What is the CFA® Level I Exam?

It’s common to have questions about the Level I CFA® exam. This article will help answer some of the most common questions you may have about the exam and becoming a CFA charterholder.
 

What is a CFA® charterholder?


The Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) charter is a professional designation administered by CFA Institute. It’s the most respected and recognized investment management designation in the world, according to CFA Institute.

How do I become a CFA® charterholder?


To become a CFA charterholder, you are required to pass a series of three exams: Level I, Level II, and Level III.

Is the CFA® charter a college degree?


The CFA charter is not a degree, but rather a professional certification. It demonstrates understanding of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management. What may lead to this common misunderstanding is that candidates will frequently weigh the benefits of the CFA charter against those of an MBA.

What is the date of the Level I CFA® exam?


The Level I exam is the only CFA exam offered twice per year, once in June and once in December. The 2018 December Level I exam date is December 1, 2018. For June 2019, there are multiple dates, depending on the region you live in.

What requirements do I need to meet to take the CFA® exam?


In order to enroll in the CFA Program and sit for the Level I exam, you must have an international travel passport. You must additionally satisfy one of the following requirements:

  • Have earned a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree, or be in their final year of a bachelor’s program.
  • Have accumulated four years of applicable professional work experience (not required to be investment related).

Another option is that you have a combination of full-time professional experience and education that totals a minimum of four years, and must be completed prior to enrolling in the program. This article explains all the requirements in more detail. 

How is the Level I CFA® exam structured?


The Level I CFA exam consists of 240 multiple-choice questions, which is covered in two 3-hour exam sessions. You must attend both sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  Each session consists of 120 questions. Both sessions cover all of the Level I topics.

How is the Level I CFA® exam structured?


The December 2018 Level I CFA exam will cover the following topics:

  • Ethical and Professional Standards
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Economics
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Portfolio Management
  • Equity
  • Fixed Income
  • Derivatives
  • Alternative Investments

How are the Level I CFA® exam topics weighted?


TopicExam Weight
Ethical and Professional Standards15%
Quantitative Methods12%
Economics10%
Financial Reporting and Analysis20%
Corporate Finance7%
Portfolio Management7%
Equity10%
Fixed Income10%
Derivatives5%
Alternative Investments4%

How much time should I spend studying for the Level I CFA® exam?


On average, candidates spend about 300 hours over the course of six months studying for the Level I CFA exam.

Is the Level I CFA® exam difficult?


The CFA exam is designed to be difficult because it is a very exclusive designation that is intended to prove understanding and mastery of the topics. The pass rate for the June 2017 Level I CFA exam was 43%. According to CFA Institute, only 20% of participants who start the program actually earn the charter. You can increase your odds of succeeding by learning from other candidates and having the right study tools.

How expensive is it to sit for the Level I CFA® exam?


CFA Institute has early, standard, and late registration deadlines, and the price increases the later you register. There is a one-time CFA Program enrollment fee of $450. In addition, there is a registration fee. The early registration fee is $650; the standard registration fee is $950; and the late registration fee is $1,380. Registering early will not only save you money that you can invest in a CFA exam prep course, but it will also allow you to begin preparing earlier.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the common questions you may have regarding the Level I CFA exam, you can learn why it is such a respected and impressive designation. As always, if you have more questions about the Level I CFA exam, or any other topic, don’t hesitate to contact our Student Support team.