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About the CFA Program

The CFA designation is one of the most distinguished professional designations in the world. Achievement of the designation requires a candidate to pass three 6-hour exams progressively and to accumulate four years of eligable work experience. The exam curriculum includes a broad range of topics relevant to today’s finance sector. After you complete the requirements to earn the designation, the CFA Institute will award you a CFA charter and you will be considered a CFA charterholder.

History of the CFA Exam

The first CFA exam was given in 1963 when 284 candidates sat for the exam and 268 of them passed, a 94% pass rate. The youngest candidates that year were in their mid-forties while 33 were over sixty years of age. The demographic was mostly older men, with only 6 women taking the first CFA exam. The first charters were awarded in 1963 and were the result of decades of work from many prominent investment professionals, including the legendary Ben Graham.

Enrollment Requirements for the CFA Exam

To enroll in the CFA program you must:

  • Have a US bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree or be in the final year of your bachelor’s degree program at the time of registration; or
  • Have four years of qualified work experience; or
  • Have a combination of qualified work experience and college experience that totals at least four years.

Register for the CFA program through the CFA Institute.

Requirements to Earn the CFA Designation

To earn the CFA designation you must:

  • Pass all three levels of the CFA exam; and
  • Have four years of qualified work experience; and
  • Join the CFA Institute as a member.

CFA Exam Topic Area Weights

TOPIC AREA LEVEL I LEVEL II LEVEL III
Ethical and Professional Standards 15% 10% 10%
Corporate Finance 8% 5-15% -
Economics 10% 5-10% -
Financial Reporting and Analysis 20% 15-25% -
Quantitative Methods 12% 5-10% -
Investment Tools 50% 30-60% -
Alternative Investments 3% 5-15% 5-15%
Derivatives 5% 5-15% 5-15%
Equity Investments 10% 20-30% 5-15%
Fixed Income 12% 5-15% 10-20%
Asset Classes 30% 35-75% 35-45%
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning 5% 5-15% 45-55%
Total 100% 100% 100%

