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What to Expect on the CFA Level 1 Exam

Becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is now one of the most popular career choices in the investment world. The advantages of joining the CFA program lie in acquiring specific investment-related experience for a reasonably low cost. On average though, the self-study course requires a commitment of around 4 years and 1,000 hours of study—so it’s not for the faint-hearted! So, discover what to expect on the CFA Level 1 Exam.

The CFA Level 1 exam is held twice a year and can taken in December 2018 or June 2019.

Key Calendar Dates for the December 2018 Exam (CFA Level 1 Only)


Registration began for the December 2018 exam January 2018
Deadline for early registration fees March 14th 2018
Standard registration fee deadline August 15th 2018
Final (late) registration fee deadline September 12th 2018
Final deadline for disability and religious alternate date requests September 17th 2018
Exam admission tickets available November 2018
Exam day December 1st 2018
Exam results are emailed to candidates/available online January 2019

(, 2018)

The Level 2 and Level 3 exams are only held once a year in June. The next available CFA Level 2 and 3 exam date is June 15th 2019. Next year, the CFA Level 1 will be held on June 16th.

Key Calendar Dates for the June 2019 CFA Exams (Level 1, 2, and 3)


Registration for the June 2019 exam Mid-August 2018
Exam Day: Americas and EMEA (Levels 1, 2 and 3) June 15th 2019
Exam Day: Asia Pacific (Level 2 and 3 only) June 15th 2019
Exam Day: Asia Pacific (Level I only) June 16th 2019

(, 2018)

CFA Level 1 Exam Structure

The CFA Level 1 exam includes 240 multiple choice questions, split over two 3-hour sessions. It is necessary for candidates to attend both sessions.

  • Morning period (3 hours): 120 multiple choice questions which cover all topics
  • Afternoon period (3 hours): 120 multiple choice questions which cover all topics

Allow roughly 90 seconds for each question. All of the questions are free-standing (not related to each other) and consist of three available answer choices. You may need to spend more or less time on each, depending on your level of topical understanding.

CFA Level 1 Exam Weights

The Learning Focus for Level 3 is “Knowledge and Comprehension,” while the Topic Focus is “Investment Tools.” The structure breaks down like this below.


Topic Exam Weight
Ethical and Professional Standards 15%
Quantitative Methods 12%
Economics 10%
Financial Reporting and Analysis 20%
Corporate Finance 7%
Portfolio Management 7%
Equity 7%
Fixed Income 10%
Derivatives 5%
Alternative Investments 4%


(, 2018)

CFA Level 1 Exam Results


Year Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
2017 43% / 43% 47% 54%
2016 43% 46% 54%
2015 42% / 43% 46% 53%


(, 2018)

Don’t be deceived, all of the CFA exams are tough. On top of that, as you can see, CFA results are lowest for level 1. Practice regularly and cumulatively to revise and refresh yourself on the vast breadth of content material the exam covers. And don’t fall victim to overconfidence by underestimating the CFA level 1 exam or the time required to study for it.

CFA Salary Averages

On average, CFA charter holders can earn from anywhere around $53,000 to over $150,000 a year. The wide discrepancy between typical salaries is based entirely on experience; those with less are paid much less. A CFA with 20+ years on the job can earn in the range of $156,000 per year. Such data demonstrates the importance of gaining an edge to compete with others if you are considering entering the field.

Keen to learn more? Check out the next in the series here: What To Expect On The CFA Level 2 Exam

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