What is CFA?CFA Level 1 subjects, CFA full form-Easy Guide

CFA stands for Chartered financial analyst(CFA).

Globally known as the golden standard in finance, it is one of the most prestigious investment specialisations in the world.

If you ask me why I pursued? Then the answer would be the knowledge and that’s the truth.

So, Let’s start talking about the much talked about qualifications and designation in the following framework, including how many levels in CFA, eligibility, subjects & its benefits.

Summary

  • The most prestigious qualifications in the field of investment banking & Core finance
  • Relevant for candidates who wish to specialise in investment management and analysis
  • Final year of graduation is the minimum eligibility for writing the exam
  • Can also be pursued by candidates who don’t have a formal education but have 4 years of work experience
  • The entry-level salary of a CFA level 1 candidate is around 4.5 Lacs INR To 8 Lacs in India
  • CFA has high credibility in the Indian finance sector, with equal preference compared to a tier 1 MBA program
  • Pass rates at level 1 are around 37%
  • Exams are conducted 4 times a year for level 1, 3 times for level 2 & 2 times for level 3
  • The total cost of pursuing CFA level 1 is around INR 86000.

Contents

What is CFA?

CFA full form stands for Chartered Financial Analyst and it’s popularly known as “ Golden standard in Investment finance qualification.

It’s also popularly known in India as the U.S- CFA because there used to be a CFA program also offered by ICFAI which is now closed.

My own observation of CFA growth from the year 2012 has been astonishing.

I have never come across a qualification, which is researched and so relevant for the industry even today in 2022.

CFA program is divided into a three levels exam that tests the following four things in the vast investment industry.

  • Fundamentals Finance
  • Valuation
  • Portfolio Management
  • Investment Ethics

After clearing the three levels, you need to prove your professional experience and then apply for CFA charter holder status.

Who should pursue CFA?

Any university student or investment professional, the benefits are priceless

  • Who:Anyone interested in developing an expertise in investment analysis and management.
  • Alternate to MBA : Its almost 1/10 th the cost of a Tier 1 MBA program.
  • Competitive Advantage: As a CFA candidate and with the vast updated content you get yourself ahead of your peers.
  • Global Recognition: Recognised in more than 200 countries So you are sure to get some eyes rolling with your charter
  • CFA course in India: India now has the third largest student base after China and U.S.

Having said that you need to have a clear understanding, that CFA is an investment management focussed qualification not a general management qualification.

CFA Program Details

There are obviously tons of opportunities for candidates after CFA overall.

I have compiled a brief video in case you would like to watch it.

I will discuss broader aspects of the CFA program in this section.

Jobs and Salaries After CFA Degree – For Different levels

I am sharing representative salaries considering that you are a fresher when you start with your level 1 preperation.

Having said that even with Level 1, if you already posess some relevant expereince in equity reearch then level 2 salaries can also apply.

What I want you to understand here is that, although the start is small but eventually you are at comparable salaries without losing many years.

The CFA Course syllabus

Below is a depiction of the CFA syllabus for all levels and also the CFA level 1 syllabus.

Notice how the CFA syllabus progresses with the content gradually moving you into portfolio management in level 3, unlike programs like CFP.

You might ask then why CFA level 1 itself gets you the job? Because CFA level 1 syallbus has all the essential subjects, including financial reporting and analysis, Quants & economics.

CFA SubjectsLevel 1
(Weightage in %)
Level 2
(Weightage in %)
Level 3
(Weightage in %)
Ethical and Professional Standards15-2010-1510-15
Quantitative Methods8–125–100
Economics8–125–105–10
Financial Statement Analysis13–1710–150
Corporate Issuers8–125–100
Equity Investments10-1210-1510-15
Fixed Income10–1210–1515–20
Derivatives5–85–105–10
Alternative Investments5–85–105–10
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning5–810–1535–40
Jobs After CFA Video

CFA Eligibility & Documents

CFA program has no domain-specific eligibility, anyone from any background whether it is science, engineering, commerce, or maths can apply.  

