What Subjects are Tested on the CFA Exams? (ALL Levels)

The sheer ability to understand and successfully undertake the CFA certification is recognised as a distinguished mark of excellence in the financial industry. With an overwhelming amount of knowledge out there on the Level I exam, we're here to simplifiy things for you and have you on your way to becoming globally recognised! 

Because the CFA exams are based upon the CFA program curriculum, we've provided a summary of the format of each exam, with descriptions of the different topics tested. We hope this'll help you get started on creating your own study plan! 

CFA Exam: Back To Basics

  • There are THREE levels (Levels I, II, and III).
  • You must pass one level before advancing to the next.
  • Each level features two sessions on test day (Morning and Afternoon).
  • The question format includes: Multiple-choice and Essays.

Level 1 CFA Exam

  • First session: 2 hours and 15 minutes.
  • Second session: 2 hours and 15 minutes.
  • 180 multiple-choice questions in total.

Level 2 CFA Exam

  • First Session: 2 hours and 12 minutes.
  • Second session: 2 hours and 12 minutes. 
  • 88 multiple-choice questions in total.
  • Each question will have a vignette, followed by 4 - 6 questions relating to that vignette.

Level 3 CFA Exam

  • First session: 2 hours and 12 minutes.
  • Most questions will require short, constructed-response written answers.
  • Some questions can be a numerical entry. 
  • There will be between 8 and 11 questions in the morning session.
  • Second session: 2 hours and 12 minutes.
  • 44 multiple-choice questions in total.
  • Each question will have a vignette, followed by 4 - 6 questions relating to that vignette.

The Entire Curriculum

The CFA program is, without a doubt, as incredibly intense as its exams that make up a core component of its requirements. It's recommended and expected that you'll spend four years and over 300 hours of studying to prepare for its exams. Here's the following topics for when you plan your study sessions:


  • Professional standards
  • Code of Ethics
  • Global Investment Performance Standards

 Quantitative Methods (Levels I and II only):

  • Central tendency, location, dispersion, and characters of return distributions 
  • Probability theory and application in quantifying risk for investment decision-making 
  • Linear regression
  • Times series analysis
  • Big Data

Economics (Levels I and II only): 

  • Fundamental concepts of supply and demand for individual consumers and firms 
  • Market structure, macroeconomic concepts, and principles 
  • Aggregate output and income measurement, demand and supply analysis 
  • Analysis of economic growth factors 

Financial Reporting, Procedures, and Analysis (Levels I and II only):

  • Basic financial statements 
  • Alternative accounting methods
  • Framework for conducting financial statement analysis
  • Analysis of income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statements
  • Analysis of pension accounting, international operations, and corporate combinations

Corporate Issuers (Levels I and II only):

  • Corporate governance and investing and financing decisions 
  • Stakeholder management 
  • The growing impact of environmental and social considerations in investing 
  • Leveraging and managing working capital to meet short-term operational needs


  • Security markets and analysis of industries, companies, and equity securities 
  • Basic valuation models 
  • Global equities and longer-term growth and diversification objectives

Fixed Income:

  • Yield measures, risk factors 
  • Valuation measurements and drivers
  • Calculating yields to maturity
  • Asset securitization
  • Principles of credit analysis 


  • Basic knowledge of options, forwards, futures, and swaps
  • Pricing and valuation
  • Pricing models
  • Risk management
  • Use within a diversified portfolio

Alternative Investments:

  • Hedge funds, private equity, real estate, commodities, and infrastructure 
  • Diversification and use in multi-asset portfolios
  • Shared alternative investment characteristics 

Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning: 

  • Fundamentals of portfolio and risk management 
  • Return and risk measurement
  • Portfolio planning and construction 
  • Needs of individual and institutional investors 
  • Range of available investment solutions 

In Conclusion.. 

Keep in mind, this is just a guide. Use the question banks, flashcards, and mock exams offered in our MasterCFA prep to prepare yourself even further! 

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