CFA® Level 1 Exam
First Step to the CFA Charter

Kudos! You've decided to take the first step towards becoming a CFA® charterholder, and the CFA Level 1 exam is the first of three levels required to qualify for the charter. It is computer-based, covers ten topics, and is divided into two sessions administered on the same day. Even though the CFA 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 2023: 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. Yes! This means that you can put your guessing cap on with no 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 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
2 Quantitative Methods 8-12% 15-22
3 Economics 8-12% 15-22
4 Financial Statement Analysis 13-17% 24-30
5 Corporate Issuers 8-12% 15-21
6 Portfolio Management 5-8% 9-15
7 Equity Investments 10-12% 18-21
8 Fixed Income 10-12% 18-21
9 Derivative Investments 5-8% 9-15
10 Alternative Investments 5-8% 9-15

CFA Level 1 Exam Curriculum Updates

CFAI is known for revising its curriculum slightly each year, typically to reflect industry changes. The CFA Level 1 curriculum is very slightly updated in 2023, with a major chunk being the same as that in 2022.

Here are some CFA curriculum changes for 2023 (revisions, additions, and updates)

Topic Revised readings Added readings Updated readings
Economics No revisions Introduction to Geopolitics No updates
Corporate Issuers Introduction to Corporate Governance and Other ESG Considerations, and Capital Structure Corporate Structures and Ownership, and Business Models Capital Investments, and Working Capital
Alternative Investments Introduction to Alternative Investments No additions No updates
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning No revisions No additions Portfolio Risk and Return: Part I, Portfolio Risk and Return: Part II, Introduction to Risk Management, and Fintech in Investment Management
Derivatives Derivative Markets and Instruments and Basics of Derivative Pricing and Valuation No additions No updates

CFA Level 1 Exam Eligibility, Registration, and Scheduling

Now that you've gotten a sense of what the CFA Level 1 entails, it's time to sign up. To be eligible to take the exam, candidates must meet the CFA program entrance requirements.

Eligibility

To begin, candidates must have a bachelor's (or equivalent) degree, be a final-year student (complete the degree before registering for the level 2 exam), or have approximately 4,000 hours of professional work experience (or a combination of work experience and education totaling 4,000 hours).

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.

Registration

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.

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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.

Exam Fee

Beginning with the 2023 exam cycle, the price of the one-time enrollment fee will decrease from $450 to $350, while the cost to register for each exam will increase from $700 to $900 for early registration and from $1,000 to $1,200 for standard registration.

Type of Registration Feb 2023 Window May 2023 Window August 2023 Window November 2023 Window Registration Fees
Early Registration Due Date CLOSED CLOSED February 1 May 10 $900
Standard Registration Due Date CLOSED January 31 May 9 August 8 $1200
$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

Please note:

  • Additional personal items are allowed in the test center (if applicable, e.g., earplugs, medication, etc.)
  • Personal baggage and food items aren't allowed inside the test center.

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:

  1. Texas Instruments BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional)
  2. 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.

CFA Exam Scholarships

To make the CFA exam more accessible, CFAI has compiled a list of scholarships that the test-takers can apply for to receive a significant discount on the registration fee. Here's a list of five scholarships that the CFAI offers:

Scholarship Name Details Discount
Access Scholarship For individuals who may not be able to afford the program fees. $250
Women's Scholarship For women who want to become CFA charterholders but do not qualify for other CFA Institute scholarships and have not yet registered for their next exam. $350
Student Scholarship For students currently attending an affiliated university and have not yet registered for their next exam. $350
Professor Scholarship Full-time college/university professors, administrators, or department heads who teach a minimum number of credit hours at qualified institutions and have not yet registered for their next exam. $350
Regulator Scholarship Employees of financial regulators, central banks, securities commissions, qualifying stock exchanges, SROs, or government agencies are eligible. Specifically, those entities that oversee or regulate investment management industry operations, standards of practice, or business conduct or have entered into a program agreement with CFAI. $350

Practice CFA Level 1 Exam with UWorld

With the level of dedication that the CFA 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 CFA Level 1 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 CFA Mode, your screen will simulate the real Prometric interface, preparing you for the actual test day environment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The CFA exams are challenging, and Level 1 is just the beginning. Level 1 can be considered a screening process that assesses candidates’ fundamental understanding of the various sections of the CFA curriculum. Because Level 1 typically has low pass rates, knowing what to expect is always a good first step before taking the exam.

Candidates are permitted to take the exam a maximum of two times per calendar year (when applicable), but only after six months of the initial testing window. Candidates will have a total of six maximum attempts per exam level.
A candidate may take an exam up to two times per calendar year, but only after six months of the initial testing window. The 6-month window also allows you to reflect on why you could not crack it and revise your strategy. Read more on How To Overcome Failing the CFA Exam

UWorld’s Mock Exams closely replicate the actual CFA Level 1 exam experience to help you prepare and boost your confidence on test day. Like the real exam, it consists of two 2-hour, 15-minute sessions, each with 90 multiple-choice questions spanning multiple subjects. Plus, you can also compare your progress with other candidates using UWorld.

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.

You can expect to receive test results approximately 8-10 weeks after the close of an exam window.

Read More About the CFA Exam

Planning to register for the CFA exam? Visit this quick guide for detailed info on everything you would need to know before attempting the exam.

In the lookout for a quick reference guide for locating the most important formulas for the CFA exam? Here’s a carefully designed formula sheet to make your life easier.

Looking to ace your Level 1 preparation? With intelligent QBanks and interactive study plans, this study guide is tailor-made for your success, and an excellent first step toward passing the CFA Level 1 exam.

Wondering what all options you have after passing the CFA exams? Look no more, for we have every info starting from possible career options to impact of the CFA charter on your career.

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