CFA computer based testing

CFA Computer Based Testing: What You Really Need To Know

Along with many other prestigious certification exams, CFA has introduced the computer-based format. Follow this post to know about CFA computer based testing.

Updated at March 13, 2023

The computer-based examination (or CBT for short) has replaced the paper-based format as the CFA exam’s primary format as of February 2022, according to the CFA Institute. With this modification, CFA test takers will have more choices about test sites, exam dates, and results release times. Many of you probably still have a ton of questions about this new CFA computer based testing format. Let’s read this article to learn more details! Don’t forget to practice for your real exam by taking our free CFA Level 1 mock exam.

Is CFA Level 1 Computer Based?

After nearly 60 years, the CFA Institute has officially changed the paper-based CFA exam format to the computer-based exam for level 1 candidates from 2022. Candidates taking the CFA Level 1 exam can choose the test date and exam date among the days given by the CFA Institute instead of having to take the test at the same time and only on the same day as before. So candidates must schedule their exams with Prometric – the leading provider of computer-based assessment and testing solutions to many of the world’s major recognized institutions. 

You can schedule or reschedule your CFA exam online through the CFA Institute or by phone:

  • United States: 1,800.310.6402 with local number 443.751.4833
  • EMEA (Applicable to candidates living in Europe, Middle East, and Africa): +31320249580
  • APAC (Applicable to candidates living in Asia-Pacific countries): 60327817750

Before you schedule your test, make sure you’re registered for the CFA Level 1 exam. Test times and locations will be specifically scheduled. After the process of scheduling your CFA test, Prometric will send you a confirmation email. In case you need to reschedule your exam, log into your CFA Institute account and click on the Manage Exams link. Test centers have limited seats and your request to be reprocessed will be based on availability. It is required for you to charge a $250 fee for any reschedule. Therefore, you should arrange the exam schedule correctly to avoid additional fees!

What are the Updates on the CFA Computer Based Testing?

CFA computer based testing

In terms of the testing format, the test is a total of 4 hours and 30 minutes (2 sessions) on the computer. This makes you have to concentrate high and easily eyestrain. In addition, when taking the paper-based exam, it is very convenient to read the questions and make drafts, while the computer-based exam may make it a bit slow for those who are not used to it.

Previously, the test consisted of 2 parts, each 3 hours long. After completing part 1, candidates have 2 hours to have lunch and rest. Now, each section is only 2 hours and 15 minutes long, but can only break for a maximum of 30 minutes and then continue with part 2. That is, candidates need to prepare well physically and mentally. Specifically:

  • 30 minutes allotted for the process of pledging, tutoring, and surveying (30 minutes of exam guide, pledge, survey)
  • 135 minutes for session 1 (1st test 135 minutes – 2 hours 15 minutes)
  • 30 minutes for an optional break (30 minutes – optional)
  • 135 minutes for session 2 (same as the first one)
  • Total testing time (for 2 tests in total) is 4.5 hours
  • Total appointment time (for total time saved at testing location) is 5.5 hours

There is a noticeable change in the order of the exam topics. In the paper test, part 1 covers 10 topics and so does part 2. That is the texture repeats. For the computer test, the test sequence is as follows:

  • Part 1 (2.15 hours): Ethics, Quant, Economics, FRA.
  • Part 2 (2.15 hours): Corporate Finance, Portfolio Management, Equity, Fixed Income, Derivatives, Alternative Investments.

In particular, the questions will be mixed together in groups, not continuously in each topic as before. Quant, Economics, FRA will mix together. Corporate Finance and Portfolio Management mixed together. Equity, Fixed Income, Derivatives, and Alternative Investments mixed. Ethics alone does not mix with other topics.

CFA Computer-Based Testing Tool

You can familiarize yourself with how the CBT exam works and the test tool’s features before the test day. On this website, we have created a CFA Computer-Based Testing tool with lots of helpful information and practice tests that you should carefully preview any time before the process of taking the new format of CFA. . This is not a CFA exam and you should not consider it a mock test. Make sure you carefully grasp all the CFA exam requirements before scheduling and taking the test.

What can I bring to the CFA computer exam?

CFA computer based testing

The old paper-based CFA exam is offered in 170 cities around the globe, and the switch to computer-based testing will increase the number of test sites to more than 400. The new test site has its own locker, you can leave items that are not allowed in the exam room. The exam room has a partition between the two candidates, ensuring concentration and comfort without worrying about other candidates’ copying behavior.

The test center will prepare a desktop computer for each candidate. Before you start taking the test, you should review the Prometric tutorial. It is recommended that you be carefully aware that there can be a system of cameras in the exam room. You are guaranteed a quiet exam room, any suspicious signs of cheating will disqualify you from the exam. Any violation of the CFA Institute Code of Ethics may result in disciplinary action.

Before going to the CFA computer-based exam testing center, you should remember these things:

  • Remember to show up about 30 minutes before the exam time. If you arrive late, you may not be allowed to take the test. In case this occurs, it is impossible for you to receive any form of testing fee refund, nor will you transfer this type of fee to another exam.
  • At all test centers, you will be required to show your passport. The CFA Institute requires CFA Program applicants to have a valid passport for the purpose of registering and sitting for the CFA exam. You are only permitted to bring certain items into the test room as you will likely have to undergo a full body check to make sure you are following the carry-on policy.

