CFA® Level I Exam: What To Expect

woman in classroom preparing herself for what to expect on the Level 1 CFA exam

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a globally recognized, professional credential awarded by the CFA Institute to both finance and investment professionals. It is considered the highest level of “…international legal and regulatory recognition of finance-related qualifications…” once all requirements are met. When a candidate completes the CFA Program and meets other professional requirements, they are awarded the CFA charter. Let’s explore what to expect on the Level I CFA exam.

What Is the CFA Level I Exam?

The CFA Program requires candidates to pass three CFA exams: Level I, Level II, and Level III. The CFA Institute recommends that candidates spend at least 300 hours of study to pass all the exams. Since each exam builds upon the prior, it gets more difficult and complex as you progress from one level to the next.

CFA Level I Exam Structure & Format

Comprised of 240 multiple-choice questions, the Level I CFA exam is offered in one day with two sessions—morning and afternoon. Each exam session is 3 hours long (6 hours total) and includes 120 multiple-choice questions about all topics. 

Each Level I multiple-choice question is either a question plus statement or a question plus table. There are three choices for each multiple-choice question: A, B, and C. 

According to the CFA Institute, there are two basic formats used on the multiple-choice questions:

  1. Sentence completion with three unique choices
  2. Questions with three unique choices

Level I CFA Exam Topic Areas & Weights

The Level I CFA exam focuses on the following topics and exam weights:

TopicExam Weight
Ethical and Professional Standards15%
Quantitative Methods10%
Financial Reporting and Analysis15%
Corporate Finance10%
Equity Investments11%
Fixed Income11%
Alternative Investments6%
Portfolio Management6%

What Are the Requirements of the Level I CFA Exam?

To become a CFA charterholder and sit for the Level I CFA exam, candidates must meet one of the following requirements of the CFA Institute:

  1. Hold a bachelor’s degree or be completing the final year of a bachelor’s degree
  2. Have at least 4 years of full-time professional work experience 
  3. Possess a combination of education and work experience that totals at least 4 years

When Is the 2020 Level I CFA Exam Offered?

The exam is currently offered via a paper-based testing format in June and December. However, starting in 2021, the CFA Institute will transition its Level I CFA Exam to computer-based testing. This digital shift will give candidates a larger selection of testing venues and more flexibility when scheduling their exams. Also, the CFA Institute selected Prometric testing centers to administer the computer-based CFA exams.

Standard Registration Fee DeadlineFebruary 12, 2020
Final (Late) Registration Fee DeadlineMarch 11, 2020
Religious Alternate Date Requests DueMarch 16, 2020
Exam Day (Americas/EMEA)June 6, 2020
Exam Day (Asia Pacific)June 7, 2020
Religious Alternate Exam Day (Americas/EMEA)June 7, 2020
Religious Alternate Exam Day (Asia Pacific)June 8, 2020
Exam DayDecember 5, 2020
Religious Alternate Exam DayDecember 6, 2020

Where Do I Take the Exam?

The CFA Institute offers the CFA exams at locations in over 170 cities in June and over 70 cities in December. The CFA Institute assigns candidates to specific testing centers based on both availability and proximity to a testing center location. Locate a testing center by visiting the CFA Institute’s CFA Program Test Center Locations page.

If you are prepping for an upcoming Level I CFA® exam, check out these top 5 pointers for the Level I CFA exam. And if you want to take your test-prep game to a whole new level, click here for our FREE trial. We’ll have you ready to ace the test on exam day.

CFA Institute does not endorse, promote, or warrant the accuracy or quality of the products or services offered by UWorld Finance. CFA® and Chartered Financial Analyst® are registered trademarks owned by CFA Institute.