An era of aspiring chartered financial analysts hunched over endless rows of desks, a pencil in hand, is slowly nearing the end. This week, the CFA will open registration for its Level I exam in December — the final time that that test will be given on paper. Starting in 2021, it will be administered electronically four times a year, with 25% fewer questions. The soft sounds of scratching from an army of pencils will be replaced by taps.
“Our new digital-testing capabilities will better reflect the workplace practices of today, while allowing us to modernize the exam and increase access to more candidates,” Margaret Franklin, chief executive officer of the CFA Institute, said in a statement.
The changes affect only the exam’s first level, which draws the largest crowd and typically winnows the applicant pool for the two stages that follow.
Under the new system, test-takers will visit one of the institute’s centers during a window of up to a week that will open four times a year — February, May, August and November. Only 180 questions will be presented, down from 240 previously. The changes mean results will arrive faster.
“It covers identical topics in the same depth and breadth,” said Lisa Plaxco, head of the institute’s CFA program. “We are maintaining the same rigor and the same passing standards.”
For well over a decade, the entry level of the exam has occurred on a single date twice a year, drawing thousands of Wall Street workers into testing halls around the world. Many applicants are hoping the designation will offer them better jobs, higher salaries and a deeper understanding of their industry.
Last year, only 41% of the of the more-than 157,000 people who sat for the first level passed. The institute administered its December test in 134 test centers in 87 cities around the world, with 59% of candidates coming from the Asia Pacific region.