The CFA Program includes a series of three exams that are offered in test centers around the world. These three exams — Level I, Level II, and Level III — must be passed sequentially as one of the requirements for earning a CFA charter.
You may register for one exam at a time. Once you have received your exam results, you may register for the next one. If you fail an exam, we encourage you to use your exam results report to guide your studies and re-take the exam.
Exams are offered in English only, in order to ensure global consistency, both in administering the exam questions and in grading candidate responses.
The progressive nature of the three different levels means that the questions at Levels II and III require higher-order thinking than the questions at Level I.
A good example of the different cognitive levels required for each exam level is in the area of ethical and professional standards. The ethics curriculum — the Standards of Practice Handbook
— is identical for each exam level. However, you will be presented with different types of questions about this content:
- Level I exam questions typically test your knowledge of the ethical and professional standards.
- Level II exam questions test how you apply those standards to situations analysts face.
- Level III exam questions test how you apply the standards in a portfolio management and compliance context.
The exam formats change along with the learning focus at each level — from multiple choice for Level I, to item set for Level II, and to essay questions and item set for Level III. Select your exam level below to get the details.
Multiple Choice Questions
Each item on the Level I multiple choice exam consists of a question, a statement, and/or table and three answer choices: A, B, and C.
Two basic formats are used:
- Sentence completion with three unique choices
- Questions with three unique choices
Example 1 (Sentence completion)
An analyst suspects that a particular company’s U.S. GAAP financial statements may require adjustment because the company uses take-or-pay contracts. The most likely effect of the appropriate adjustments would be to increase that company’s
A. return on assets.
B. debt-to-equity ratio.
C. interest coverage ratio.
Example 2 (Question)
An analyst suspects that a particular company’s U.S. GAAP financial statements may require adjustment because the company uses take-or-pay contracts. Which of the following is most likely to increase as a result of the appropriate adjustments being made to that company’s financial statements?
A. Return on assets.
B. Debt-to-equity ratio.
C. Interest coverage ratio.
All questions are equally weighted and there is no penalty for an incorrect answer.
More details referencing item stem and item construction (PDF).
Item Set Format
Item sets are sometimes called “mini-cases.” Each item set on the CFA exam consists of a vignette (or case statement) and six multiple choice items (questions).
The length of a vignette ranges from about 1 page to 2.5 pages. The average length of the vignettes on the exam is about 1.5 pages. The longer vignettes are those that include several tables of information, such as for a financial statement analysis, statistics, or fixed-income item set.
The six multiple choice items in each item set can only be answered based on the information in the vignette. Hence, the items are not free-standing (as in Level I), but are drawn from the vignette. You will need to read the vignette before answering the items, and you will need to refer back to the vignette for information. The six multiple choice items can be answered independently of each other, but they do require information provided in the vignette.
Constructed Response (Essay) Question Format
On the essay section of the exam, you'll see two types of essay questions:
- One type of essay question requires that you write your answers on the lined page(s) following the question. For
these questions, label each part of your answer clearly (A, B, C, or i, ii, iii, etc.)
- The other type of essay question asks you to provide your answers in a template following the question. Instructions in bold print (immediately preceding the question) direct you to the page number of each template. Essay template placement change (PDF).
Some questions contain a mix of these two question and answer types.
Each essay question may have as few as one part or as many as 7-8 parts, so be sure to read and understand how to answer the entire question.
Your Essay Exam Book
Your exam book will contain three features to help you answer all parts of each question in the appropriate place:
- Page one of the exam book lists all of the questions on the exam, and the topic and minutes assigned for each question
- The page heading where a question begins states the number of parts in that question and the total number of minutes/points. For example: “Question 2 has two parts (A, B) for a total of 18 minutes”
- Immediately before each question subpart that requires a template answer, you will find a statement with the page number of the template. For example: “Answer Question 2-B in the Template provided on page 12”
Make sure you familiarize yourself with the essay exam question formats so that you don't overlook any part of a question. Use the templates to provide your answers in an efficient manner.