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What’s the minimum score you can get on CFA Level I, and still pass?

What's the minimum CFA score which will get you through?

What's the minimum CFA score which will get you through?

Yesterday was CFA results day. As ever, only a minority of people waiting for their CFA score found that they passed the exams – 42% passed Level I, to be specific – which was at least better than the 38% who passed in June 2013.

The CFA Institute, which runs the CFA exams, is notoriously coy when it comes to explaining what constitutes a pass and what doesn’t. In order to pass, candidates need to meet the minimum ‘net passing score’ across all topic areas. But the minimum net passing score is never given and varies year-on-year according to the deeply convoluted modified ‘Angoff Standard Setting Method’ (explained here), which has something to do with a set of CFA Charterholders sitting down and working out how difficult the questions really are and how easy it ought to be to pass.

To make matters worse, because the marks allocated to different topics vary, the institute says that strong performance in one topic won’t necessarily compensate for weak performance in another.

As a result, the 58% of people who just found out that they didn’t pass the CFA Level I exam may be a little confused as to why. All they can do is to sit the exam all over again in June.

Being inclined to control-freakery, the CFA Institute doesn’t much like people discussing their CFA score. However, this doesn’t dissuade them from doing so. Analyst Forum contains various scores, posted yesterday, from people who claim to have passed and failed.

This is what the people who passed in June 2014 say they scored.

1. More than 70% in all categories.

2. More than 70% in everything except alternative investments and fixed income.

3. More than 70% in everything except economics and quantitative methods.

4. More than 70% in everything except fixed income, economics and quantitative methods (where scored 51-70%).

5. Seven sections at more than 70%, but alternative investments and ethics at 50% to 70%, and portfolio management at less than 50%.

6. More than 70% in alternative investments, corporate finance, ethics, professional standards, and portfolio management. 51%-70% in economics, equity investments, financial reporting and analysis and fixed income investments. Less than 50% in derivatives and quantitative methods.

7. More than 70% in alternative investments, portfolio management, derivatives, corporate finance, financial reporting and quantitative methods. 51-70% in fixed income and ethics. Less than 50% in economics.

8. More than 70% in equity investments, alternative investments, corporate finance. 51%-70% in everything else.

9. 50% to 70% in everything, except portfolio management, alternative investments and ethics, where scored in excess of 70%.

10. More than 70% on everything, except financial reporting and analysis and economics (51%-70%).

11. More than 70% in everything except ethics, quantitative methods, alternative investments and derivatives (51%-70%).

12. More than 70% in everything except derivatives and portfolio management (51% to 70%).


13. More than 70% in alternative investments, corporate finance, equity investments and portfolio management. 51% to 70% in economics and ethics. And less than 50% in derivatives, financial reporting analysis, fixed income and quantitative methods.

Number 13 is clearly the most interesting. It implies that you can get through the CFA even if you’ve scored less than 50% in four key subject areas. This is a revelation. If you have any marks to share, please go ahead and share them in the comments box below…

Related articles:

Pass or fail the CFA level I, this is what you should be doing next

The 10 commandments for succeeding at CFA exams

The jobs you’ll most likely get with CFA qualifications. And the companies you’ll most likely work for


Comments (8)

  1. FRA is not forward rate agreements; it is Financial Reporting and Analysis-the most weighted aspect of the exam.

  2. for the june exam I got above 70% for Ethics and Derivatives and 50%-70% for everything else

  3. I did L1 with only 2 days of study and got a letter from the CFA saying i got 100% in the exam.

  4. I failed with:
    >70% Alt Inv, and Corp Finance
    51-70% Derivatives, Econ, Equity, Ethics, FRA, Fixed Inc, Quants
    <=50% Port Mngt

  5. Passed

    >70% in 6 topics, 50% in Ethics, Port. Mgmt., Economics, Alt. Investment

  6. It looks to be highly subjective regarding a pass. I wonder if CFA is not that ethical since it is so subjective who will pass or not. Maybe they are simply generating more profits by letting people retake the exams.

    Why not simply have a minimum score of 70% and simply scale the results. So if the highest individual would score 95% total than people who would get 65% would pass. This way they scale it if the exam was to hard. If someone would score 100% then the 70% would be the minimum score.

  7. I wonder why I failed when I gave my Level 1 exam back in 2008 because I scored far better than the above passing scores. And at that time we had to choose from 4 choices.


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