“Likelihood of December Exam Cancellations”: What Does CFA Institute’s Latest Email Mean?

cfa december 2020 potential cancellation postponement

Some December 2020 CFA exam candidates received an email from CFA Institute last week about ‘potential December exam cancellations’ – frustrating, and possibly a bit confusing for candidates.

Here’s a breakdown of the messaging, what we think it means, and a couple points to consider when making your decision on whether to postpone your Dec20 exam to 2021.

What Did CFA Institute Say In This Email?


Here is CFA Institute’s email, as sent to a current Dec20 candidate on 17th Sep 2020 (highlights are ours):

We have received many questions about the likelihood of December exam cancellations. We know how badly many of you want to complete the December exam on schedule, and how frustrating it is to live with the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 situation. While it is premature for CFA Institute to make final decisions about the exam, we DO anticipate that some exam locations will be cancelled. But we also believe that even where government regulations allow us to administer the exam, it is your right and responsibility to make decisions for yourself about your own health and safety.

If you think that the December exam may be cancelled in your area, do not wait for circumstances to decide for you. We encourage you to make alternate plans for your exam now.

• Until 20 October, you may withdraw from December and register for any of the available exam dates throughout 2021 at no additional cost. Register soon to get your preferred time and location. As a reminder,

                 • 2021 Level I exams will be offered in February, May, August, and November.
• 2021 Level II exams will be offered in May and August.
• 2021 Level III exams will be offered in May and November.

• If you have circumstances that require changing your December test center to a new location, you may change your test center to any venue with available seating no later than 30 September. We cannot guarantee that your new test center will not be cancelled.

If your December exam is cancelled, you will be notified promptly.
                  • You will immediately become eligible for a deferral to any CBT exam window in 2021.
          • If you prefer, you may opt for a refund. Refund requests will be accepted between 7 December and 21 December 2020. All fees paid with your original registration for June 2020 will be refunded. Please anticipate up to 120 days (21 April 2021) for delivery of your refund.


Rest assured, our top priority is the well-being of our candidates, exam administrators, employees and communities. We will work diligently to ensure our administrations adhere to the guidelines determined by medical experts, local officials and best practices. We wish you and your family good health in the coming year.

CFA Institute

What Are The Key Points?

CFA December 2020 Summary of CFA Institute's Email to Candidates 17th September 2020

First off … we get your frustration. The COVID-19 uncertainty sucks, and your study motivation is probably falling off the nearest cliff since receiving this email. It feels like March 2020 all over again, and this start-stop study cycle can’t be helping either.

But what does the email actually mean for candidates?

Some localized exam cancellations are expected

Given the current global COVID-19 situation, it sounds like CFA Institute are anticipating a slew of localized cancellations, and trying to get candidates to decide for themselves early and postpone if they want to.

My view is that the more candidates postpone to 2021 the better for CFA Institute, as it would be logistically easier to administer CBT. So it makes sense that they’re sending out emails to ask candidates to think about postponing or relocating.

Existing Dec20 candidates can choose to defer to CBT in 2021, change test center location or stay put

CFA Institute has committed to holding the exams wherever they are allowed to for Dec20. Given the different impact of COVID-19 on countries globally, this means that the only two reasons Dec20 will not go ahead for you is if local rules prohibit such an exam from happening – or if you postpone or relocate it on your own.

For existing Dec20 candidates, you can:

  • By 20th October, postpone your exam to 2021 for no additional cost latest; or
  • By 30th September, change your Dec20 test location to any other available venues; or
  • Stay put and keep your existing Dec20 registration and test location. If your test center gets cancelled, you can defer to a 2021 CBT date, or ask for a refund.

Potential CFA Dec 2020 Exam Cancellations: FAQs

CFA December 2020 potential cancellation postponement FAQ

1) Has CFA Institute announced any changes?

No, there are no new changes announced in this email.

This email just highlights that if you don’t feel certain about the likelihood of exams happening in your area, you have until 20th October to change this, or 30th September to relocate.

2) What are the 30th September and 20th October deadlines?

In CFA Institute’s email above, existing Dec20 candidates are allowed to:

  • Change their Dec20 test center to another venue with available seating latest by 30 September 2020 (although there is no guarantee that the new test center location would not be cancelled);
  • Defer their Dec20 exam to any 2021 CBT exam dates latest by 20 October 2020 with no additional cost.

3) For the last time, why can’t CFA Institute tell me whether Dec20 is going ahead?

CFA Institute have stated that they will hold exams where local rules will allow them to.

This means that the chances of CFA exams going ahead as planned in your area depends on your local COVID rules, not CFA Institute. The best prediction you can have on whether the CFA exams are happening for you is to assess rules and policy in your area.

4) Why is CFA Institute sending this email?

