CFA Exam Pass Rates

On 03/07/2012, in Career, Formal Education, by Jordan Wilson

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is beneficial in many career paths. Not just for those interested in becoming financial analysts.

There are many other positions that benefit from a CFA charterholder.

Attaining the CFA designation is not a simple exercise. But this explains, in part, why the CFA designation is highly regarded around the world.

The current exam results reflect the challenge of achieving a CFA charter. 

CFA Level I Exam Results December 2011

The December 2011 CFA exam results for Level I students had a 38% success rate for the 49,380 global candidates.

Congratulations to all those who passed.

Probably just a weak crop of students though. I am sure prior periods were much higher.

Not really. Many hard-working, smart candidates fail one or more of the exams. It is not an easy program. I have great respect for anyone attempts to earn a CFA charter.

Since the CFA Level I exams commenced in 1963 until now, the cumulative average pass rate for Level I has only been 43%. Over the last 10 years, the average pass rate has been 39%.

And the last 6 sittings for Level I (Level I exams are offered twice annually) have resulted in pass rates of 38%, 39%, 36%, 42%, 34%, 46%.

So it is not an easy exam. But rest assured, CFA Level II and III exams are simpler.

CFA Level II and III Exams

CFA Level II and II exams only sit once per year. If you fail, that means 12 months to wait before trying again.

But do not fret, exam pass rates are much higher than in Level I.

Since 1963, the average pass rate for Level II has been 47%. And the average pass rate over the last 10 years has been 43%.

Since 1963, the average pass rate for Level III has been 61%. The last 10 years, the average pass rate has been 56%.

Okay, not much higher. And I expect the increased rates reflect attrition for the most part.

Tough Programs But Worth the Effort

The CFA designation requires a fair bit of work to attain.

To earn the CFA designation, candidates must pass all three exam levels (successful candidates often report dedicating in excess of 300 hours of study per level); meet the work experience requirements of four years in the investment industry; sign a commitment to abide by the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct; apply to a CFA Institute society; and become a member of CFA Institute.

300 hours of studying, usually while working a full-time job. Then, low pass rates and only one exam sitting per year for Levels II and III.

Tough, but worthwhile. The program teaches many valuable skills for those employed in a finance related field.

It gives you something else. Perhaps something more important for long-term career success.

Achieving the designation requires the ability to learn new technical skills. It requires self-motivation, discipline, focus, and hard work.

It requires not simply the ability to learn nor self-discipline. It also requires you to compete and succeed against your peers. Most of whom are putting in the same effort that you are.

Ability to learn, self-discipline, history of success? Where have we seen these concepts before?

Oh yeah, they are the keys to getting most new jobs. Demonstrate these skills to a potential employer and they will know that they are hiring an asset. Regardless of the actual position.

2 Responses to “CFA Exam Pass Rates”

  1. Els says:

    Great article.

    I have my bachelors degree in Economics. the article states, ” meet the work experience requirements of four years in the investment industry” I used to work for a retail bank but never got into investments.
    If I wanted to take my CFA but no experience in the investment industry, will i be able to get certified?

  2. Jordan Wilson says:

    The requirements for work experience are a little wider than you may think. The CFA Institute lists work experience guidelines. They also provide a self-assessment tool and some good examples as to what may or may not constitute acceptable work experience. Good luck.

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