Pass rate for coveted CFA qualification hits new low
The pass rate at the final level of the chartered financial analyst (CFA) exam plunged to an all-time low after the Covid-19 pandemic upended candidates’ preparation for the test.
According to the Charlottesville, Virginia-based CFA Institute, only 42% of candidates passed Level III in May and June, the lowest on record for the exam, which has been administered since 1963. It was the first time that the last part of the exam was given using computers, and the pass rate was down from 56% in December, when it was still administered on paper.
The results are in line with the pass rates for Levels I and II of the CFA exam, which have also slipped in recent rounds of testing. According to the institute, changes to test schedules due to the pandemic and the resulting disruption in study habits have hurt pass rates at all three levels, with some Level I candidates having their exam postponed for two. times before the last exams. The pass rate for Level I also fell to 25%, the lowest on record.
“Fewer candidates passed each level of the May exams than might be expected given historical trends in pass rates,” said Peg Jobst, chief accreditation officer at the CFA Institute, in a statement. “While some affected applicants may have been successful, we believe the disrupted nature of the deferred applicants’ education is reflected in the overall success rate at all three levels. “
Passing all three CFA exams can lead to higher wages and better employment opportunities for workers in the financial industry. On average, candidates study 300 hours for each level of the exam and take four years to complete the series. The Level III exam consists of eight to 11 vignettes with multiple choice and essay questions, and lasts almost four and a half hours, with an optional mid-course break.
Globally, 21,603 candidates took the Level III exam in May and June, according to the CFA Institute.
The Covid-19 closures have disrupted study habits and resulted in the rescheduling of exams, with restrictions causing tests to be canceled until May – including all those scheduled to be held in India, one of the most large markets for CFA candidates. The next round of exams begins this Friday and ends on September 8.
Historically, the institute offered all three levels of the paper test in June and another chance to take part one in December. After the transition to computerized testing, the institute now offers exams more often throughout the year.
“Preparing for the exams amid the pandemic restrictions is clearly very difficult and has had an impact on many applicants,” Margaret Franklin, chief executive officer of the CFA Institute, said in the statement.
The three levels of the May and June 2021 exams combined marked the institute’s largest computer test to date. There were more than 800 proctored exam sites – more than double the number of facilities available under the paper-based testing system – in 374 cities around the world.