CFA® Exam Curriculum and Changes You Must Know

Many CFA exam candidates have concerns about the time required to analyze the recent changes in the CFA exam curriculum. It is important to note that being aware of the curriculum changes in advance can be highly advantageous in certain situations. For instance, individuals who plan to begin studying early for the 2024 exam should confirm that the materials they are studying will be covered in the updated curriculum. Additionally, candidates who intend to purchase used study materials from previous years for the upcoming exam will benefit from being informed of any curriculum changes. Moreover, those who have failed the current exam and plan to retake it in 6-12 months can reuse existing third-party study materials, taking into account the minor curriculum changes.

CFA Exam Curriculum - Topics/Syllabus

The CFA exam curriculum is a comprehensive and rigorous program that covers a wide range of topics related to investment management and analysis. The syllabus for the CFA exam is divided into three levels, each of which builds upon the knowledge and skills gained in the previous level.

Here’s a list of the topics for CFA exam L1, L2, and L3:

Topics Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Alternative Investments
Derivative Investments
Equity Investments / Equity Valuation
Ethical and Professional Standards
Fixed Income Investments
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning
Quantitative Methods
Financial Statement Analysis / Financial Reporting and Analysis
Corporate Issuers

The CFA Institute (CFAI®) updates the exam material annually to keep up with the constantly evolving landscape of investment management and the market. As a result, when selecting study resources, it is crucial to be aware of what has changed and whether the topic weights have been updated. This is particularly important if you failed the CFA exam in the past year and are unsure of your next steps. By staying current on curriculum changes, you can focus your preparation efforts and increase your chances of success in the CFA exam.

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CFA Exam Level 1 Curriculum Changes - 2024

In the latest update regarding the evolution of the CFA Program, significant structural changes have been implemented in the CFA Level 1 curriculum for 2024. The traditional Readings have undergone a complete transformation into interactive Learning Modules, enhancing the overall accessibility and comprehensibility of the curriculum. These modules now integrate a wealth of visual aids, spreadsheets, and content that leans more towards practical applicability, aiming to facilitate a smoother learning experience.

Certain fundamental topics such as time-value of money, statistics, microeconomics, and company accounts have been shifted to pre-read materials. Despite this relocation, these topics retain their utmost importance for the 2024 exams. To support candidates in their preparation, the pre-reads are readily accessible at no cost. This allows candidates to assess their readiness and pinpoint any knowledge gaps they may have, ensuring a more effective and targeted study approach. Some of the other notable changes include:

  • The CFA Level 1 exam now comprises 93 Learning Modules, marking a notable increase from the 73 readings included in the 2023 curriculum.
  • Portfolio Management, Derivatives, and Ethics have undergone minimal alterations, maintaining a largely unchanged format.
  • Several subjects have been subjected to further granularity in the form of additional Learning Modules, including Fixed Income, Quantitative Methods, and Alternative Investments.
  • Conversely, certain topics such as Economics, Corporate Issuers, Financial Statement Analysis, and Equity have been either consolidated or refreshed to streamline and enhance their presentation in the curriculum.
Topic New Readings / Readings with Significant Changes
Quantitative Methods Time Value of Money in Finance
Corporate Issuers Business Models, Capital Investments and Capital Allocation, Capital Structure, Corporate Governance: Conflicts, Mechanisms, Risks, and Benefits, Investors and Other Stakeholders, Organizational Forms, Corporate Issuer Features, and Ownership, Working Capital and Liquidity
Alternative Investments Alternative Investment Features, Methods, and Structures, Alternative Investment Performance and Returns, Introduction to Digital Assets, Investments in Private Capital: Equity and Debt, Natural Resources, Real Estate and Infrastructure
Equity Company Analysis: Forecasting, Company Analysis: Past and Present, Industry and Competitive Analysis
Fixed Income Asset-Backed Security (ABS) Instrument and Market Features, Credit Analysis for Corporate Issuers, Credit Analysis for Government Issuers, Credit Risk, Curve-Based and Empirical Fixed-Income Risk Measures, Fixed-Income Bond Valuation: Prices and Yields, Fixed-Income Cash Flows and Types, Fixed-Income Instrument Features, Fixed-Income Issuance and Trading, Fixed-Income Markets for Corporate Issuers, Fixed-Income Markets for Government Issuers, Fixed-Income Securitization

CFA Exam Level 2 Curriculum Changes - 2024

To summarize, the CFA exam Level 2 curriculum has undergone a relatively small update this year, with some notable changes being:

