Last week, CFA Institute ripped up the rulebook once again, announcing that CFA Level 2 and Level 3 will transition to computer-based exams in 2021, effectively cancelling the paper-based Jun21 exams and making Dec20 the last paper-based exam.
Registration for the Dec20 CFA exams close very soon – 19th August, as a matter of fact. So should you plan to take the exam in December 2020, or push your plans to 2021?
To give you guidance on which should be your next CFA exam, we’ve pored through all the information CFA Institute has announced. We will discuss in this article:
- Five reasons why you should postpone to 2021
- Five reasons why you shouldn’t postpone to 2021
- Our final recommendation
What are the deadlines to postponing my exam from December 2020 to 2021?
- The latest date to register (or reregister) for the December 2020 paper-based exam (Dec20) is 19th August 2020.
- Registration for all 2021 dates and all CFA levels will open on 20th August 2020. Registration for Feb21 L1 is already open.
- If you’re a postponed candidate currently registered for Dec20, you have up to 20th October 2020 to reschedule your exam, should you choose to.
How to postpone your December 2020 CFA exam to any 2021 exam date
- All 2021 exam dates will be available from 20th August 2020.
- If you’re already registered for Dec20: Sign in to your account, go to the CFA Program tile and follow the instructions under Manage Your Exam to Withdraw from Exam. Then, you may re-register for your choice of future exam date with no additional fees. You must complete this process by 20 October.
- For everyone else who has to change their registration: To register for a new exam date, sign in to your account and complete the registration process for your choice of future exam date with no additional fees. Again, you must register for your future exam date by 20 October.
5 reasons why you should postpone your December 2020 CFA exam
In the survey, candidates were asked to factor in local regulations, as well as their best estimate on whether COVID regulations will continue (or tightened) in December.
You can probably get a feel for your own location, but the survey may confirm what you’re already feeling – it’s not looking great for an as-usual Dec20 CFA exam. Postponing to 2021 might be a good chance to get more certainty over your exam dates.
This means that CFA computer-based test centers are likely to have just 5% of candidates per test center compared to past CFA exams.
Less candidates per venue = better social distancing = safer for everyone.
CFA Institute has stated that after about 4.5 hours of testing, additional testing is unlikely to further improve the accuracy of the assessment. But a shorter exam in our opinion would work in your favor, and improve your chances in being better prepared for the exam. A shorter exam makes for a less tired candidate, and less tired candidates are likely to perform better.
Compare this to taking your L1 exam in Feb21, where the soonest L2 exam will be Aug21, and L3 in May22. That gives you 6 months to study for L2, and a nice 9 months for L3. This sounds more manageable to us, while still being faster than the previous paper-based route.
Although not yet confirmed by CFA Institute, the paper-based exams are also likely to have a longer time to results compared to computer-based exams, so you would have a longer period of waiting for your results, and wondering whether you should presumptively start studying for the next level.
Of course, you could choose to take it slow as a Dec20 candidate. Candidates passing in Dec20 don’t HAVE to immediately register for the next available exam – but the temptation will be there.
5 reasons why you shouldn’t postpone your December 2020 CFA exam
So if a refund is what you’re aiming for, not postponing and hoping for a postponement is your best bet.
Do remember that a refund only means your exam fee – CFA Institute will not be refunding your exam enrollment fee, nor would you be getting back any money spent on third-party materials.
If you’re a candidate that’s been postponed from Jun20, you might also dread the prospect of having to yet again ‘restart’ your studies.
Don’t want to wait any longer? Sit tight for Dec20.
Whatever the reason, there is genuine preference by many candidates for a paper-based CFA exam, and Dec20 will be the last chance to take the CFA exam in a paper-based format.
Just so you know, the computer-based CFA exams will provide writing material, but this will be in the form of dry-erase boards rather than paper. If that makes any difference in your decision.
Additionally, because of the transition to computer-based exams, Dec20 also offers a uniquely fast (and intensive) route from Level 1 to Level 3 in just 11 months. This means a Level 1 candidate taking the exam in Dec20 could pass Level 3 in Nov21.
A record that will never be broken – at an intensity that will never be rivalled. If you want to attempt this, stick with Dec20.
If you fail Dec20 as a Level 2 or Level 3 candidate, you will be able to retake in May21, about 4 months after your Dec20 results are released. If you postponed to May21 and failed, the next time you’ll be able to retake will be Feb22 (L2) or Nov21 (L3). So deciding to take Levels 2 or 3 in Dec20 gives you the ability to retake your exam sooner if you fail.
Should you postpone your CFA exam from Dec20 to 2021?
- It’s likely to be safer, COVID-19-wise. More exam days, more test centers = better social distancing.
- More certainty on whether it’ll be allowed to take place. It’s not currently looking good for Dec20, and computer-based test centers will be smaller, and therefore more COVID-compatible.
- Shorter exam, more flexibility. We think that a shorter exam with better schedule flexibility would suit you better and increase your chances of performing better in your exam.
Have you decided when you’re taking your next CFA exam? Let us know in the poll or comment below!