Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is an international professional designation offered by the CFA Institute of USA to financial analysts who complete a series of three examinations. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree (or equivalent), be in the final year of their bachelor's degree program, or have at least four years of qualified, professional work experience in order to take the exams.
In order to become a "CFA Charterholder" candidates must pass all three exams, agree to comply with the code of ethics, pay member dues, and have four years of work experience deemed acceptable by the CFA Institute.
Candidates generally take one exam per year over three years. All three exams are administered on paper, within a single day.
The Level I exam is administered twice a year (usually the first weekend of June and December). The Level II and III exams are administered once a year, usually the first weekend of June. Each exam consists of two three-hour sessions.
- Level I is multiple choice. All the information required to answer the question is contained in the question.
- Level II is item set. It is a vignette followed by selected response questions. To answer each question, the candidate must refer to the vignette as there is insufficient information in the question stem.
- Level III consists of a session of short-answer questions and a session that is item set. On the multiple-choice/item set sections, there is no penalty for wrong answers.
The exam is intended to be fairly unspecific: there is no overall score for the test, only a pass or fail result.