What To Expect on the CFA® Level 1 Exam

CFA candidate contemplating what to expect on the CFA Level 1 Exam

The Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®) Program is a globally recognized, prestigious credential awarded by CFA Institute to professionals working in both finance and investing. It is considered the highest level of, “…international legal and regulatory recognition of finance-related qualifications…” Once a candidate completes the CFA Program and meets other professional requirements, they are awarded the CFA Charter.

What Is the CFA Level 1 Exam?

The CFA program requires candidates to pass the following three exams in sequential order: CFA Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. CFA Institute recommends that candidates spend at least 300 hours of study to successfully pass each exam. Each Level builds upon the prior one with more difficulty and complexity.

CFA Level 1 Exam Structure & Format

Composed of 180 multiple-choice questions, the CFA Level 1 Exam is offered in one day with two sessions—morning and afternoon. Each exam session is 2 hours, 15 minutes long (4.5 hours total) and includes 90 questions. Different topics are tested in each session.

In terms of format, each Level 1 multiple-choice is either conceptual or requires the candidate to calculate an answer. All questions have three answer choices, for which only one is correct.

CFA Exam I Topic Areas & Weights

The Level 1 Exam focuses on the following topics and exam weights:

TopicExam Weight
Ethical and Professional Standards15% – 20%
Quantitative Methods8 – 12%
Economics8 – 12%
Financial Reporting and Analysis13 – 17%
Corporate Finance8 – 12%
Equity Investments10 – 12%
Fixed Income10 – 12%
Derivatives5 – 8%
Alternative Investments5 – 8%
Portfolio Management5 – 8%

What Are the Requirements of the CFA Level 1 Exam?

In order to work towards becoming a CFA charterholder and sitting for the CFA Level I Exam, candidates must meet one of the following requirements set forth by 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 2021 CFA Level 1 Exam Offered?

The CFA Level 1 Exam is currently offered through 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 Level 1 exams.

Standard Registration Fee DeadlineFebruary 12, 2021
Final (Late) Registration Fee DeadlineMarch 11, 2021
Religious Alternate Date Requests DueMarch 16, 2021
Exam Day (Americas/EMEA)June 6, 2021
Exam Day (Asia Pacific)June 7, 2021
Religious Alternate Exam Day (Americas/EMEA)June 7, 2021
Religious Alternate Exam Day (Asia Pacific)June 8, 2021
Exam DayDecember 5, 2021
Religious Alternate Exam DayDecember 6, 2021

Where Do You Take the Exam?

The Level 1 computer-based exam will be offered four times per year, beginning in 2021: February, May, August, and November, while the Level 2 and Level 3 computer-based exams will be offered twice each year. Due to this year’s transition to CBT, candidates will have a 10-day window to schedule their exams at a secure test center instead of just a single day as they do now.

The 2021 CFA Exam schedule is as follows:

  • February: Level 1 only
  • May: All Levels
  • August: Level 1 and Level 2
  • November: Level 1 and Level 3

You may locate a testing center by visiting CFA Institute’s CFA Program Test Center Locations page.

Studying for the 2021 CFA Exam? Click here for a FREE trial of our CFA Level 1 Exam Learning Platform.

Scroll to Top