CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Pass Rates

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
Little more than half of test takers pass the CFA Level 3 exam, and pass rates are less than 50% for the other two exams. Read on to learn about recent pass rates for each exam, scoring information, and tips on how to pass your tests.

Pass Rates for CFA Exams

From 2007 through 2016, the pass rate for all three Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams averaged 42%, with Level 1 consistently having the lowest rate of passing and Level 3 having the highest. According to the CFA Institute, which administers the CFA exams, pass rates for each test during the past three years were:

Year Level 1 June Exam Level 1 December Exam Level 2 Level 3
2016 43% N/A 46% 54%
2015 42% 43% 46% 53%
2014 42% 44% 46% 54%

CFA Exam Scoring Information

There is no universal passing score for the CFA exams. Instead, the CFA Institute's Board of Governors sets a minimum passing score for each exam. Once the minimum passing score is determined, the exams are evaluated, and test takers receive their results in the form of pass or did not pass. These results include a breakdown of performance within each content area to help examinees understand their strengths and weaknesses. Results are released in late January for December Level 1 exams, in July for June Level 1 and Level 2 exams, and in August for June Level 3 exams.

How to Pass the CFA Exams

To pass your CFA exams, it is critical that you utilize the right study materials, understand the content of the exam, and allow yourself enough time to prepare.

Prep Time

Before you schedule your exam and begin studying, keep in mind that each CFA test is six hours long and that you will need to spend a significant amount of time preparing for it. For the June 2015 exams, for example, test takers spent, on average, more than 300 hours studying for their exams. You should start by mapping out a realistic calendar of study for yourself to see how far in advance you will need to begin preparing.

Exam Structure and Content

To pass the exam, you will need to fully familiarize yourself not only with the content areas of your exam, but also the types of questions you will be asked. On the CFA Institute's website, you'll find a breakdown of content areas, along with the weights assigned to each area on Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 tests. Keep in mind that the three exams have different structures and question types. Level 1 has only multiple-choice questions; Level 2 features all item set questions, and Level 3 has a mix of item set and essay questions. To perform well on your exam, make sure you dedicate some prep time to learning best practices for the appropriate type of questions. Study.com's short strategy for multiple choice questions lesson and college composition course can help.

Study Materials

When you register for your test, the CFA Institute will provide you with an eBook curriculum, a study planner, practice tests and exams, and a mobile app. Prep courses, meanwhile, are an excellent way to focus your time and study. You may choose from CFA-specific courses or courses that cover the specific exam areas with which you need help. For example, Study.com offers self-paced online courses to help you brush up on topic areas such as Investing, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Ethics, Principles of Finance, and Financial Accounting. You can also access these courses and many more from your smartphone or tablet with our mobile app, which allows you to study while you're on the go!

You may also find exam prep resources through your local CFA Institute chapter or join an in-person or online study group with other test takers.

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