Understanding the CFA Exam Structure and Format


CFA, or Chartered Financial Analyst, is considered one of the most preferred professions in the financial field. This internationally recognized certification is conferred by CFA Institute, which also administers its exam. If you think you can manage investments, this is for you. But before that, let's tell you more about the CFA exam structure in India.
To begin with, there are three CFA levels in India - CFA Level 1, CFA Level 2, and CFA Level 3. You will have to pass all three levels to qualify as a CFA. So, it is important to understand the CFA levels and subjects. The exam will test your learnings and skills, patience, and consistency. You should be familiar with the CFA exam process and structure to ace the examination. In this blog, we have discussed some pointers which will provide you with a clear idea of the CFA exam structure in India.

CFA Level 1 Exam Structure

India's level 1 CFA exam structure in India consists of 180 multiple-choice questions, which are split between two 135-minute sessions. Depending on the examination center, you will get some optional breaks in between. You will be allowed 90 seconds (approximately) for each question. The time might vary depending on the complexity of the question and how well you understand the topic. You must avoid using the words like - except, true, false, and notes wherever possible. 
ParticularsFirst SessionSecond Session
Time2 hours 15 minutes2 hours 15 minutes
Number of questions90 MCQs90 MCQs

How to Study for CFA Level 1 Examination?

You must study well to pass the examination. Here's what you can do -
  • Concentrate on the curriculum and understand the topic's weight. The level 1 exams cover ten topics, each having a different weightage. Allocate your time to your weak or strong areas. This will help you get through the CFA exam process.
  • Make a study plan. You must study for 350 hours for the level 1 CFA examination. However, with a relevant background, you can complete the CFA course level 1 in less time. You can customize the syllabus at your convenience, as it will help you with the CFA exam preparation.
  • Understand the CFA Exam Structure in India, along with its pattern and format. Each multiple-choice problem has a question, a table, a statement, and three choices of answers. You must answer questions directly from the provided alternatives or complete a phrase using one of the three possible answers. 
  • Take mock tests and practice using sample papers 4 to 6 weeks before the examinations. You can set the timer for 2 hours and 15 minutes and start taking the test. Try to complete the sample test paper in the given time. If not completed on time, try again to ensure you are completing your paper on time. Also, this will help you fill in the gaps, if any.

CFA Exam Structure in India for Level 1 (Question Format)

Each multiple-choice item on the CFA level 1 exam consists of a stem, as discussed earlier - a question, a statement, and a table (which is optional), along with three choices of the answer. Here two basic formats are used -
  • Sentence completion with three unique choices.
  • Questions with three unique choices.

CFA Level 2 Exam Structure

The level 2 CFA exam structure in India is quite difficult. Though the number of questions is low, the difficulty is much more than Level 1. Level 2 questions consist of vignettes or mini-cases, and it is important to understand the concepts in depth. The total number of hours for the examination is 360, including optional breaks.
ParticularsFirst SessionSecond Session
Time2 hours and 12 minutes2 hours and 12 minutes 
Number of questions120120

How to Study for CFA Level 2 Examination?

According to CFA Institute, the passing rate currently is at 45%. However, it is not quite as easy as it seems. The Level 2 CFA exam structure in India is difficult. You have to cover all the subjects and focus on the curriculum.
Here's what you can do to pass the examination - 
  • You must study for over 300 hours for 6-9 months to prepare for the exams.
  • The level 2 CFA exam process consists of item sets of mini-cases.
  • Focus on the real-life scenarios of Investment Management and Portfolio Concepts. 
  • Solve mock questions to practice keeping up with the time allotted for the examination. 
  • Finally, review and practice all the study material in the last month of the examination.

Level 2 CFA Exam Structure in India (Question Format)

There will be two sessions for your exam, with 11 standardized items in each session. There will be 20 questions total, of which 20 can be scored and 2 are trials. Each item's MCQs must be answered using the details from the vignette, and it is required that you read the vignette before responding to any questions. 

CFA Level 3 Exam Structure in India

Level 3 CFA exam structure in India comprises vignettes and multiple-choice and constructed response questions. All questions in the CFA Exam process for level 3 must be answered based on the information given in the vignettes. The Level 3 exam is divided into two parts, and each session will contain either 6 item sets and five essay sets or 5 item sets and six essay sets. The exam is 4 hours and 24 minutes long.  
ParticularsFirst SessionSecond Session
Time2 hours and 12 minutes2 hours and 12 minutes 
Number of questions8-11 Vignette-supported constructed-response item sets 44 vignettes supported multiple-choice items with 4 or 6 questions. 

How to Study for the CFA Level 3 Exam in India?

CFA Level 3 is similar to CFA Level 2 but has a small twist. It is very qualitative and conceptual. 
Here's how you can prepare for the exam -
  • Use CFA institute curriculum materials, as they give you a flavor of the question pattern.
  • Keep note of the topic weight of the CFA level 3 exam to utilize your time effectively. Focus on what needs to be done first.  
  • Keep revising and practicing the previous lessons. 

Level 3 CFA Exam Structure in India (Question Format)

There will be two types of questions - calculation-based and word-based questions. Many students have trouble getting used to it, but many can easily adapt to the questions. One essay item will contain multiple-choice questions. It's critical to know how many questions each applicant must answer. 
Topics Asked in CFA Exam (Syllabus for Levels 1, 2, and 3)
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Economics
  • Derivatives
  • Alternative Investments
  • Fixed Income
  • Corporate Issuers
  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning
  • Ethical and Professional Standards
  • Equity Investments
If you are wondering about the fees, you must know that CFA Level fees -
  • $450 for program enrolment fees, 
  • $700 for early registration, and 
  • $1000 for late registration fees.
That's all there is to briefly understand the CFA exam structure in India and curate the best study plan based on this information. Make a study-packed schedule to cover all the aspects of its syllabus and get help from the top CFA coaching institutes like NSA (NorthStar Academy) to clear the exam in one go. 
Now, let's answer some of the frequently asked questions regarding the CFA.


1. How many papers are there in the CFA exam?

There are ten topics in level 1, 2, and 3 CFA exams. Level 1 happens twice a year, in June and December.

2. What is the format of the CFA exam?

CFA exams consist of 180 multiple-choice questions, and the exam is split into two sessions. Each session is held for 135 minutes, and it is mandatory to appear in both examinations.

3. Whose salary is more, CA or CFA?

According to sources, the salary of a CA is more than CFA. But that doesn't mean you won't get a raise. Each field has its different salary structure, depending on the responsibility and job role. With increasing experience, your salary after a CFA will keep increasing.

4. Will the CFA curriculum change in 2023?

As there is no change in the CFA curriculum in 2023, you can refer to the 2022 books, and you will ace the examination with proper preparations.

5. How many attempts can I make in the CFA exam?

As per the CFA exam process of CFA Institute, its exam can be taken twice a year, allowing six attempts to pass. Appearing for the exam and completing any portion of the exam is considered an attempt.


CFA, one of India's most reputed courses , is pursued by thousands of students to kickstart their careers and working professionals to boost their career growth. Knowing only the exam structure and syllabus won't help. You need to give your best in preparation and enroll in the distinguished and most preferred CFA coaching, such as NorthStar Academy (NSA).
At NSA, you receive world-class support from seasoned mentors like M. Irfat Sir, who offers video coaching, ensuring continuous guidance throughout your preparation. You get highly organized study material to help you easily cover every corner of the CFA exam syllabus.
If you have any doubts, you can always contact us @ +91 8147470707 and get them resolved.
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