CFA Exam Updates

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of continuing uncertainty, and with that uncertainty has come numerous challenges for our candidates and our exam administrators. At CFA Institute, we have been working diligently to turn these challenges into positive opportunities. Our plans to modernize the exam and make it more convenient and accessible for candidates around the globe have been accelerated in the face of new concerns about health and safety.

What are the changes to the format and frequency of the CFA exam?

  • Along with Level I, the Level II and Level III CFA exams will shift from paper-based to computer-based testing starting in 2021. This change allows us to provide smaller group sizes, better social distancing, easier scheduling with more locations, and less uncertainty about planning for our candidates.
  • The Level I computer-based exam will be offered four times per year. The Level II and Level III computer-based exam will be offered two times per year.

Map your journey through upcoming exam cycles

How do these CFA Exam changes benefit candidates?

  • Moving to computer-based testing provides us with operational flexibility to quickly and reliably adjust to the changing landscape in response to either global or local situations; particularly relevant in a COVID-19 impacted world.
  • Computer-based scheduling enables CFA Institute to retire single-day test administration in favor of more convenient, socially distant computer-based test administration. Doing this offers options for candidates around the globe by increasing the number of exam administrations for every level, providing multi-day exam windows to eliminate the practice of all candidates sitting in a single day, and a broader footprint of test areas to improve flexibility.
  • Operating in a fully-digital format aligns to real-world, professional environments, allowing us to better model the tasks and problem-solving needs of today’s financial analysts and investment managers.

Postponed Candidates

What are my options if I was postponed from the June 2020 exam?

  • All candidates who have registered for what is now the final paper-based exam in December 2020 may stay with this option or switch to any of the available 2021 administrations by level.
  • Candidates who have registered for the June 2021 paper-based exam may revert to the December 2020 paper-based exam by the registration closing date of 19 August or select any of the available 2021 computer-based options. If you wish to move to a CBT exam, you have until 20 October to do so.
  • In making your decision about an exam date, please stay abreast of government and health advisories in your test area. CFA Institute will adhere to the guidance of local governments. We plan to hold exams in any location where we can meet the applicable public health and safety requirements.
  • If you were postponed from June 2020 and the exam you subsequently registered for is postponed as well, you will have the option to defer again or to request a refund for the registration fee you paid for the June 2020 exam.

What is the pricing for postponed candidates who wish to change their registration to another exam?

There is no charge for making an exam change to one of the options outlined in the email you received.

How do I change my exam date?

Registration is currently open for the February Level I exam. Registration will be open on 20 August for all levels and all dates for 2021 computer-based exams.

Specific details about your options, including registration deadlines, have been sent to you via email. If you did not receive an email, please check your CFA Institute account to make sure that your email address is correct in our system.

For December: Sign in to your account and go to the CFA Program tile and follow the instructions under Manage Your Exam to Withdraw from Exam. Then, you may re-register for your choice of future exam date with no additional fees. You must complete this process before 21 October.

For everyone else who has to change their registration: To register for a new exam date, sign in to your account and complete the registration process for your choice of future exam date with no additional fees. You must register for your future exam date before 21 October.

Do I need a current passport?

Please check and make certain that your passport will be current at the time of your scheduled exam. You will not be allowed to sit for the exam if your passport is expired.

What are my exam registration options?

December 2020 Exam

Is the December exam paper-based for all levels?

Yes, the December 2020 CFA exam is the last paper-based exam for all levels. All subsequent exams will be administered by computer.

When will December 2020 exam registration close?

Registration for December will close officially 11:59pm ET 19 August 2020. Please note, this is a change from the originally published schedule.

What is the December 2020 exam schedule?

EMEA and AMER:

  • Saturday, 5 December: all levels
  • APAC:

    • Saturday, 5 December: Level I
    • Sunday, 6 December: Level II and Level III

    Can I switch my exam registration from December to a 2021 exam?

    Yes, changes from your December exam registration to another exam in 2021 will be accepted until 20 October.

    I would really prefer to take a paper-based exam. Can I move my registration to December?

    Due to seating limitations, re-registration for the December exam will only be accepted until the December registration closing date of 19 August.

    How will I know if my exam will be impacted by the COVID-19 virus?

    As the December exam date gets closer, we will react to specific situations and inform candidates of our plans. We are carefully tracking pandemic-related restrictions around the globe. Exams will be administered everywhere we are permitted to do so following local health and government policies and appropriate measures, such as social distancing, in place.

    As part of our ongoing communications, we will provide special instructions related to your test center.

    Can I expect special protocol for paper-based exams in December?

    We are monitoring the situation as it continues to evolve and planning for how to safely administer exams. We will communicate local protocols for each test area to December registered candidates in advance of the test date and in accordance with local guidance.