Historical Pass Rates

CFA CANDIDATES LEVEL I LEVEL II LEVEL III
Year Total % Pass Total Pass Fail % Pass Total Pass Fail % Pass Total Pass Fail % Pass
1963 284 94% - - - - - - - - 284 268 16 94%
1964 1,732 84% 1,241 986 255 79% 302 283 19 94% 189 179 10 95%
1965 1,993 83% 767 649 118 85% 865 678 187 78% 361 329 32 91%
1966 2,010 75% 621 481 140 77% 708 469 239 66% 681 563 118 83%
1967 1,693 83% 594 423 171 71% 556 496 60 89% 543 491 52 90%
1968 1,579 73% 592 412 180 70% 447 334 113 75% 540 414 126 77%
1969 1,316 74% 556 409 147 74% 413 322 91 78% 347 237 110 68%
1970 1,409 67% 644 424 220 66% 372 285 87 77% 393 238 155 61%
1971 1,458 69% 755 464 291 61% 341 253 88 74% 362 288 74 80%
1972 1,486 70% 731 466 265 64% 461 354 107 77% 294 214 80 73%
1973 1,630 60% 721 432 289 60% 565 324 241 57% 344 222 122 65%
1974 1,797 74% 862 604 258 70% 511 377 134 74% 424 355 69 84%
1975 1,841 75% 808 568 240 70% 563 421 142 75% 470 393 77 84%
1976 1,706 76% 634 457 177 72% 641 477 164 74% 431 363 68 84%
1977 1,993 74% 667 421 246 63% 632 510 122 81% 694 540 154 78%
1978 2,008 73% 925 596 329 64% 444 379 65 85% 639 481 158 75%
1979 1,876 76% 824 522 302 63% 550 460 90 84% 502 441 61 88%
1980 1,985 73% 949 602 347 63% 528 407 121 77% 508 437 71 86%
1981 2,253 71% 1,107 677 430 61% 684 580 104 85% 462 340 122 74%
1982 2,886 64% 1,532 903 629 59% 714 489 225 68% 640 469 171 73%
1983 3,243 65% 1,656 1,082 573 65% 978 637 341 65% 610 392 218 64%
1984 4,030 63% 2,075 1,199 876 58% 1,147 701 446 61% 808 658 150 81%
1985 4,285 67% 2,186 1,317 869 60% 1,309 965 344 74% 790 579 211 73%
1986 4,837 65% 2,366 1,405 961 59% 1,379 884 495 64% 1,092 845 247 77%
1987 5,702 62% 3,095 1,782 1,313 58% 1,555 995 560 64% 1,052 755 297 72%
1988 7,091 59% 3,927 2,174 1,753 55% 1,946 1,163 783 60% 1,218 864 354 71%
1989 8,064 62% 4,149 2,237 1,912 54% 2,484 1,590 894 64% 1,431 1,133 298 79%
1990 8,760 64% 4,415 2,658 1,757 60% 2,522 1,594 928 63% 1,823 1,360 463 75%
1991 9,868 62% 4„950 3,087 1,863 62% 3,002 1,618 1,384 54% 1,916 1,436 480 75%
1992 10,518 65% 5,002 2,928 2,074 59% 3,503 2,258 1,245 64% 2,013 1,658 355 82%
1993 12,809 59% 6,588 3,616 2,972 55% 3,579 2,061 1,618 56% 2,542 1,936 606 76%
1994 15,413 52% 8,445 4,087 4,358 48% 4,418 2,109 2,309 48% 2,550 1,859 691 73%
1995 19,517 52% 11,341 5,750 5,591 51% 5,518 2,535 2,983 46% 2,658 1,860 798 70%
1996 14,600 58% 14,381 7,627 6,754 53% 7,098 4,596 2,502 65% 3,121 1,999 1,122 64%
1997 30,642 55% 16,833 8,847 7,966 53% 8,493 5,011 3,482 59% 5,316 3,119 2,197 59%
1998 38,689 60% 21,744 12,855 8,889 59% 10,295 6,433 3,862 62% 6,650 3,895 2,755 59%
1999 45,143 60% 23,199 14,757 8,442 64% 13,496 7,329 6,167 54% 8,448 5,015 3,433 59%
2000 53,345 55% 27,625 14,314 13,311 52% 16,036 8,636 7,500 54% 9,684 6,274 3,410 65%
2001 65,707 54% 36,317 17,726 18,591 49% 17,897 8,322 9,575 46% 11,493 9,410 2,083 82%
2002 76,231 47% 43,882 19,106 24,776 44% 22,163 11,418 11,745 47% 10,186 5,924 4,262 58%
2003J 67,279 49% 32,027 13,478 18,549 42% 22,232 10,432 11,800 47% 13,020 8,816 4,204 68%
2003D 20,657 40% 20,657 8,214 12,443 40%                
2004J 61,559 40% 24,211 8,262 15,949 34% 23,896 7,649 16,247 32% 13,452 8,669 4,783 64%
2004D 19,566 36% 19,566 7,128 12,438 36%                
2005J 58,908 48% 22,915 8,138 14,777 36% 24,891 13,938 10,953 56% 11,102 6,083 5,019 55%
2005D 21,127 34% 21,127 7,276 13,851 34%                
2006J 63,249 52% 26,467 10,602 15,865 40% 20,499 9,751 10,748 48% 16,283 12,314 3,969 76%
2006D 28,082 39% 28,082 10,905 17,177 39%                
2007J 71,897 42% 33,599 13,294 20,305 40% 25,521 10,156 15,365 40% 12,777 6,399 6,378 50%
2007D 37,573 39% 37,573 14,831 22,742 39%                
2008J 9,2081 42% 44,063 15,311 28,752 35% 33,449 15,243 18,206 46% 14,549 7,720 6,849 53%
2008D 49,797 35% 49,797 17,612 32,185 35%                
2009J 104,116 45% 45,682 21,034 24,648 46% 38,998 15,892 23,106 41% 19,436 9,597 9,839 49%
2009D 44,209 34% 44,209 14,884 29,325 34%                
2010J 111,731 42% 46,863 19,656 37,207 42% 43,406 16,995 26,411 39% 21,462 9,881 11,581 46%
2010D 46,785 36% 46,785 17,009 29,776 36%                
2011J 115,027 47% 48,068 18,881 29,187 39% 44,175 19,009 25,166 43% 22,784 11,567 11,217 51%
2011D 49,380 38% 49,380 18,736 30,644 38%                
2012J 119,446 43% 49,445 18,968 30,477 38% 45,247 19,194 26,053 42% 24,754 12,870 11,884 52%
2012D 48,981 37% 48,981 18,106 30,875 37%                
2013J 118,142 42% 47,502 18,078 29,424 38% 44,874 19,311 25,563 43% 25,766 12,607 13,159 49%
2013D 45,693 43% 45,693 19,468 26,225 43%                
2014J 118,683 46% 47,005 19,953 27,413 42% 44,796 20,644 24,152 46% 26,882 14,532 12,350 54%
2014D 47,175 44% 47,175 20,589 26,586 44%                
2015J 125,443 46% 51,134 21,303 29,831 42% 46,841 21,509 25,332 46% 27,468 14,664 12,804 53%
2015D 52,315 43% 52,315 22,274 30,041 43%                
2016J 137,791 46% 58,677 25,093 33,584 43% 50,230 23,321 26,909 46% 28,884 15,606 13,278 54%

J = June Examination (Levels I, II, and III)

D = December Examination (Level I Only)