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Level I CFA® Exam Structure

How Long Does the CFA Level I Exam Last?

Structure: The Level I exam consists of 240 multiple choice questions, split between two 3-hour sessions. Candidates must attend both sessions.

  • Morning session (3 hours): 120 multiple choice questions, covering all topics
  • Afternoon session (3 hours): 120 multiple choice questions, covering all topics

Time Management Preparation for CFA Level I

Timing: On average, you should allow approximately 90 seconds for each multiple choice question. You may need more or less time, depending on the question and how well you understand the topic.

How to Study for the CFA Level I Exam

Set Aside Enough Time to Study for the CFA Level I Exam

The CFA Program enables candidates to customize their preparation to match individual needs and circumstances. Following are some numbers to consider in planning a study strategy for the CFA Level I exam.

  • The average successful candidate reported spending 303 hours studying for the Level I exam offered in June 2019.
  • Since studying for the CFA Level I exam is self-paced, candidates will spend varying amounts of time preparing for the exam depending on how long they have until their exam date. For example, if a candidate spent a year preparing for the CFA Level I exam, the candidate would have needed to study about 25 hours per month.
  • On average, a typical candidate takes 4–5 years to pass all three exams. Successful candidates report spending about 300 hours studying for each level, ranging from 303 hours for the CFA Level I exam to 328 for the CFA Level II exam and to 344 for the CFA Level III exam.

Familiarize Yourself with CFA Level I Exam Topics

The CFA® Program curriculum for the Level I exam is focused on the knowledge and comprehension of investment tools as well as ethical and professional standards. The exam covers the following 10 topic areas:

Topic Exam Weight
Ethical and Professional Standards 15%
Quantitative Methods 10%
Economics 10%
Financial Reporting and Analysis 15%
Corporate finance 10%
Equity Investments 11%
Fixed Income 11%
Derivatives 6%
Alternative Investments 6%
Portfolio Management 6%

Start learning today by viewing all study session outlines

Understand the Multiple Choice Exam Question Format

Each multiple choice item on the CFA Level I exam consists of a question, a statement, and/or table as well as three answer choices (A, B, or C).

Two basic formats are used:

  1. Sentence completion with three unique choices
  2. 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

  1. return on assets.
  2. debt-to-equity ratio.
  3. 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?

  1. return on assets.
  2. debt-to-equity ratio.
  3. interest coverage ratio.

All questions are equally weighted and there is no penalty for an incorrect answer.

Learn more about item stems and item construction (PDF)

Practice with CFA Level I Exam Sample Questions

Are you ready for the CFA Level I exam? These 20 CFA Level I sample questions for the CFA Level I exam provide a broad selection of the types of questions you’ll see on the exam.

Use These Test-Taking Tips on the Day of the CFA Level I Exam

  • Be comfortable with your calculator. Make sure you know how to use the calculator features needed to address the learning outcome statements (LOS).
  • Exam questions referring to Financial Reporting and Analysis (FRA) are based on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), unless otherwise specified. When a question is based on U.S. GAAP, it will be stated in the question.
  • Answer all questions. There is no penalty for incorrect answers.
  • Dress comfortably. There is no dress code, but dress in layers for comfort. Quiet shoes are a plus.

If you are interested in taking the CFA Level I exam, review the CFA Level I Exam Requirements to see if you are ready to enroll. Once you are certain you meet the enrollment criteria, you can register for the CFA Level I Exam.

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