    When will admission tickets be issued?

    We will notify candidates via email when admission tickets are ready. Please verify that the email address in your CFA Institute account is your primary email address.

    How can I change my test center?

    You can change your test center by logging into your account and selecting Change Test Area. On the next screen, select “Change My Test Center.” Note this process is for paper-based testing only.

    Where are the available test centers listed?

    You can find test center locations on our Test Center Locations webpage.

    What do I need to bring on exam day?

    CFA Institute will provide detailed guidance regarding required and allowed items as we approach the December exam dates.

    Computer-Based Testing (CBT) Exam Schedule

    What is the CBT exam schedule for 2021?

    Each exam will be offered in scheduling windows of up to 10 days, depending on location. View the exam calendar for exact dates.

    • Level I: February, May, August, and November
    • Level II: May and August
    • Level III: May and November

    Will the CBT exam schedule change in 2022?

    Yes. Exam administrations in 2022 will set the standard CFA exam cadence, and will be offered:  

    • Level I: February, May, August, and November
    • Level II: February and August
    • Level III: May and November

    How often can a candidate take the exam?

    Please note that candidates will not be able to register for adjacent windows. For example, a Level I candidate who takes the February 2021 administration and does not pass may not sit again until the August administration. Or, a Level II candidate who passes the exam during the August administration will not be able to sit for Level III until the May 2022 administration.

    Are the 2021 dates open to all candidates or only those postponed?

    February 2021 is now open. The rest of the 2021 CBT exam administrations will open on 20 August 2020 to all candidates wishing to register.

    Will December candidates receive results in time to register for May exams?

    Yes. We will ensure the exam registration window will remain open following results release to allow December candidates the opportunity to register for the May exam. Standard registration fees will apply.

    Will CBT registration deadlines be the same for all levels in the same exam window?

    Registration deadlines will be published on the CFA Institute website and will apply to all levels of candidates registering for the exam for the first time. Postponed candidates have a special window of 20 August to 20 October to change their registration to one of these exams

    What is the pathway for completing all CFA Program levels in this new timeline/structure?

    We have created a diagram to help candidates plot their journey through the exams based on level and exam dates.

    CBT Exam Day Experience

    How will the testing experience differ under computer-based testing?

    Candidates will take their examinations in secure computer labs with many fewer candidates at a time. Each candidate will have time available to go through a brief orientation to the center and the computer software. In addition to easier social distancing and safety procedures, there will also be greater flexibility around lunch breaks and exam completion time.

    Exams will be delivered in proctored exam centers with robust security measures in place. Testing at home is not currently an option. Each test center will closely monitor candidates for cheating in any form. Finally, the passing score calculations and standards will remain unchanged so candidates who complete a computer-based exam will be held to the same standard as those who completed a paper-based exam.

    How are you managing cyber-security with computer-based testing?

    The potential risks related to CBT are different but not greater than those we face currently with shipping paper exams to and from locations across the globe. We have strict cyber-security measures in place, and we work continuously with our IT experts to thoroughly define any potential risks and solutions. Our selected vendors have a track record of success and years of experience in this area, and we will partner with them to implement security measures that mitigate any potential risks. We will take all available precautions to secure the exams.

    Can candidates use paper to work out exam answers during computer-based exams?

    Candidates will be provided with writing materials to use during CBT exams.

    Exam Format and Results

    How will exam day change under computer-based testing?

    Exam day will follow the same schedule for all CBT exams.

    The length of all exams will be shortened so that total testing time is reduced from six hours to approximately 4.5 hours. The number of questions will be reduced so that candidates will have the same average time per question that they had under paper-based testing.

    As we designed our computer-based testing solution we took the opportunity to reevaluate all aspects of the test. After intensive analysis, one of the things we discovered is that reducing the length of the exam would not have a material impact on pass/fail decisions. In other words, after 4.0-4.5 hours of testing time we have gathered enough information to reliably determine whether the candidate should pass. It’s just like once you expose a thermometer long enough for the mercury to adjust, you are able to obtain an accurate temperature reading. Keeping the thermometer exposed for longer does not lead to a superior measurement.

    Will the format of test questions change?

    The Level I exam will continue to be in a multiple-choice format. For Level II and Level III, we will be using the same item set and essay format (Level III) that we have used in the past. Just as before, all questions are written by a team of experienced charterholders and all questions come directly from the curriculum and are reviewed to be sure they are consistent with the expectations set in the Learning Outcome Statements.

    Until last year, the length of item set questions was standardized to six multiple choice questions per vignette at both Levels II and the item set portion of Level III. Last year we began introducing some item sets with four multiple choice questions per set. The mixed length of four and six question item sets will continue and so the total number of item sets on the exam may vary slightly.

    Will topics be weighted differently in computer-based exams?

