Forty-two percent of the 111,731 that took the CFA exam in June passed, according to annual data from the CFA Institute that was released Monday.

To earn the CFA charter, candidates must pass three six-hour exams. This year’s exams were given at 255 test centers in 185 cities globally.

The Level I global pass rate was 42% and the Level II global pass rate was 39%. According to the CFA Institute, 46,863 took the Level I exam, up 2.5% from a year earlier, 43,406 took the Level II exam, up 11.3%, and 21,462, up 10.4%, took the third and final exam.

The majority of individuals that passed the third exam are expected to become CFA charter holders later this year, according to the CFA Institute, bringing the number of charterholders worldwide to more than 90,000.

The CFA Institute, which is based in Charlottesville, Va., said that it has administered more than one million exams since the inauguration of the CFA Program in 1963.

“Candidates’ participation in the CFA Program continues to be largely driven by word-of-mouth, which is a great testament to the value the investment industry places in the CFA credential,” said Tom Robinson, the managing director of education for CFA Institute, in a press release.  “This year’s exam results are similar in the aggregate to the recent 10-year average.”

Robinson said that, while pass rates in the last decade are lower than in the early decades of the program, “there is a much larger pool of candidates pursuing the designation and today’s capital markets are more complex. Investment professionals need a high level of proficiency to practice in today’s environment, and this is reflected in the rigorous standard-setting process.”

In a post-exam survey, candidates reported that they spend nearly 300 hours studying for the exam, which includes questions on ethical and professional standards; financial reporting and analysis; corporate finance; economics; quantitative methods; equity, fixed income, and alternative investments; derivatives; portfolio management and wealth planning.

Candidates said that reporting and analysis, derivatives, and fixed income were the most difficult topic areas for the exam. Seventy-three precent of candidates who responded to the survey said they would re-take the exam the next time it is offered if they do not pass.

According to the CFA Institute, candidates typically take four years to pass the three required exams. The Level I exam is offered twice annually, while the Level II and Level III exams are offered once each year.

Candidates that passed the Level III exam, 9,880 individuals, will begin receiving their charters in early October, provided that they also have completed the minimum work-experience requirement of four years in the investment industry, signed a commitment to abide by the CFA Institute Code of ethics, applied to a CFA Institute society, and become a member of CFA Institute.


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