Must-have items:

  • Exam admission ticket
  • Valid passport 
  • Allowed Computer (Texas Instruments BAII Plus (or Professional) or Hewlett Packard 12C (Platinum included))
  • Types of pens or pencils

Items that can be brought to the testing room:

  • Pencil sharpener (not a knife)
  • Eraser without the outer sheath
  • Computer battery and screwdriver for battery replacement
  • Glasses
  • Earplugs
  • Wristwatch but must turn off the alarm function

Items that are not allowed in the testing room:

  • Food and drinks
  • Types of bags
  • Types of study materials
  • Types of tables
  • Markers, rulers
  • Types of knives
  • Mobile phones, MP3 players, camcorders, computers
  • Types of desk clocks

How to choose a date and time?

After the process of registering and paying, you will choose your own exam date and time. In other exams like CPA Australia, each test location will display many test time slots for different dates that allow you to choose the exam location with the date and time you like. Usually, there can be many different time slots for each day from 8 am or 8.30 am… The reason is for contestants to choose a time that works for them, and also for the center to have a stretch time to check passports. Obviously, the sooner you register, the more time slots you will have available.

Is the CFA level 1 computer-based exam impacted by COVID-19?

Due to littler gather sizes and a simpler environment for following security benchmarks, we trust that delaying an exam at a computer-based location will be less likely. If you don’t mind, remain side by side with government and wellbeing advisories in your test range. CFA Institute will follow the direction of the governments. We arrange to hold exams in any area to meet the relevant open wellbeing and security necessities.

Do I need to practice computer skills before taking the CFA level 1 computer-based exam?

The test has changed from handwritten to the computer. That means you will read the question on the computer, draft, calculate the results by hand and then select the results on the computer. In general, reading on a computer is slower than reading on paper. The machine-to-paper and back-to-machine operation can be confusing. While you still only have an average of 90 seconds per question. So practice this computer simulation over and over again to master the skills.

FAQs – CFA Computer based testing?

CFA computer based testing

Is CFA Level 1 Exam Online? 

No, although the new format of the CFA Level 1 exam is via online platforms, you have to go to the CFA testing center for the purpose of attending the exam. It is impossible for you to take the CFA at home in any case. The reason is that CFA Institute needs to ensure the exam process is smooth, fair and limit any cheating from candidates.

Are there any disadvantages to the new test format?

The test is a total of 4.30 hours (2 sessions) on the computer which will cause eye strain. In addition, when taking the paper-based test, it is very convenient to read the questions and make drafts, and the computer-based exam may make it a bit slow for those who are not used to it.

Previously, the test consisted of 2 parts, each 3 hours long. After completing part 1, candidates have 2 hours to have lunch and rest. Now, each section is only 2 hours and 15 minutes long, but can only break for up to 30 minutes and then continue with part 2. That means candidates need to prepare well physically and mentally.

Will the exam fee be reduced when switching to a computer-based exam?

Exam fees remain unchanged. For first-time entrants, it will cost you $1150 if you sign up for the early bird. However, there are other financial benefits. Previously there were only 2 early bird installments with the lowest fee/year, now there will be 4 installments. You can choose the period with the lowest fee without having to wait as long as before.

Furthermore, CFA has many fee reduction scholarships. Scholarship results are often available after the early bird of the most recent exam, so many of those who did not win the scholarship also missed the early payment. Now, this inconvenience is almost gone

When do I get the results of the computer-based CFA exam?

The CFA Institute announces that the deadline for returning CFA Level 1 and CFA Level 2 results is about 60 days after completing the test. Meanwhile, CFA Level 3 results can take 90 days to be published. However, the computer-based CFA exam may return results 60 days earlier according to the guidelines of the CFA Institute. More precisely, the CFA Level 1 and CFA Level 2 exams are paid 52 days (approximately 7.5 weeks) after the test date, usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

How many times can I take the computer-based CFA exam?

In addition to the regulation that each candidate can only take 2 CFA exams in 1 year, currently, candidates can only take 1 Level exam up to 6 times, according to the newly updated computer-based CFA exam conditions. However, this is definitely not an issue you should worry about. Because if you take the CFA 6 times to pass a Level, it could be a sign that you are not suitable for this certificate.

What is the computer-based CFA retake rule?

Although there will be 4 times a year for level I exams instead of only 2 times as before, candidates can retake the exam up to 6 times. As the CFA Institute states, they still want candidates to study carefully, and holding the exam four times a year is for the convenience of the candidates, not because they want to increase more revenue. Therefore, the new form of the CFA exam is likely not to help you go faster in the CFA journey because:

  • You must wait at least 6 months from the time you pass CFA level 1 to take the CFA level 2 exam.
  • You have to wait at least 6 months after failing to take the CFA level 1 test before you can retake the level 2 exam, so if February fails, you won’t be able to retake the test right away in May but have to wait until the exam in August or November.

You won’t find it challenging if you are mentally prepared for the change in the CFA computer based testing. We hope that the information we have provided above has made it easier for you to stay current with updates. You can then be ready to obtain the famous CFA certificate.