    Topic weights have not been altered. Percentage ranges for each level can be found on the CFA Institute website.

    How will scoring be affected?

    Just as before, all item sets and essays are scored in proportion to their length. Each question within an item set has a set number of points so a four-question item set has two thirds of the number of points as a six-question item set. And, essay questions are scored based on length and complexity. There are not some questions or topics that intrinsically have a heavier weight than others. And, just as before, wrong answers do not count against you.

    One difference will be that our CBT examinations will now include a few trial questions on each examination that will not contribute to a candidate’s score. These will appear randomly during the exam and candidates will have no way of knowing which questions are scored and which are trial questions, which neither help nor hurt a candidate’s result. This is an extremely common practice among testing organizations and is often called pretesting. It is an opportunity to assess the performance of individual test questions that have been newly written or revised before they are used as scored test questions. This ultimately helps to ensure the ongoing quality of exam questions. The time to complete experimental questions is included within total testing time and so the trial questions do not reduce the average time candidates have available to complete scored questions.

    Will I get my results more quickly?

    Although there may be some efficiencies gained through the use of computer-based testing, the process of establishing the minimum passing score is still in place. As always, Level III exams will be graded by a team of knowledgeable graders. We do not anticipate results to be released significantly faster.

    Will the calculator policy be the same?

    Yes! Candidates will still be allowed to bring a calculator to the exam center. Just as before, the calculator must be either the Texas Instruments BA II Plus or the Hewlett Packard 12C.

    When is the new curriculum being released?

    The curriculum will remain the 2020 version throughout all exams for all levels in 2021; new curricula will be released for 2022 exams when those registration windows open.

    Candidate Safety at Computer-based Testing Centers

    Why is computer-based testing a safer experience?

    One of the reasons for CFA Program to move to computer-based testing at this time is the opportunity to provide a more convenient test experience that is safer in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Smaller test centers allow for improved social distancing, smaller groups, and greater scheduling flexibility to spread out candidates across multiple days. A more efficient test with a shorter overall time provides candidates with the flexibility to take a lunch break and the freedom to depart when they are finished with the exam, rather than in a crowd of many others.

    How will I know if my CBT exam center is impacted and what my options will be at that point?

    Due to smaller group sizes and an easier environment for adhering to safety standards, we hope that cancelling an exam at a CBT site will be less likely. In making your decision about an exam date, please stay abreast of government and health advisories in your test area. CFA Institute will adhere to the guidance of local governments. We plan to hold exams in any location where we can meet the applicable public health and safety requirements.

    What protocols will be in place for computer-based exams?

    We have identified several ways to ensure that safety considerations are in place. These may vary by location. We will communicate protocols for all test areas for CBT candidates in advance of the test date and in accordance with local guidance.

    Fees and Refunds

    Will fees be the same for all levels?

    Registration fees and deadlines will be the same for all levels. There remains an enrollment fee before one can begin the CFA Program or register for the Level I exam for the first time.

    What is the pricing for December candidates wishing to register for May?

    For all December 2020 candidates who write the exam and then wish to proceed to the May 2021 CBT administration after results are released, published standard registration fees will apply. Early pricing will be available for the August and November administrations respectively.

    Will invoicing be an option for CBT exams?

    Yes, invoicing is available for computer-based exams during early registration period only.

    How can I qualify for a refund?

    Per the terms of the Candidate Agreement, refunds are not normally offered once registration has been accepted. Due to the extraordinary global circumstances surrounding COVID-19, If you were postponed from June 2020 and the exam you subsequently registered for is postponed as well, you will have the option to defer again or to request a refund for the registration fee you paid for the June 2020 exam.

    Will I get back everything I paid when I registered?

    Candidates for all levels will be paid the full amount of the registration fee for the June 2020 exam (but bear in mind the influence of currency exchange rates for fees originally paid in non-US currency).

    New candidates for the Level I exam also pay a one-time $450 enrollment fee. This fee reflects candidates' commitment to the CFA Program and is used to support candidates throughout their CFA Program journey. It is not refundable but is assessed only once. If a new Level I candidate for June 2020 requests a refund because of a second, pandemic-caused postponement, whenever that candidate comes back to register for the Level I exam again, they will pay just the applicable registration fee.

    How long will it take to receive a refund if I am eligible and request one?

    We expect the process to potentially take up to 120 days from date of request. Instructions will be provided at the time your scheduled exam is again postponed.

    Stay Informed

    We will communicate with everyone through a variety of channels including email, social media, our website, and candidate resources portal. We encourage you to verify your email address on record by logging in to your CFA Institute account and to follow our CFA Program social channels on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WeChat and Weibo. We will also communicate directly with all Approved Prep Providers and local CFA Societies around the globe as details are available.

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