply superior performance.
The minimum passing score (MPS) for the CFA exam changes based on candidate performance for each exam. CFA Institute does not release an MPS prior to an exam or reveal the established MPS after an exam.
Instead of focusing on the MPS, focus on getting at least 300 hours of study time in per exam section. There is a strong correlation between study hours and pass rates, so you can increase your chances of passing by making sure you fit in at least 300 hours to study.
For more information on this, view CFA Institute’s videos addressing standard setting and pass rates.
CFA Level 1 results are released within 60 days of your exam date and usually within 8 – 10 weeks after the exam window has closed. You could also receive your exam results sooner depending on when you took the exam. Historically, candidates who took the exam in December had a higher pass rate and you could get your score back sooner.
Although CFA Institute does not release an MPS, candidates should aim to score higher than 70%.
CFA Level 2 results are also released within 60 days of your exam date and usually within 8 – 10 weeks after the exam window has closed. Exam scores are released at different intervals throughout the year, and it typically takes longer to get scores back for Level 2 and Level 3.
Again, candidates should strive to score higher than 70%, although CFA Institute provides no MPS.
CFA Level 3 results are released within 90 days of your exam date and usually within 10 weeks after the exam window has closed. Level 3 results generally take longer to score than the other exam levels due to the difference in question types.
The Level 3 MPS is not released by the CFA Institute, but some speculate that it may be slightly lower than the other 2 exams. It is still a good idea to aim for over 70% on your practice exams, though.
If you failed the CFA exam, it’s time to start planning your next attempt. Don’t beat yourself up; failure isn’t permanent, and many successful CFA charterholders don’t get it right on the first attempt.
CFA Institute provides important diagnostics as part of your score reporting to help you make decisions on how to move forward. For example, in addition to your results relative to the MPS, you are provided a confidence interval around your result called your True Ability. True Ability indicates your likely range of scoring given favorable and unfavorable factors.
Favorable factors that might have improved your actual score results include things like the exam sampling from learning outcomes you knew well, lucky guessing, comfortable testing environment, and being well-fed and well-rested for the exam. Unfavorable factors for these items may have negatively affected your score.
Candidates scoring well above the MPS can rest secure in knowing they would probably pass regardless of the questions asked or other non-exam conditions. Candidates scoring well below the MPS may need to consider additional study time or remedial opportunities. Candidates scoring just below the MPS but with a true ability interval crossing the MPS line can probably pass the exam with a bit more study or tipping another favorable condition their way.
In preparation to retake the exam, analyze your results, and then create your study plan. Focus on high weighted topic areas, make sure to clock at least 300 study hours per exam, and aim to score over 70% on practice exams. It can also help provide peace of mind if you study with a CFA review course that gives you unlimited access until you pass.
If you pass Level 1 of the CFA exam (congratulations!), it’s time to start studying for Level 2! Candidate surveys indicate close to 300 hours of study time for each level of the exam, so either start making your plan or enlist the help of a CFA review course and get right into it.
To prepare for Level 2 of the CFA exam, determine how long it will take you to complete your 300 hours (minimum) of studying. With that timeline in mind, you can register for the exam and start studying right away.
See Wiley’s CFA Program Overview for more information about Level 2 of the CFA exam.
Same as preparing for Level 2 of the CFA exam, it’s time to plan a study schedule, register for the exam, and start studying—you’re nearing the finish line!
See Wiley’s CFA Program Overview for more information about Level 3 of the CFA exam.
Historically, CFA pass rates have hovered right around 45% (40% for Level 1, 45% for Level 2, and 53% for Level 3). But they took a tumble in 2021 with August pass rates coming in at 26%, 29%, and 39% for Level 1, 2, and 3 respectively.
The recent low pass rates are thought to be due to testing schedule disruptions caused by COVID-19, and candidate study windows spanning postponed exams. Candidates who do not show up on exam day are not included in the pass rate, so low scores did not result from an increased number of candidates failing to appear for a scheduled exam. Regardless, CFA Institute is committed to having consistent grading metrics and pass rates are expected to recover.