For those considering the CFA exams:
- How do these changes impact the speed of your path to CFA charter?
- What are the differences between the various CFA registration options?
- How does that route – i.e. your CFA roadmap – change if you fail?
No worries, we’ve analyzed all available CFA pathways and mapped them out for you in our clearcut CFA Journey Planner – check it out!
- CFA exam schedule: summary of CFA Institute's recent changes
- CFA journey planner: Plan your path to the charter easily
- CFA exam cycle options: What have we learned?
CFA exam schedule: summary of CFA Institute’s recent changes
CFA Institute has been making a lot of changes to the exam structure, frequency and format in the last 12 months in response to the pandemic, much to candidates’ chagrin.
On 3 November 2021, CFA Institute suddenly announced further changes to the exam cycles for 2022-2023, which supersedes previous announcements. Talk about head-banging madness 🙂
The main reason for this change is to shift Level 3 away from the November cycle, given the human-grading required towards the holiday season, which would cause further delay in results announcements.
Therefore, CFA Institute has decided to increase the Level 2 testing frequency to 3x a year, and gradually swapping Level 3’s exam frequency with Level 2 in 2022-2023.
Confused? No worries, here are all the changes from 2021 neatly summarized in the table below so you can see the evolution:
|CFA exam cycles||2021||2022||2023 onwards|
|Level 1||6x this year, with exam windows available in February, March (one-off), May, July (one-off), August and November.||4x a year, with exam windows available quarterly in February, May, August and November.||Same as 2022|
|Level 2||3x a year, with exam windows available in May, August and November.||3x a year, with exam windows available in February, August and November (new).||3x a year, with exam windows available in May (new), August and November.|
|Level 3||3x this year, with exam windows available in May, August and November.||2x a year, with exam windows available in May and August (instead of November).||2x a year, with exam windows available in Feb (instead of May) and August.|
In summary, from 2023 onwards, CFA exams will be held quarterly for Level 1, thrice a year for Level 2 and twice a year for Level 3.
Naturally, this major upheaval created a lot of confusion especially around how the “CFA 6 months rule” works (a minimum 6 months gap between CFA exam attempts), how the different exam cycle options compare, and more importantly, how the new path to obtaining CFA charter looks like.
Well, I hope this is the one chart that explains it all!
CFA journey planner: Plan your path to the charter easily
Our handy CFA Journey Planner infographic lets you plot your route to the CFA charter at a glance.
It displays the exam slots for each Level for 2023-2026, with the next available exam intake depending on results (pass or fail). This lets you easily see what options you have and apply the “6 months rule” to understand when are the next applicable exam intakes.
Let’s run a few example scenarios:
- If you failed Level 1 in Feb 2024, the earliest you can attempt Level 1 again is Aug 2024.
- If you passed Level 1 in Aug 2023, the earliest you can attempt Level 2 is May 2024.
- If you failed Level 2 in Aug 2023, due to the “6 months rule” and exam windows, the next available Level 2 exam you can register for is May 2024, not Nov 2023.
- If you failed Level 3 Feb 2024, you earliest you can retake it is in Aug 2024.
There are a few interesting insights we can conclude from these exam schedule changes.
CFA exam cycle options: What have we learned?
1) The cost of failure has significantly reduced: you can retake a level every 6 months
Nothing surprising here given the “(nearly) 6 months rule”!
2) There is now a unique 12 month route to CFA charter, assuming consecutive passes.
With the latest exam window changes, registering for CFA Level 1 in the February exam window would offer that super fast route to pass all 3 levels in 1 year, assuming consecutive passes. This means that it is possible for good candidates to pass Level 1 February, then pass Level 2 August and finally pass Level 3 February the following year.
This is of course a high risk and high burn out strategy, so proceed with caution.
3) Aside from February, there is not much speed difference between the other Level 1 registration windows.
Given the increased testing frequency on every Level, CFA candidates can now complete all 3 levels faster than previously. Upon passing, candidates can progress to Level 2 and Level 3 within 6-9 months per Level.
Under the old paper-based exams (pre-2021), the fastest one could complete the CFA charter is in 18 months with 3 consecutive passes.
With the new schedule from 2023, passing all 3 Levels consecutively only takes 12-18 months as the norm. That said, only the February window offers the potential of a fast track route to a CFA charter in 1 year, whilst the other windows average 15-18 months assuming consecutive passes between levels.
If you’re considering Level 1 in 2024 and wondering which exam cycle is best to go for, the good news is that there isn’t much speed differences across all the exam windows aside from the February exam window.
Compared to February, May and November exam cycles are slightly slower – but only by 3 months. August exam windows are the ‘slowest’ at 18 months, but this is likely the more sustainable route.
From 2023 onwards, assuming 3 consecutive passes, it takes candidates 12-18 months to complete all 3 exams regardless of the choice of exam registration window.
Given the negligible differences in speed for the 4 regular Level 1 exam windows, choose your exam slot based on your personal, work and life commitments to maximize your chances of success:
- Although Level 1 February exam window are 3 months quicker, the schedule would be very intense as it takes up to 2 months for results to be published, which in effect only gives you 4 months to Level 2 which would be challenging with an intense full-time job.
- On the other hand, August cycles allow you to have 6-7 months of proper studying time after result publication, which is a more sustainable study plan and achievable with a full-time job.
Need more information on CFA exam registrations? Here are related articles of interest:
Decided on your exam registration window? Great! Here are the best resources to kickstart your studies after registering:
- 300Hours’ Free CFA Study Planner
- 9 Insider Tips to Pass CFA Level 2 in 4 Months
- The 10 Commandments for CFA Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3
- How to Prepare and Pass CFA In 18 Months: CFA Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3
- What Is The Best Study Order For CFA Topics? Read our Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 guides.
- What Is The CFA Exams? A Beginner’s Guide
- 2023 CFA Curriculum Changes, Summarized