CFA Exam Pass Rates, Scores, and Grading
Level 1, 2 & 3
If you are considering the CFA® exam, it only makes sense to become acquainted with the passing rates and scores as a factor in deciding whether to take the exam. It's best to look at a rolling 10-year average for each level when reviewing the historical pass rates. Since the CFA® Institute (CFAI) only provides pass rates and not the minimum passing score (MPS)The Minimum Passing Score (MPS) is the lowest possible score a candidate can obtain while still passing the CFA exam. for each exam window, the MPS can only be estimated.
CFA Pass Rates Across Each Level
Knowing the pass rates can often benefit your preparation for intensive exams like the CFA exam, especially when taking mock exams. Estimating your score and pass/fail status can be valuable in effectively carrying out your study strategies. The exam pass rates for all levels have changed in recent years, partly due to the pandemic and partly due to the introduction of computer-based testing.
CFA Level 1 Pass Rates
Obtaining your CFA designation is not an easy task. The Level 1 exam is taken by more candidates and has the lowest pass rate of the three levels: Only 36% passed the CFA Level 1 exam for the 2022 November test window.
In theory, the CFAI knows that this level requires a deep and broad understanding of the subject matter, with very little carry-over knowledge from college. It thus filters out the candidates without such requisite knowledge.
CFA Level 2 Pass Rates
Level 2 of the CFA exam is widely regarded as the most difficult of the three sections. On average, approximately 42% of candidates passed the Level 2 exam in 2022.
While Level 1 pass rates are lower, Level 2 pass rates reflect the scores of a more astute set of candidates. The question format is still MCQ, but in a vignette style that candidates have not yet seen, thus making Level 2 comparatively tricky.
CFA Level 3 Pass Rates
The CFA exam's third and final level has the highest success rate of the three levels. On average, over the past 10 years, approximately 52% of Level 3 test-takers passed the exam. While the pass rate percentage for the May 2022 window saw a jump of 8% to 49% from 2021’s 41% rate, it was a percent lesser for August 2022 (48%)
CFA Level 3 introduces an essay format, which adds another layer of complexity to the exam. Level 3 candidates should devote sufficient time to comprehending the nuances of and grading criteria for this exam format.
How Does the CFA Exam Grading System Work?
To determine passing scores for each level of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam, the CFA Institute uses a method known as the modified Angoff method.
- This process involves a panel of subject matter experts who are familiar with the content and difficulty of the exam.
- These experts estimate the minimum score that a candidate should receive in order to demonstrate the necessary level of knowledge and skills.
- The minimum score is then used to set the passing score for the exam, which may vary from one administration to the next depending on the performance of the group of candidates taking the exam at that time and the exam's difficulty.
Multiple-choice questions on all three levels of the CFA exam are machine-graded, with about 10% of exams being re-graded by hand to check for inconsistencies and ensure accuracy. During the grading period, the clarity and validity of multiple-choice questions may be reevaluated based on results and complaints from the testing period. Any questions found to be unclear or invalid will be credited towards a candidate's score.
Essays are also graded a second time by a different person to ensure fairness. If the first and second scores for these essays differ, the essay will be graded a third time. During the official evaluation, CFA exam graders are divided into groups and use a rubric provided by the CFA Institute to grade questions. Different levels of charterholders and a "grader of graders" grade all exams and review each other's work to maintain consistency during the first week of grading. The middle 50% of exam scores are graded again during the second week, and if there are significant differences in grading, the exams are graded a third time. Finally, the exams are given a MPS (minimum passing score).
However, score box is above MPS line – indicating could have passed if performing at best.
Refer to CFA result indication. Pass/fail cannot be reliably inferred from chart.
Apart from analyzing the CFA exam grading system and its working, having clarity on what the scoring components stand for is also important. A black dotted line indicates the MPS; a thick, dark blue line shows your score. If the line is above the MPS, you passed. If it is below the MPS, you did not pass.
What is the CFA Minimum Passing Score (MPS)?
The Minimum Passing Score (MPS) is the lowest possible score a candidate can obtain while still passing the CFA exam. The CFA Institute does not publish the minimum passing scores. This is not to be confused with the CFA pass rate, which is published annually and represents the percentage of candidates who passed a specific exam.
As much as results are important, it is equally important to be able to understand the Whys and Hows of the grade that you receive. Apart from helping you analyze your grade, understanding your CFA score report will also give you an idea of areas of improvement and can assess your standing in the CFA exam, should you want to attempt the exam again.
Maximizing Your CFA Exam Score: Make It Possible with UWorld
Along with the CFA exam's nerve-racking nature, there is uncertainty surrounding your chances of passing given that the MPS is unknown. So, what is the best method to increase your chances of passing? The answer is simple: Confidence and passing results come from proper preparation. The difference between passing and failing is in the quality of the CFA prep content you use and the study plan around it.
Practicing with a world-class, comprehensive online-learning platform is the key to better results. Candidates are not specialists in all topics covered, even with an advanced finance degree. As a result, each candidate has several knowledge gaps that can be filled by self-study and repetition. Reading detailed answers to CFA practice problems is a handy tool for swiftly grasping challenging concepts holding you back. The curriculum is extensive, yet the principles are understandable. Allow adequate time to study the curriculum thoroughly, keep involved with the content, incorporate high levels of practice, and include time to review immediately before the exam.
UWorld's team of professionals includes CFA charterholders who have extensive experience in teaching and creating content specific to the CFA exam, as well as financial training. Some members of our team even have experience in developing the CFA exam itself. By choosing UWorld, you can benefit from the knowledge and expertise of these professionals as you work to understand the expectations of the CFA exam and develop a plan to succeed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why doesn't the CFA Institute publish the minimum passing score for each level?
Do candidates have to beat the MPS for each topic to pass, or just the overall exam?
Why are CFA pass rates so low?
What is a good CFA score?
Do CFA scores expire?
How soon will I get my CFA exam results?
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