However the elgibility is based on your stage of education or work expereince

For Students

  • Bachelors Degree or Final year of any graduation.
  • Your final graduation exam should be 11 months away.

Professionals without Graduation

Even if you don’t have any formal graduation, then you can still apply for the CFA level 1 exam. The minimum work expereince criteria is calculated as;

  • 4000 hrs of professional work experience, which needs to be acquired a minimum of 3 or above years.
  • The experience doesn’t have to be an investment-related.
  • Internships or articleships do not qualify as work expereince.

Documents Needed

  • Valid International passport:

There is no alternate document which is accepted. Hence if you are planning to register for the exam, it is important to apply for a passport at least 3 months in advance.

  • English : CFA exam is conducted in the English, hence it’s important that you know how to read and write English

Relevance of CFA in India

CFA is as relevant in India, as it is in the global arena because most of the investment management companies in India are based out of U.S.

Moreover the top fund managers in India and also analysts hold the CFA designation, making CFA program a popular recruitment anchor.

Market regulators like SEBI have been proactively working to promote the CFA designation.

Most of the job descriptions will mention CFA as their preffered education requirements.

The future of CFA Designation

The future of CFA designation will depend on how the investment industry shapes.

Let’s try to answer:
“Will Investment Management business requires managers, more so will they still need knowledge?”
The lead for this answer is: Technology

  • Use of Technology: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and numerous big honchos of this business, have been heavily investing in technology.
  • Platform-Based Research: Research on investment opportunities has been changing rapidly from a plain vanilla offering to a research on-demand service.
  • Sophisticated Research Models: Companies like BNY Mellon, and MSCI offer, risk management services to U.S clients.

Job description: Technology-Based Investment Manager at Marcellus

The conclusion here is that CFA gives the candidate the knowledge base, which can’t be done away with even with technology.

Exam and Testing Pattern

In this section I will discuss in detail, the exam patterns, difficulty level etc which you should know to make an informed decision about CFA.

Difficulty Level

Pass rates across levels

  • level 1 pass rate: 36% ( Pre covid)
  • CFA Level 2 pass rate:46%
  • level 3 Pass rate: 54%

The pass rates have drastically gone down during covid.

This is usually happens when the gross registration goes down too.

Hence the current pass rate of 27% at CFA level 1, is not indicative of the exam becoming difficult.

The minimum passing score at CFA is not decided on the basis of a pre-decided pass % target.

In fact, the MPS gets decided to post the exam after the exam is attempted by volunteers.

Each volunteer attempts the exam and gives a rating (the probable average candidate score), for each question.

Once that’s done, numerous such attempts are compiled and the MPS gets released.

This is the same reason why the CFA institute stresses that candidates should spend 300 hours at least for preparation.

Check the historical pass rates of CFA

Exam Pattern Details

In this section i will discuss, the exam pattern design of CFA exams in detail. More or less, what you need to understand is the difference between level 2 and level 3.

Source: CFA institute

CFA L 1

The exam duration is of total 4 hrs with an optional 15-minute break in each session.

The CFA exam is now in CBT Format (Computer Based Exams), which means that the format is completely Online, in an examination center.

CFA Exam has different exam formats for every level, which we will discuss below

Level 1- MCQ 180 Questions with three options

Example of Format

The MCQ format is categorized into two formats

  • Sentence completion: These are used to test your direct understanding of the curriculum

An analyst suspects that a company’s US GAAP financial statements may require adjustments because the company uses take-or-pay contracts.

The most likely effect of the appropriate adjustments would be to increase the companies:

  1. return on assets.
  2. debt-to-equity ratio.
  3. interest coverage ratio.
  • Regular Question

An analyst suspects that a company’s US GAAP financial statements may require adjustments because the company uses take-or-pay contracts.

Which of the following is most likely to increase due to the appropriate adjustments being made to the company’s financial statements?

  1. Return on assets
  2. Debt-to-equity ratio
  3. Interest coverage ratio

CFA L 2

The level 2 exam duration again is 4 hrs in total with,an optional 15 minutes break.

Also the level 2 exams are conducted in the computer-based exam format.