We can only speculate, but with COVID-19 cases ramping up again, there is an increased chance that Dec20 exams will have to be postponed/relocated/cancelled in many locations.

Perhaps this email is CFA Institute’s attempt to highlight this to candidates, manage expectations and encourage candidates to reschedule if their circumstances allow it.

5) This is terrible for my exam nerves, to say the least. Why can’t CFA Institute sort this uncertainty out?

We get it. Why should you, the candidate, even have to worry about this?!

Your job is to study for the exam, not figure out logistics and worry about whether the damn exam is happening in the first place.

Again, we can only speculate, but I think with hindsight CFA Institute would probably choose to postpone both Jun20 and Dec20 to 2021 back in March. But remember that the situation was a lot more uncertain back in March, and CBT hadn’t even been announced (or likely considered) yet.

By deciding to postpone Jun20 to Dec20, CFA Institute had to work out cancellations for 193+ venues for Jun20, and rebook venues for Dec20.

Now that Dec20 is approaching and COVID is still lurking around, CFA Institute are in the unenviable position of having to manage it again, only this time they’ve committed to holding it wherever it is allowed, which means managing yes/no decisions on a 193+ location level.

It’s not a great situation to be in. Moving to CBT from 2021 was a good move to reduce future COVID issues, but unfortunately Dec20 is still affected by COVID just as Jun20 was, and the uncertainty you’re experiencing now is a reflection of that.

This must be an incredibly frustrating time for you. The worst case is that you may have to end up restarting your studies – unless you take the decision to postpone now… or change your test centre to somewhere like New Zealand.

Poll: What are other candidates doing?

cfa december 2020 potential cancellation postponement survey orig

Insight into what everyone else is thinking could also help with your decision. Below is a poll for current Dec20 candidates – vote on your most likely decision, and you’ll be able to see results for everyone else.
Current Dec20 candidates: what is the most likely decision you’ll make for your upcoming CFA exam?

Postpone to 2021
Stay Dec20, but relocate to another exam location
Stay Dec20 at current location
Please Specify:

If you’re a current Dec20 candidate, what are your current thoughts on whether to stay put or defer your exam? Share your thoughts with us below and we’ll reply!

15 thoughts on ““Likelihood of December Exam Cancellations”: What Does CFA Institute’s Latest Email Mean?”

  1. Hi, I had a dilemma. if my exam has been cancelled twice (jun20 and dec20) and I donot choose to defer it to 2021 now and apply for refund in December, Will I be able to re-apply for may21/ Nov21 exams under standard registration in Jan or Feb in case I change my mind or I won’t be allowed to re-apply unless my refund is processed?

    • Hi Parichay, good question – I reached out immediately to CFA Institute about this and got a quick (favorable) response! CFAI said that once your refund has been requested and CFAI have reset their account so that you are no longer registered for any exam – which takes approximately 24 hours – you can re-register and submit payment for the new exam at any time. And yes, you can do this even if you haven’t actually received their money back yet. So this gives you the opportunity to get your full refund, as well as timing flexibility and opportunity to get early registration fees for future re-registrations! Hope you see this now to make your decision before the deadline! 🙂

  2. Hi, I wonder if I am eligible to change my exam date from December to next year without incurred any additional cost if I didn’t receive this email from institute?

    • Hi Christina, yes, if you’re a current Dec20 candidate, you have up till 20th October (11:59pm ET) to change your exam date to any 2021 CBT dates without additional fees. Just 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. Hope this helps!

    • Hi Will, thanks for letting us know. The email above was sent to a US candidate, so it may just be something sent to Dec20 candidates in areas where there is a higher expectation or likelihood of exam disruption, at the moment. I have updated the article to reflect that. Hoping all goes fine for your UK exams!

  3. Hi! Dec 2020 candidates if exam cancelled are not allowed a refund but only rescheduling to CBT within 2021. Is my understanding correct?

    • Hi Celia, if you have been twice impacted (e.g, deferred from June 2020 and then again impacted in December), you will have the option to request a refund. Refund requests will be accepted by CFA Institute between 7-21 December. But, if you are an ‘original’ (not Jun20 postponed) Dec20 candidate, your Dec20 exam (and a rescheduled CBT e.g. Feb21) have to be postponed/cancelled, before you can qualify for a refund. Hope that makes sense.

  4. Hi, I had a question about CBT from 2021 – do we still get to work out our answers on spare paper or is all the rough work somehow on a computer too?

    • Hi Annie, for 2021 CBT, you will be provided with a laminated sheet, whiteboard or erasable writing tablet for use during the computer-based exam.

    • Hi Nahr, it is best to contact CFA Institute directly on this scenario. Logically, they should allow to defer your scholarship to Feb with COVID-19, but it is best to seek confirmation directly with CFA Institute before doing any changes. Please let us know here in the comments once you hear back from CFAI as well? Thanks 🙂


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