2021 is the year of change for CFA exams.
You probably already know that not just Level 1, but all CFA exams are transitioning to computer-based testing (CBT), with higher testing frequency available and a reduced test duration.
However, CFA Institute tends to announce other smaller – yet important – changes via its website or by emailing candidates directly.
So here’s a list of 10 recent CFA exam changes which you ought to be aware of.
1) Online Proctored Testing (OPT) option may be available to some cancelled February 2021 candidates
On 12th Jan 2021, CFA Institute sent an email to existing February 2021 candidates mentioning that it is exploring a limited-capacity online proctored testing (OPT) option!
OPT is not available for candidates in mainland China due to government regulations.
Additional details, including testing environment, as well as computer system requirements will be announced on 2 February 2021.
Big news indeed.
2) February 2021 candidates are now allowed free deferral to any 2021 exams
In the same email on 12th Jan 2021, CFA Institute also allowed candidates a free deferral option to any 2021 exams given the current pandemic situation.
More details on deferral option will be made available on 2 February 2021.
3) Twice-impacted February 2021 candidates are also entitled a refund
Any February 2021 candidate whose exams have been cancelled twice due to COVID are entitled to a refund. An example would be if a Level 1 candidate first registered for December 2020 and postponed to February 2021, and subsequently cancelled again due to the pandemic.
CFA Institute will contact impacted candidates for a refund option after the February testing window.
4) CFA Level 1 CBT exam format: 10 topics now split across 2 sessions
Level 1 CBT now feature two sessions of 2 hours and 15 minutes each, with 90 multiple-choice questions per session.
However, the crucial change from paper-based exams is that the 10 Level 1 topics are now split across the two sessions:
- The first session covers 4 topics: Ethics, Quant Methods, Economics, and Financial Reporting and Analysis.
- The second session covers the remaining 6 topics: Corporate Finance, Equity, Fixed Income, Derivatives, Alternative Investments and Portfolio Management
For more information, check out the latest:
5) CFA Level 2 CBT exam format: 44 multiple-choice questions per session
With 25% of reduction in testing time to 2 hours and 15 minutes per session for CBT, CFA Institute has confirmed that there will be 44 question per session, making 88 questions in total for CFA Level 2. Each question is worth 3 points.
This means that there is slightly more time per question with Level 2 CBT (3 minutes 4 seconds per question) , compared to the previous paper-based version (3 minutes per question).
Odd that CFA Institute didn’t make it 45 questions per session to make same time per question just like the paper-based version…
Unlike Level 1 CBT, it seems that all 10 topics for Level 2 are tested in both sessions as there is no mention of different topics tested per session.
6) CFA Level 3 CBT exam format: Constructed-response (essay) session now has some multiple-choice questions (!)
OK sure, you may already know that there is 2 sessions of 2 hours and 15 minutes each for Level 3 CBT.
However, one surprising news – to me at least – is the announcement that the first Level 3 session with constructed-response questions now includes some multiple choices too.
7) Key exam deadlines for new one-off exam cycles in 2021 announced
Just in case you weren’t aware, a few new one-off CFA exam cycles were announced for all Levels on 7th December 2020:
- Level 1: March (postponed candidates only) and July 2021
- Level 2: Nov 2021
- Level 3: Aug 2021
CFA Institute has just announced the key deadlines and when registration opens for these new exam cycles.
8) New exam cycles may change your CFA registration plans
With the new one-off exam cycles introduced (see #4), there may be important repercussions to your CFA journey due to the “6 months rule” between exams: mainly that it is now possible to proceed faster through the CFA program assuming consecutive passes. And this only applies in 2021.
For more information on this, check out our CFA Journey Planner article for the full picture, to understand the timeline of what happens if you pass or fail at each level.
9) There is now a maximum of 6 attempts per Level
In addition to CFA candidates only allowed to take a maximum of 2 exams a year (i.e. the ‘6 month rule’ mentioned in previous point #8), there is also now a maximum limit of 6 attempts per CFA level, according to the latest CFA Exam eligibility policy for computer-based exams.
I suppose this really shouldn’t be an issue for most candidates, since if you were to attempt a CFA level 6 times, it may be a sign that the CFA Program isn’t really for you.
10) When would computer-based CFA exam results be released?
CFA Institute announced that CFA Level 1 and Level 2’s CBT results would be released around 60 days after the exams, whilst Level 3’s CBT results would be available within 90 days from the exams.
While this is the same statement as per paper-based exams, historically CFA Institute have announced the CFA exam results earlier:
- 52 days (or approx 7.5 weeks) after exams for Level 1 and Level 2
- 66 days after exams for Level 3
So hopefully CFA Institute are just being conservative here and would maintain or beat the paper-based exams results announcement schedule.
Stay up-to-date on when the latest CFA exam results would be announced →
Hope you have found this useful. Were there any CFA exam changes you learned about from the list above? Or do you have more to add? Leave a comment below!