What it’s like to take the CFA exam


On Saturday, thousands of aspiring financiers around the world will sit down to take the most notorious, brutal exam in the industry, Chartered Financial Analyst Program, or CFA for short.

The test, considered to be among the most mentally grueling exam experiences on the planet, pits students against a six-hour, 240 question ordeal, and most who take it fail.

The series of three exams is designed to ensure that people working in certain parts of the financial industry have all the right knowledge to succeed. More than 100,000 people around the world take the test in more than 100 countries every year.

The exams are notoriously tough — pass rates have hovered around 40-50%. Most people study for more than 300 hours beforehand.

Becoming a CFA charter holder is a huge leg up for anyone hoping to build a career in investment management. But what do the exams involve? Business Insider got hold of a recent practice test from the CFA Institute, which administers the exam, to see just how difficult it is.

We’ve picked a handful of questions from the Level I exam, which is, in theory at least, the easiest one.

The full exam is six hours and consists of 240 multiple-choice questions.

“For many students, parts of the CFA Program exams that commonly cause the most trouble are those covering fixed income and derivatives,” Alex King, a director for examination development at the CFA Institute, told Business Insider.

Check out the questions, along with the answers and explanations from the CFA Institute:



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