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CFA Levels II & III Exams To Be Computerized & Held Twice A Year

The CFA Institute has decided to have the CFA Levels II & III exams twice a year from the year 2021 onwards in a computerized format. The December 2020 exams will be the last time a CFA exam, for any level, will be on paper. These changes have been implemented with the intent to improve access to sitting for the CFA exams as well as meet considerations of health and safety, considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The CFA Levels II & III exams will alternate each quarter from 2022. The CFA Level II exam will be offered in the months of May and August in the year 2021 and in February and August from 2022. The CFA Level III exam will be available in the months of May and November from 2021 onwards.

Click here to learn more about the new CFA exam cycle and how you can plan your path to writing the CFA exams in this new format.

Information for Postponed Candidates

Individuals who have registered for the December 2020 exam may hold on to their choice or shift to any available 2021 exam administrations by level.

Individuals who opted for the June 2021 paper-based exam may opt back to the December 2020 paper-based exam on or before 19 August 2020. They also have a choice to opt for any available 2021 computer-based exam administrations and have until 20 October 2020, if they intend to do so.

If a candidate’s exam was postponed from June 2020 and the subsequent exam s/he registered for is postponed as well, they will have a choice to defer their exam attempt once again or request for a refund of the fee paid for the June 2020 exam.

Registration is open at the moment for the February 2021 CFA Level I exam and registration for all levels and all 2021 exam dates will open on 20 August 2020.

To know about your exam registration options, click here.

Information on the December 2020 exams

The December 2020 exam will be the last paper-based exam for all levels and all subsequent exams will be computer-based. Exam registration, which has been amended by the CFA Institute, will be until 19 August 2020 11:59 pm ET. Exams will be held as scheduled for EMEA & AMER candidates on Saturday, 5 December for all levels. APAC candidates have the Level I exam scheduled on Saturday, 5 December and the Levels II & III exams on Sunday, 6 December.

Candidates who will be sitting for the December 2020 exams may write the exam on an applicable, aforementioned December 2020 exam date or may postpone their exam attempt to 2021, if they intend to, and have until 20 October to do so. 

Information on the Computer-Based Exam (CBT) Exam Schedule

The CFA Level I exam will be offered four times a year in February, May, August, and November from 2021 onwards. The CFA Levels II & III exams will alternate each quarter from 2022. The CFA Level II exam will be offered in the months of May and August in the year 2021 and in February and August in 2022. The CFA Level III exam will be available in the months of May and November from 2021 onwards. Unlike the current testing, which occurs in a single day, the new testing to take place from 2021 will be in the form of a multi-day exam window, which would be up to 10 days. Of note is that in this new CBT format, an individual who passes/fails an exam may sit for their subsequent exam attempt at least 6 months later, rather than the adjacent exam window.

Candidates writing the December 2020 exam will receive the exam result in a timely fashion so as to comfortably register for the May 2020 exams. Standard registration fees will be applicable.

Information on the Computer-Based Testing (CBT) Experience

A candidate will be required to sit for the exam in a secured computer lab along with much fewer candidates. An orientation to the exam center, the exam protocol, and the computer software will be conducted prior to the start of the exam. Writing materials will be provided to candidates for use during the exam and they will be permitted to bring a prescribed calculator to the exam center, which would be the prescribed Texas Instruments BAII models or the HP 12C models as mentioned on the CFA Institute website. A proctor will monitor the candidates for any form of cheating during the exam.

The day of the exam will be scheduled as follows (and is applicable for the Level I exam. The schedule underneath will serve as a general guideline for the CFA Levels II & III exams, with more details to be made available by the CFA Institute forthcoming):

  • Orientation: 30 minutes
  • 1st Session: 135 minutes
  • Optional Break: 30 minutes
  • 2nd Session: 135 minutes

Total Testing Time: 4.5 hours

Total Appointment Time: 5.5 hours

The calculations of and the standards for the passing score will be unchanged considering both candidates writing the paper-based exam and the computer-based exam.

Information on the New Exam Format and Results

The new format will see the exam time shortened to 4.5 hours. All levels will maintain follow the same exam paper format as before. The CFA Level I exam will continue the multiple-choice format and the CFA Levels II and III exams will use the same item-set and essay (Level III) as before. Also, the computerized exam will in no manner alter the topic weights.

The only difference in the computerized exam will be the addition of a few trial questions in each exam that do not impact candidate exam score. These random questions appearing in the exam and would be indistinguishable from other questions. This practice, common among testing organizations, is known as pretesting.

The CFA Institute wishes to let candidates know that while greater efficiency comes with computer-based testing, the release of the exam result is not expected to be significantly faster.

Information on Candidate Safety at CBT Centers

The CFA Institute has shifted all exams to a computer-based format considering the COVID-19 pandemic. A test center with fewer people will ensure the health and safety of candidates attempting the exam as well as provide much-needed flexibility in terms of sitting for the exam.

Considering that a crowded exam hall poses a safety concern during the current pandemic, the multi-day window format of the exam will most likely reduce the chance of a candidate’s scheduled exam from being canceled or postponed as the CFA Institute will be complying with local government regulations and meet the applicable health and safety obligations. As conditions may vary by location, you will be duly informed by the CFA Institute of any necessary considerations to take for exam day.

For more information, click here.

All changes brought about by the CFA Institute for the CFA exams have been implemented considering the health and safety of the candidate, improved access to the CFA exam, the calibration of the exam to a more professional model, and for the enhancement of the CFA Program. It is hoped that these changes will bring about an improved candidate experience and enhance the ability of individuals to advance professionally despite the difficult conditions that currently exist.