CAIA Pass Rates: How Difficult Are CAIA Exams?

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We often get asked how difficult the CAIA exams actually are. While CAIA pass rates and its historical trend is one way to judge this, it can be tricky to compare difficulty between designations such as CAIA vs. CFA as well.

CAIA exams are tough in the sense that you’ll build up deep, specialist knowledge in a narrow topic of alternative investments. Passing CAIA exams is certainly achievable with a proper study plan to track your progress and solid study strategies.

In this article, we try to approach this question on exam difficulty objectively in order to help you decide whether CAIA exam is right for you. We will look at:

  • historical CAIA pass rates,
  • third party benchmarking studies, and
  • speed of exam completion.

Let’s go!


CAIA Pass Rates Since 2010

CAIA Pass Rates: How Difficult Are CAIA Exams? 1

Here are the latest CAIA pass rates:

Pass ratesCAIA Level 1CAIA Level 2
Sep 202151%To be announced
Mar 202154%59%
Sep 202052%65%
Mar 202054%81%
Sep 201952%64%

Since 2010, the historical CAIA pass rates for:

  • Level 1 ranges from 51%-74%, with a 11-year average of 63%;
  • Level 2 ranges from 56%-81%, with a 11-year average of 63%.

Interestingly, pass rates for both CAIA levels are more volatile compared to CFA’s or FRM’s, even when comparing like-for-like periods.


CAIA Level 1 Pass Rates

CAIA Pass Rates: How Difficult Are CAIA Exams? 2

With a long term 15 year average of 66%, CAIA Level 1 pass rates have been on a downward trajectory since 2006, with the pass rates dropping from 70%+ to 50%+ today.

The latest CAIA Level 1 pass rates are 51% (Sep 2021) and 54% (March 2021). September 2021’s pass rate is the lowest since 2010.

Interestingly, unlike CFA exams, the pandemic didn’t have a noticeable improvement in CAIA pass rates, due to additional study time that comes with the postponement.

This is likely due to CAIA exam’s existing computer-based testing (CBT) format, and also the introduction of online proctoring option for candidates since Sep 2020, both which provided more testing flexibility and minimized any exam postponements.


CAIA Level 2 Pass Rates

caia level 2 pass rates since 2010

The story is quite different for CAIA Level 2 pass rates. The latest CAIA Level 2 pass rate is 59% for Mar 2021’s exam.

With a 15-year average of 64%, CAIA Level 2 pass rates have been ranging between 56% to 70% since 2006, with March 2020 being an outlier.

CAIA Level 2’s pass rate for March 2020 is the highest ever at 81% (!), possibly attributed to a sizeable portion of CAIA Level 2 candidates being CFA charterholders who are utilizing the Stackable Pilot program to waive CAIA Level 1.

As you can see, CAIA Level 2 pass rates have been on an upward trend since 2018 when the Stackable Pilot program was first introduced in March 2018, although correlation isn’t causation until proven statistically 🙂


How Hard Is CAIA Exam, Really?

So we have learned all the historical trends in CAIA pass rates for both levels, but that still doesn’t really tell us how difficult these exams are.

Perhaps a more objective way to assess CAIA exam’s difficulty lies in the UK NARIC’s (National Academic Recognition Information Centre of the United Kingdom) benchmarks.

cfa frm imc cipm difficulty comparison financial designation

Unfortunately at this stage, CAIA exams have not been officially benchmarked by UK NARIC as yet, although CAIA Association has told us that this is in their plans.

The chart above shows that completing CFA Level 3 or FRM exams has a difficulty comparable to a Master’s degree (Level 7 qualification under UK Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF)).

Just to be helpful to our readers, based on our understanding of CAIA’s curriculum, if we had to guess (big caveat here!), we would expect CAIA exams to be somewhere between Level 5-7 under the UK Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).

This means that we estimate that CAIA exam’s difficulty should be comparable to either a Diploma, Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree equivalent under UK NARIC’s benchmarking system.

Finally, here’s another useful metric as a gauge of CAIA exam’s difficulty by CAIA Association themselves:

75% of CAIA candidates who earn their CAIA Charter do so in 12-18 months.

CAIA Association

In contrast, CFA candidates take 4 years on average to pass 3 levels of the CFA exams, and is a Masters equivalent degree.


Hope you found the CAIA pass rates information and various data benchmarks above useful!

Meanwhile, here are some related articles that may be of interest:

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