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Is this what you needed to score last June?

Are these the real pass marks for the CFA exams?

As we were first to report last month, pass rates for the CFA Level I and II exams fell to a five-year low for this June's sittings, with only 41% passing Level I and only 44% passing Level II.  Either June's exams were crazily hard, or 2019's exam takers were unusually poorly prepared. 

As we've noted before, it's never easy to know exactly what constitutes a passing score on the CFA's three exams. The CFA Institute that runs the notoriously difficult exams specifies a minimum 'net passing score' and this varies year-to-year depending upon how difficult the test paper is. In theory, then, the net passing score changes with each paper. A score which will get you a pass one year won't get you a pass the next. 

To further complicate matters, because the CFA allocates different marks to different topics and varies this on an annual basis, it's never possible to predict exactly what you need to score in each topic area.

With these caveats, a Reddit user has been collecting information from people who participated in all three CFA exams in June 2019, and has used this to derive data on mean passing scores. His sample sizes are small (less than 1% of Levels I and II test takes provided data, and only 1% of Level III test takers contributed), and his samples of failed candidates are smaller still, but with 1,435 responses in total, they're still kind of interesting.

His conclusions are shown in the tables below. As you will see, the implications are that there's no fixed passing score. You can score 65% overall in CFA Level I and fail, or you can score 61% overall and pass. This is likely to be because of the different weightings given to each unit, but as long as you get at least 70% in all topic areas in Level I you should pass. At least that's the theory. 

Pass marks for CFA Level I, based on candidate feedback

Pass marks for CFA Level II, based on candidate feedback

Pass marks for CFA Level III, based on candidate feedback

Pass marks for CFA Level I by topic area, based on candidate feedback 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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