Level 2 – Item Set -88 Questions

Item set means case study, on which questions are asked.

There are 88 such vignette-based questions.

You must remember that the questions might follow a random structure.

CFA L 3

Level 3- Item set & Essay

The exam has two sessions: 4 Hrs in total

  • First, session-Essay based – constructive response
  • Second session session-8–11 vignette-based – 44 questions in total

CFA exam schedule 2021 & 2022

This is how the CFA exams are conducted during any given year.

CFA levelsFebMayAugNov
Level 1YesYesYesYes
Level 2YesNoYesYes
Level 3NoYesYesNo

Exam Centers in India

CFA Online CBT Exams are now availble in the below mentioned cities, which is a great increase compared to the physical paper testing pattern.

  • Ahmedabad
  • Bangalore
  • Bhopal
  • Kolkata
  • Chennai
  • Hyderabad
  • Indore
  • Jaipur
  • Lucknow
  • Mumbai
  • New Delhi
  • Pune

source: CFA institute Exam centres

Fee Details for 2022 Attempts

In this section I will discuss the various updated changes in fees for attempts, which will happen in the year 2022.

CFA level 1 Fees in Indian Currency for the Year 2022

CFA level 1 registration is available for four exams in a year with the exam fee structure below for the years 2022 and 2023.

Since a lot of students in India want to get a feel of what is CFA fees in Indian rupees look like, we created a converted table of this information.

For the Year 2022
Early RegistrationFees in USDFees in INR
CFA Registration Fee$450 ₹ 33,750     
Exam fee$700 ₹ 52500            
Total$1,150 ₹ 86,250
Late Registration
CFA Registration Fee$450 ₹ 33,750
Exam fee$1,000 ₹  75,000
Total$1,450 ₹ 108750
  • USD/INR rate assumed at INR 75

CFA level 1 Fees in Indian Currency For the Year 2023

CFA fees as published by the CFA institute are due to increase from February 2023 exams.

For the Year 2022
Early RegistrationFees in USDFees in INR
One time Enrollment fee$450 ₹ 33,750     
Exam fee$900 ₹ 67500           
Total$1350 ₹ 101250
Late Registration
One time Enrollment fee$450 ₹ 33,750
Exam fee$1200 ₹  90000
Total$1650 ₹ 123750

*The new fees will be applicable for the CFA level 1 exam from Feb 2023.

*The exam fee basically increases by $200 irrespective of the time of registration

Exam scheduling instructions

  1. Rescheduling Fee: In case you decide on a particular date for your exams on Feb 22 (let’s say), and you change your mind.
  2. That will cost you another $250, so be careful with planning
  3. Pre Exam Pledge: 30 Minutes (Where you take an oath and write that you will not disclose exam questions to your friends)
  4. Session 1: 135 Minutes
  5. 30 Minutes of Optional Break
  6. Session 2: 135 Minutes
  7. Total testing time: 4.5 Hours (Including the break)
  8. Appointment time: 5.5 Hours
  9. Future planned CBT Centers worldwide
  10. CBT: Exam Experience

Preperation Tips

The process is simple and I will break this down into some easy to follow parts:

  • Start Early: Meaning decide your decision to pursue CFA at least 9 months before the exam attempt.
  • Tuition provider: Shortlist several tuition providers and decide which one of them gives you the following
  • Practice: You need to practice a lot and there has to be a plan for the same.
  • Summary Notes: You don’t need books, CFA institute provides its own curriculum which is great and reliable for the long term.
  • Trained Trainers: You don’t want to be learning CFA from an experienced trainer, who hasn’t taught before.
  • Study Plan: Invest your time in planning your preparation, this exam is more on planning.

CFA Material- Free Ebook

Download a free copy of the CFA ebook and check if CFA is for you.

Conclusion

Go for it! Hopefully, you now understand, why it’s really called the Golden Standard. Send me your queries and questions at [email protected]. Always happy to assist, inspire & mentor everyone.
Cheers!
Allen Aravindan, CFA

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ALLEN ARAVINDAN,CFA

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