What can you expect in the level 1 CFA exam?

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What can you expect in the level 1 cfa exam

Chartered financial analyst (CFA) is one of the most highly sought-after designations among investment professionals. In order to earn a CFA charter, not only does one need a certain level of knowledge, but also patience, diligence, and commitment. 

The CFA program lays emphasis on investment analysis, valuation, and portfolio management to meet the highest ethical and professional standards. There are three exams in the CFA program: Level I, Level II,  and Level III. The CFA Institute sets certain requirements concerning candidates’ work requirements and the exams that they must pass in order to become CFAs.

Each of these three levels tests a wide range of skills considered to be most relevant for investment professions. We will focus on the CFA Level I exam in this article.

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CFA Level 1 Exam Structure

The exam has 180 multiple-choice questions: 90 in the first session ( in a time-frame 2 hours, 15 minutes) and 90 in the second session (2 hours, 15 minutes). Depending on the knowledge of the topics, candidates should devote approximately 90 seconds per question.

In the multiple-choice section, there are no dependent questions (i.e., they are all independent). There are three options for each question. The questions are constructed in such a way that the incorrect choices reflect common errors in calculation or logic. Because there is no penalty for incorrect answers, candidates should try to answer all questions. It is also necessary to become familiar with calculator functions, as these features will be needed to complete some of the questions.

Exam Curriculum

This exam focuses on fundamental knowledge and understanding of investment valuation and portfolio management tools. The curriculum consists of 10 topics that are divided into four major categories: ethical and professional standards, investment tools, asset classes, and portfolio management and wealth planning.

The following table provides the weights of these topics and the subjects for the Level I exam.



Ethical and Professional Standards

15-20 %

Quantitative Methods

8-12 %


8-12 %

Financial Reporting and Analysis


Corporate Finance


Fixed Income



5-8 %

Alternative Investments

5-8 %

Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning

5-8 %

Overall, the CFA Level I exam is well-balanced one – covering a wide range of topics. Some topics may require proportionally more time to study than others; however, what’s important is to create a study plan and stick with it.

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Key Takeaways:

  • The pass rate for the CFA Exam I, a 4.5-hour exam consisting of 180 questions, is 49%.
  • The CFA Level 1 Exam consists of 10 sections, including ethical and professional standards, quantitative methods, and economics.

Miles Education in an exclusive collaboration with Kaplan Schweser is now offering the Best CFA Program study package. Be exam-ready with Schweser online test bank and considerably increase your chances of passing the CFA Level I, II & III exams on the first attempt.

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