Passing the exams of the CFA Program requires strong discipline and a large number of studies. The three exams can be taken once a year, in June, with the exception of level I, which will be taken in December, as well as in June. Level 1 exams will be given on December 3-4, 2016.
Although exams can be taken as many times as necessary. Each exam typically requires candidates to study in more than 300 hours. Based on the latest candidate survey conducted by the CFA Institute, the average candidate studied 308 hours for exams. Considering the amount of time devoted to the study, many candidates are prevented from continuing with the CFA program after failing one of the levels. To receive a letter, each candidate must pass the three exams and have four years of qualified work experience in investment decisions.
The tests cover topics such as ethics and professional standards, quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity investments, derivatives, alternative investments, portfolio management and wealth planning. The six-hour exam covers a wide range of subjects, so most CFA accreditation recommends studying more than 300 hours. The books provided by the CFA Institute provide more material than is necessary to learn for the exam. Many candidates choose to study from an alternative source of preparation materials, such as study books provided by Schweser. Classes, videos and online CFA study material can also provide assistance to study for exams.
The CFA Institute reports that the historical approval ratings for each level of the exams are typically between 40 and 50%. However, the approval ratings were much higher when the exams were first started in 1963 and have had a downward trend since then. The results of June 2016 report that 43% of the candidates passed Level I, 46% passed Level II and 53% passed Level III. Level III results usually have the highest approval ratings of all levels. Around 20% of the candidates who sign up for the exam have never finished taking the test. The candidate has an average of four years to receive a letter.
While the test materials are very difficult, the exam questions are specially designed to deceive the candidates. For this reason, candidates must take many practice tests and go through practice questions to prepare for the exam and have an idea of the types of questions you will find. Level I has 240 multiple choice questions, Level II consists of 20 questions set of articles and Level III has a combination of questions set of articles and short essays. Although multiple level I questions have only three possible answers. Candidates have to read the questions carefully to select the correct answers, which can often include none of the above and all of the above as possible answers.
In general, CFA exams are very difficult, but candidates can increase their chances of passing through studying more than 300 hours, using alternative preparation materials, answering as many practice questions as possible and creating a plan of structured studies. Finishing the entire CFA program can be very rewarding, and the designation is recognized by companies throughout the financial sector. Accreditation can advance their investment careers through the knowledge acquired and their access to the extensive network of CFA professionals.