Wall Street's most gruelling exam is moving online to offer more testing dates and faster results

ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images.
  • The CFA Institute is moving its increasingly popular Level I exams online.
  • The Level I exam, currently offered twice a year, would be administered more often, and results would be delivered faster.
  • Over 200,000 candidates registered for one of the three levels of CFA tests in June, a 20% increase over last year.

Hundreds of thousands of aspiring financiers sign up for the notoriously gruelling three-level Chartered Financial Analyst exam every year.

To meet this rising demand, the CFA Institute plans to move the Level I exam online, Business Insider has learned. The test, currently offered in June and December, would also be administered more often. To be clear, test-takers would still need to head to physical locations for the exam, but the paper test would be replaced with an online one.

Test-takers could see different types of questions through online exams than the paper tests allow. For example, an online format offers more options to incorporate spreadsheets into questions, Anne O’Brien, the CFA Institute’s head of communications, said in an interview.

The CFA Institute is still finding vendors for online exam administration, so the changes are a few years away, O’Brien said.

A record 227,031 candidates registered to take the Level I, II, or III test in June, up 20% from last year. Tests were administered in 286 centres around the world.

Electronic exams offered more often could help the CFA Institute use a wider variety of venues – and students would see results faster, O’Brien said.


We’re happy to offer you, a valued Business Insider reader, access to our premium investing and company coverage for a month. Just email [email protected] with “Investing” as the subject line.

“It’s becoming increasingly challenging to find and staff physical venues in some of our markets to accommodate the sheer volume of candidates we have,” O’Brien said.

Becoming a CFA charterholder is a huge leg up for anyone hoping to build a career in money management. It’s also less expensive than an MBA – a CFA costs about $US2,500 in total, while an MBA can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Since the Level I exam, which is six hours long and features 240 multiple-choice questions, is offered only twice a year, venues must accommodate sometimes thousands of students. In New York, for example, test-takers head to the Javits Center, a convention center spanning 1.8 million square feet.

In Beijing, the June test was administered over two days because there was not a large enough venue to accommodate the candidates.

The Level I exam focuses on investment tools and business foundations, while Level II and III tests dive deeper into analysis and portfolio management. It takes most candidates four years to pass all three levels of the test.

Less than 20% of people who start the CFA program make it through all three levels and complete the other requirements to become a charterholder.

The first CFA exam was administered in 1963 to 284 candidates in the US, Canada, and London, according to the CFA Institute’s website. There are now more than 154,000 CFA charterholders globally.

See also:

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.