CFA® Level 1 Exam
First Step to the CFA Charter
You've made the decision to become a CFA® charterholder, and in order to do so, you'll need to pass three levels of exams. The first level is the CFA Level 1 Exam, which is administered on a computer and covers ten different topics. The exam is divided into two sessions that take place on the same day. Even though the Level 1 exam has the lowest passing score, the questions only concern the candidate's fundamental knowledge of the field. According to the CFA® Institute (CFAI), Level 1 will occur four times in 2024: February, May, August, and November.
What Is the CFA Level 1 Exam Format, Structure, and Duration?
The first session of the CFA Level 1 exam covers four topics: Ethics, Quantitative Methods, Economics, and Financial Statement Analysis. Then the second session covers the remaining six topics: Corporate Finance, Equity, Fixed Income, Derivatives, Alternative Investments, and Portfolio Management.
The two sessions last about 2 hours and 14 minutes each, leaving 1.5 minutes per question. There are 180 questions in total (90 questions per session) asked in a Multiple-Choice Question (MCQ) format and with no negative marking. This means that you can make guesses without any negative consequences.
Level 1 includes three types of questions:
- Theoretical – Tests your knowledge of different financial concepts, definitions, models, and theorems
- Computing – Tests your ability to quick calculations and do the math in general
- Reasoning – Tests your understanding of establishing the connections between concepts, and ability to think logically
CFA Level 1 Exam Topics Overview
The CFA Level 1 exam focuses on fundamental knowledge and understanding of investment valuation and portfolio management tools and concepts. The curriculum is divided into the ten topic areas below with the appropriate weight :
|Topic||Topic Name||Weight||Number of Questions|
|1||Ethical and Professional Standards||15-20%||27-36|
|4||Financial Statement Analysis||11-14%||24-30|
CFA Level 1 Exam Curriculum Updates
CFAI is known for revising its curriculum slightly each year, typically to reflect industry changes. However, the CFA Level 1 curriculum is only updated slightly in 2024, with a major chunk being the same as that in 2023. Here are some CFA curriculum changes for 2024 (revisions, additions, and updates)
|Economics||Added: Introduction to Geopolitics|
Revised: Introduction to Corporate Governance and Other ESG Considerations, and Capital Structure
Added: Corporate Structures and Ownership, and Business Models
Updated: Capital Investments, and Working Capital
|Alternative Investments||Revised: Introduction to Alternative Investments|
|Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning||Updated: Portfolio Risk and Return: Part I, Portfolio Risk and Return: Part II, Introduction to Risk Management, and Fintech in Investment Management|
|Derivatives||Revised: Derivative Markets and Instruments and Basics of Derivative Pricing and Valuation|
CFA Level 1 Exam Eligibility, Registration, and Scheduling
Now that you've gotten a sense of what the CFA Level 1 exam entails, it's time to sign up. To be eligible to take the exam, candidates must meet the CFA program entrance requirements.
To be eligible to start the CFA program, candidates should hold a bachelor's degree or its equivalent, have at least two years remaining in their undergraduate studies, or have around 4,000 hours of relevant professional work experience. The CFA Institute has introduced extended eligibility periods, as part of the CFA evolution 2024 changes, to offer candidates an opportunity to prepare for internships and careers in investment. This program is particularly suitable for those with finance-related degrees, and some universities have partnered with the CFA Institute to support students in their preparation. As per the recent policy change, these students can take Level 1 of the CFA exam to demonstrate their interest in pursuing a career in the investment industry to potential employers.
Also, because the exam and the entire curriculum are in English, the candidate must be fluent in the English language. Only after making the required payments can a candidate register for the Level 1 exam.
The CFA exam registration is a two-step process
- Step 1: Enroll in the CFA exam through the CFAI registration portal.
- Step 2: After completing the registration process and making your payment, you will see the "schedule your exam" option in your CFA Program tile. This will take you to the Prometric scheduling tool, where you will be shown available testing centers as well as their dates and times. This step must be completed by the scheduled deadline.
Please note that if you do not receive a confirmed date and time, you are not yet successfully scheduled for an exam. The CFAI does change the annual exam schedule periodically, so always refer to the official website for the most updated information. To initiate your registration process, please visit the CFAI website.
Effective from the 2024 exam cycle, the cost for early exam registration will increase to $940, up from $900, and standard registration will be priced at $1,250, up from $1,200.
|Type of Registration||Feb 2024 Window||May 2024 Window||Aug 2024 Window||Nov 2024 Window||Registration Fees|
|Early Registration Due Date||CLOSED||CLOSED||January 23||April 16||$ 940|
|Standard Registration Due Date||CLOSED||February 6||May 14||August 7||$1250|
|$350 enrollment fee for first-timers|
Scheduling and rescheduling your CFA Level 1 exam
It's important to note that registering for the exam is a two-step process. You must first register before you can choose the CFA exam date and location of your Level 1 exam. The entire process is facilitated by a dedicated platform known as ProScheduler. Because appointments are always first-come, first-served, don't put off your scheduling. If you have second thoughts about the date selected, you may reschedule for an additional $250 fee per re-appointment.
Exam Center Locations
CFA exams are administered in over 400 locations worldwide. Candidates will see test center options during the scheduling procedure with confirmed available seating. Remember that you must first register before scheduling your appointment. If you don't see your preferred location listed, try checking back since the CFAI updates the appointment availability routinely.
CFA Level 1 Exam-Day Requirements
For the CFA Level 1 exam, you are allowed to bring the following items to the test center:
- A CFA exam calculator (including the case and loose batteries)
- A valid international travel passport
- Prescription eyeglasses (without the case)
- ‘A calm and composed mind - pun intended’
Read more on What To Take to the CFA Exam on Test Day.
Calculators used for the Level 1 exam
Only two calculator models are authorized for use during the tests:
- Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional)
- Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th-anniversary edition, and HP 12C Prestige)
Read more on approved calculators for the CFA exam.
Practice CFA Level 1 Exam with UWorld
With the level of dedication and study time that the CFA Level 1 exam demands from the candidate, studying the readings alone won't be enough. A proper practice strategy replicating the actual exam is equally imperative to succeed. UWorld's Mock Exams closely simulate the actual Level 1 of the CFA exam experience to help you prepare and boost your confidence on test day.
Like the actual CFA exam, our mock exams consist of two 2-hour and 15-minute sessions, each with 90 multiple-choice questions, allowing you to identify your development areas and compare your relative ranking to other users. And, when you select the CFA exam Mode, your screen will simulate the real Prometric interface, preparing you for the actual test day environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
A candidate may take an exam up to two times per calendar year, but only after six months of the initial testing window. There is no limit to the number of times you can take the CFA Level 1 exam. You can retake the exam as many times as you need until you pass, although you will need to pay the registration fee each time you take it. However, it is important to note that the CFA Institute recommends candidates take at least four months to prepare for each level of the exam, so it is advisable to carefully consider your study plan and schedule before retaking the exam.
Read more on How To Overcome Failing the CFA Exam.
Some of the CFA exam scholarships that the test-takers can apply to receive a significant discount on the registration fee. Here’s a list of five scholarships that the CFAI offers:
- Access Scholarship – $250
- Women’s Scholarship – $350
- Student Scholarship – $350
- Professor Scholarship – $350
- Regulator Scholarship – $350
Candidates do not receive a numerical score on the CFA exams. Instead, the CFAI establishes a Minimum Passing Score (MPS) after each exam cycle. If a candidate’s score is at/above the MPS, they will receive a “Pass” or a “Did not pass” result.
Read more on CFA Exam Scoring and CFA Minimum Passing Score.