Thousands of people around the world are hoping they have what it takes to be a chartered financial analyst. Could you be one of them?
A record 250,000 candidates will sit for the three exams required to become a chartered financial analyst this weekend, across 95 markets around the globe, according to Bloomberg. That’s 11% more people than previous year.
Those who pass the three exams offered by the U.S.-based CFA Institute will receive the professional credential. The exams cover a broad range of subject matter — topics include accounting, professional ethics, securities analysis and money management. Very few people have completed all three exams. Between 1963 and 2016, over 1.3 million candidates had sat for the Level I exam, while just over 209,000 managed to pass the final Level III exam, according to Investopedia.
The CFA credential is highly sought-after in the investment world. The designation can also exempt charter-holders from needing to take other exams required to work with institutions such as the New York Stock Exchange and Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission.
The CFA Institute manages the charter and the necessary exams to receive it. The organization’s mission is: “It is only through transparent, ethical, and truly accountable service that finance contributes to the ultimate benefit of society.”
The exams are offered two times a year: All three levels are available in June, while the Level I exam is also presented in December. Fewer than half of those who take the tests pass. In 2017, a record 47% of test-takers passed the Level II exam, according to Business Insider.
This year, the tests cost between $650 and $1,380 depending on when the candidate registered. On average,
The Level I exam involves 240 multiple-choice questions on financial tools and inputs. For the Level II exam, test-takers must answer 21 item set questions based on “vignettes” or “mini-cases” related to asset valuation. The Level III test focuses on portfolio management and includes essay questions and item set questions.
All three tests take six hours each and are administered in two sessions split between the morning and afternoon. In 2021, the Level I test will become electronic in an effort to speed up the time it takes for candidates to receive their results. Currently, Level 1 and II candidates must wait 60 days for their results, while Level III candidates wait 90 days.
Below are a group of sample questions the CFA Institute published and released in 2016. The questions’ difficulty and format were designed to mirror what real test-takers face.
1. The feature of a well-functioning investment industry that gives investors the ability to quickly buy and sell a significant amount of an investment without having a material impact on the price is described as:
(b) competitive markets
(c) risk transfer
2. According to fundamental ethical and professional principles applicable to the investment industry, which group should have its interests ranked first?
3. Regulators often seek public consultation prior to the implementation of new regulations in order to:
(a) ensure the new rules are favorable to those likely to be affected
(b) educate consumers and service providers on the new rules
(c) improve the final rules by undertaking a cost-benefit analysis
4. A financial advisory firm that implements internal policies regarding information barriers, suitability standards, and restrictions on self-dealing is addressing issues related to which of the following types of regulation?
(a) Sales practices rules
(b) Trading rules
(c) Disclosure rules
5. The best financial statement to use to find information about what a company owns and owes others is called the:
(a) income statement
(b) balance sheet
(c) cash flow statement
6. If two variables do not have a strong (linear) relationship, the correlation coefficient between the two variables will be closest to:
7. If a decrease in the selling price of a company’s only product results in an increase in the company’s total revenue, the demand for the company’s product is:
8. Which of the following actions taken by a central bank is expansionary?
(a) Increasing the reserve requirement
(b) The purchase of government bonds
(c) Increasing its policy rate
9. Which of the following government actions will most likely lead to an increase in the level of aggregate demand? A reduction in:
(a) transfer payments
(b) public spending on social goods and infrastructure
(c) the capital gains tax
10. If a company is liquidated, proceeds from asset sales are distributed to common shareholders:
(a) before unsecured debt investor and preferred shareholder claims are paid
(b) after secured debt investor and preferred shareholder claims are paid
(c) after preferred shareholder claims are paid but before unsecured debt investor claims are paid
11. Which of the following bonds contains an embedded option that provides the issuer certain rights?
(a) Putable bond
(b) Callable bond
(c) Convertible bond
12. Which type of private equity strategy is most likely used to finance a start-up company?
(a) Growth equity
(c) Venture capital
13. In commercial real estate investment, the amount derived from discounting future cash flows of lease and rental payments plus capital appreciation represents the value of the:
14. A form of pension plan in which the participant has some ability to determine how pension contributions are invested is described as a(n):
(a) defined contribution plan
(b) endowment plan
(c) defined benefit plan
15. An investor attempting to replicate a price-weighted index would hold an equal:
(a) percentage of outstanding shares of each security in the index
(b) amount invested in each security in the index
(c) number of units (shares) of each security in the index