Curriculum & Exam Topics

Gain the advantage of knowledge developed by one of the world’s leading associations of investment professionals. We enlist the investment industry’s brightest minds to continually improve the CFA® Program, ensuring that it’s always relevant. And the recognition that comes with becoming a charterholder can benefit you throughout your entire career.
Explore Curriculum

Keeping the Curriculum Relevant and Rigorous

The CFA® Program includes the foundational knowledge that firms expect as well as the critical advanced investment analysis and portfolio management skills that are needed in investment management today. We update our curriculum regularly, so it reflects modern financial practices. Our candidates can bring what they’ve learned through the CFA Program to real-world scenarios.

Industry Practitioner Input at Every Stage

Our curriculum is developed through an Education Advisory Committee that includes industry practitioners, security market regulators, university faculty, and policymakers. Involving financial thought leaders helps ensure that we provide the skills the industry wants. This approach, known as our Program Practice Analysis process, plays a key role in establishing the CFA Program as the global gold standard of investment credentials.

Knowledge that Evolves with Industry Needs

CFA Institute researches and identifies trends that significantly affect the investment industry. These insights inform updates to our curriculum to reflect current practices and help charterholders succeed in a constantly changing profession.

Learn more about the study tools and resources you will have access to as part of CFA Program

Expand Your Knowledge, Advance Your Career

Source: CFA Institute, CFA Program Candidate Survey Report, June 2019.

Explore Core Curriculum Topics 

The focus of this topic is ethics, related challenges to ethical behavior, and the role ethics and professionalism play in the investment industry. We provide a framework to support ethical decision making and examine CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct and Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS®).

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
15–20 10–15 10–15

In this section, we explore quantitative concepts and techniques used in financial analysis and investment decision making. We present descriptive statistics for conveying important data attributes, such as central tendency, location, and dispersion, and introduce characteristics of return distributions. The section also considers probability theory and its application in quantifying risk for investment decision making.

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
8–12 5–10 0

In this section, we introduce analysis of fundamental concepts of supply and demand for individual consumers and firms. We also cover the various market structures that firms operate in as well as macroeconomic concepts and principles, including aggregate output and income measurement, aggregate demand and supply analysis, and analysis of economic growth factors. The section concludes with coverage of the business cycle and its effect on economic activity.

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
8–12 5–10 5–10

Here we provide a thorough explanation of financial reporting procedures and the standards that govern financial reporting disclosures, with an emphasis on basic financial statements and how alternative accounting methods affect those statements and the analysis of them. We examine primary financial statements and provide a general framework for conducting financial statement analysis.

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
13–17 10–15 0

In this topic, we provide an introduction to corporate governance as well as investing and financing decisions. We present an overview of corporate governance along with a framework for understanding and analyzing corporate governance and stakeholder management. We also highlight the growing impact of environmental and social considerations in investing. We cover how companies make use of leverage and manage their working capital to meet short-term operational needs.

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
8–12 5–10 0

Here we explore the characteristics of equity investments, security markets, and indexes and explain how to analyze industries, companies, and equity securities as well as the use of basic equity valuation models. Global equities are important for meeting longer-term growth and diversification objectives.

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
10–12 10–15 10–15

In this topic, we explain how to describe fixed income securities and their markets, yield measures, risk factors, and valuation measurements and drivers. We also cover calculating yields, values of fixed income securities, the securitization of assets, the fundamentals of bond returns and risks, and basic principles of credit analysis.

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
10–12 10–15 15–20

In this section, we build the conceptual framework for understanding the basic derivatives and derivative markets. We then introduce essential features and valuation concepts for forward commitments such as forwards, futures, swaps, and contingent claims. Finally, we examine arbitrage, a critical concept that links derivative pricing to the price of the underlying asset.

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
5–8 5–10 5–10

This topic explores alternative investments, including hedge funds, private equity, real estate, commodities, and infrastructure. We cover the use of alternative investments for diversifications and higher returns. In this curriculum, we define alternative investments and the characteristics they have in common.

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
5–8 5–10 5–10

In this topic, we explain the fundamentals of portfolio and risk management, including return and risk measurement and portfolio planning and construction. We examine the needs of individual and institutional investors along with the range of available investment solutions. The capital asset pricing model is used to identify optimal risk in portfolios.

Weight Given Across Levels

Level I Level II Level III
5–8 10–15 35–40

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