  • Similar to CFA Level 1, CFA Level 2 is transitioning from Readings to Learning Modules, aligning with the study habits of candidates. These modules are designed for single-evening study sessions and feature more visual aids and practical content relevant to finance careers.
  • The Level 2 will see some significant changes in terms of additional practical skill readings as part of the newly introduced PSMs.
  • Quantitative Methods and Alternative Investments readings in Level 2 have been divided into smaller, more digestible Learning Modules to enhance comprehension and retention.
  • In Financial Statement Analysis, 'Employee Compensation' undergoes significant changes, with most Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) being revised and a reduced focus on defined benefit.
  • Within the Equity section, 'Private Company Valuation' experiences substantial updates, making it the area with the highest number of changed/updated Learning Outcome Statements (LOS).
Topic New Readings / Readings with Significant Changes
Financial Statement Analysis Employee Compensation: Post-Employment and Share-Based
Equity Valuation Private Company Valuation
Alternative Investments Hedge Funds
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CFA Exam Level 3 Curriculum Changes - 2024

To summarize, CFA Level 3 curriculum has undergone a minor update in 2023-2024. These modifications encompass various areas, including Portfolio Management, Derivatives, and the overall structure of the Level 3 curriculum.

  • Portfolio Management Updates: Within the Portfolio Management readings, subtle adjustments have been made, primarily involving the removal of 1-2 Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) or updates to data/exhibits.
  • Derivatives Restructuring: A significant restructuring has occurred in the Derivatives section, specifically with the relocation of the Currency Management reading to the Economics segment.
  • Two readings from the 2023 curriculum have been dropped:
    1. The Behavioral Biases of Individuals
    2. Behavioral Finance & Investment Processes

Other 2024 CFA Exam Changes

Starting in 2024, all Level 1 and 2 candidates will be required to take a Practical Skill Module (PSM). The PSM is a video-based training program, designed to help them bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical applications. In addition, Level 3 candidates will also be required to complete a PSM starting in 2025. The PSM is an important step towards ensuring that candidates are fully prepared to handle the challenges of their job roles.

In addition to the changes implemented in 2023 across all levels, the recent 2024 exam changes aim to equip candidates with a more up-to-date comprehension of investment practices. The updates include the division of Multiple Regression into smaller, more easily digestible segments, an enhancement of Corporate Restructuring with greater emphasis on spreadsheet modeling, and the simplification of Real Estate into three separate components.

Why Is Knowing the Curriculum Changes Important?

Understanding upcoming curriculum changes offers numerous advantages. Firstly, it enhances candidates' comprehension of exam topics, facilitating better preparation. Furthermore, individuals planning to begin their 2024 exam preparations early can gain a competitive edge by acquainting themselves with the impending curriculum alterations.

However, certain situations make advance knowledge of changes even more crucial. This applies particularly to:

A Deferring Candidate: Those deferred from CFA exams will be assessed based on the forthcoming curriculum changes. Familiarity with these changes allows them to streamline their study efforts, avoiding unnecessary expenditure of time and resources on outdated material. This strategic approach saves both time and money, providing a competitive edge over uninformed peers.

A Returning Candidate: Candidates who have previously failed a CFA exam must retake it under the new curriculum. Awareness of curriculum modifications enables candidates to focus on updated learning objectives and omit irrelevant topics, ultimately enhancing their chances of achieving a better exam score.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The CFA Institute oversees the development and revision of the CFA exam curriculum, with input from various stakeholders. The curriculum is regularly updated to stay current with industry practices, with 2-8% of the syllabus changing each year. The frequency of updates varies by exam level, with Level 1 updated annually and Levels 2 and 3 updated every three to five years, though changes may occur at any time due to industry or regulatory changes.
The CFA exam curriculum is updated annually and can be found on the CFAI website. You may want to know if using just the CFAI curriculum is enough to pass the exam.

Read More About the CFA Exam

Are you worried about upcoming exam dates? For those confused by the changing timetables, here is a handy summary of new dates and frequencies.
Looking for the most up-to-date information on CFA exam scoring and pass rates? Check out the most recent statistics to know how much time you’ll need to study for the exam.
Want to know more about the eligibility criteria to sit for the CFA exam? Learn more about the eligibility, enrollment criteria, and all the deadlines.
Looking to learn more about the prerequisites for the CFA exam? Here is a detailed read regarding the registration criteria and the rest of the costs involved.
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