Welcome to another exciting article about the CFA curriculum.
In today’s session, we want to help you understand what the CFA curriculum entails.
After reading this article, you’ll have better insight into:
Let’s get started right away!
An Overview of the CFA Program Curriculum
The CFA curriculum is designed for investment professionals seeking to grow their careers in the investment world.
The program contains foundational knowledge in investment management and analysis and portfolio management, which is the basis for all three levels of CFA exams.
The CFA curriculum is developed by the CFA Institute Education Advisory Committee, which includes university faculty, security market regulators, policymakers, and industry practitioners.
The curriculum is in digital and print format.
CFA candidates can access the digital curriculum at no additional cost after registration into the CFA program.
The digital curriculum is on the CFA Institute Learning Ecosystem, which can be accessed through a wide range of devices, including mobile.
The Learning Ecosystem is a hub with the CFA curriculum and all CFA Institute learning materials.
The print version contains six modules and can be purchased online.
The CFA curriculum is updated regularly.
The CFA Institute conducts research to identify modern financial practices and new industry trends that impact the investment industry.
They use their findings to update the CFA curriculum to reflect the industry needs.
Through the updates, CFA charterholders gain up-to-date knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the investment industry.
CFA Core Curriculum Topics
The CFA curriculum is based on ten topic areas, which make up the core of the curriculum.
The subject areas are almost the same in all three levels of the CFA exam.
What varies is the difficulty level.
At each level, the content gets more advanced.
Let’s now look at these key topic areas and what they entail.
We’ll also explore how each of the topics is weighted in all the levels of the CFA exam.
Ethical and Professional Standards
This part of the CFA curriculum is about ethics.
It covers the challenges related to ethical behaviors and the role of ethics and professionalism in the investment industry.
The CFA Institute uses the Code of Ethics and Standard of Professional Conduct and Global Investment Professional Standards (GIPs) as the framework for standards of professional conduct.
The weight for ethical and professional standards is 15-20% in level I exams and 10-15% in levels II and III.
The quantitative method covers descriptive statistics, which include central tendency, dispersion, location, and return distribution that are crucial to reporting data distribution.
It also explores quantitative concepts and techniques that are instrumental in investment decision-making and financial analysis.
Additionally, CFA candidates learn about probability theory, analytical tools, and performance measurement, among other key concepts in quantitative methods.
The quantitative method is weighted differently in each level of the CFA exam.
The quantitative method in the CFA level I exam weighs between 8-12%, and in the level II exam, it’s 5-10%.
This topic is not covered in the Level III exam.
Quantitative methods are a bit complex.
And so, candidates with a background in statistics may find it a little bearable.
Economics explores macroeconomics concepts and principles, which majorly apply the use of graphs and curves in explaining concepts.
The topic further enlightens candidates about market structures where various businesses operate.
It also delves into the business cycle and concepts of supply and demand for individuals and firms.
This topic area weighs 13-17% in the CFA level I exam.
In the CFA Level II exam, it makes up 5-10%, while it’s not covered in level III.
Financial Reporting and Analysis
Financial reporting and analysis are all about understanding financial reporting standards and procedures.
CFA students learn about financial statements, such as cash flow statements, income statements, and balance sheets, and the framework for analyzing and interpreting these statements.
While this topic area is not covered in level III, it’s covered in levels I and III.
It weighs 13-17% in level I.
In level II, it weighs 10-15%.
In the 2022 CFA curriculum update, corporate finance is renamed corporate issuers.
The topic of corporate issuers is small, weighing 8-12% in the CFA level 1 exam and 5-10% in level II.
The topic is dropped at level III.
Corporate issuers give an overview of corporate governance, investing and financial decisions, and ESG considerations in investment analysis.
Corporate issuer’s sub-topics in CFA level 1 are further reinforced in level II, where candidates go deeper into fundamental concepts in corporate governance.
Additionally, the topic is closely linked to quantitative methods and financial reporting and analysis, which further makes it important to grasp the concepts from the get-go.
Equity investment is in the CFA program curriculum levels I, II, and III.
At CFA level 1, candidates cover types of equity securities and characteristics, equity market characteristics, valuation of individual equity securities, equity market indexes and benchmarks, and financial analysis.
By the end of the equity investment level I topic, candidates should be well-vast with portfolio management, equity investment calculations, and security market indexes.
These sub-categories are the foundation of the equity investment topic at the subsequent levels.
Equity investments make up 10-12% of the CFA level I exam.
As candidates advance to CFA level II, the course covers financial modeling and other analysis methods for calculating a firm’s value.
Equity investments weigh 10-15% in the CFA level II exam.
CFA level III equity investment topic revolves around managing equity assets and major approaches to constructing equity portfolios.
CFA level III weighs 10-15% in the CFA exam.
Fixed income investment is considered the most challenging topic to prepare for.
It makes up a considerable part of the CFA exam, with its weight increasing as CFA levels advance.
Fixed income makes 15-20% of CFA level III.
In level II, it’s 10-15% and 10-12% in level I.
The topic is about understanding fixed-income investments, which make up a large part of the global market.
This topic area covers fixed income securities, fixed income market, fixed income valuation, asset-backed securities, fixed income risk management, and returns and credit analysis.
CFA candidates also learn about calculating yields, securitization of assets, and fundamentals of bond returns and risks.
Since this topic runs through all the levels of the CFA exam, it’s crucial to get the fundamental concepts in level 1 so that the subsequent topics are easier to understand.
Derivatives are tested at all levels of the CFA exam.
CFA level 1 talks about the basic concepts of derivatives.
The areas covered include derivative market and investments basics of derivative pricing and valuation.
Aspiring chartered financial analysts learn about how derivatives can be used to manage risks.
The subsequent levels discuss the different derivative structures, including swaps, options, mortgage-backed structures (MBS), credit default swaps, and collateralized debt obligations.
Further, the topic area talks about arbitrage, where CFA candidates learn how the price of the underlying assets influences derivative pricing.
This topic is packed with formulas and graphs that are crucial for grasping how this instrument works.
Derivatives make up 5-10% of the CFA level II and III exams.
It makes up 5-8% of level 1 exams.
Alternative investments include hedge funds, real estate, private capital, natural resources, and infrastructure.
The topic is tested across all three levels of CFA exams.
Level 1 covers the definition of alternative investment, characteristics they have in common, the use of alternative investments, and the different investment methods for alternative investments.
The subsequent levels also cover the same sub-categories.
The only difference is they go deeper.
The alternative investments topic weighs 5-8% for the CFA level 1 exam.
It has the same weight for CFA levels III and II, 5-10%.
This topic is particularly helpful for CFA candidates working in asset management.
Portfolio Management and Wealth Management
Portfolio management is at the core of the CFA curriculum.
The topic is easy to understand at the beginning and gradually increases in difficulty.
The topic weight increases from level I to III.
At level 1, portfolio management makes up 5-8% of the exam.
In level II, the weight increases to between 10-15%.
And lastly, level III has the biggest chunk, 35-40%.
The portfolio management topic explains the key concepts in portfolio management and risk management.
At level I, candidates learn about building portfolios and how they work, the scales and types of risks, and how to adopt portfolio investments strategies to different investment types.
The sub-categories, portfolio planning, construction return, and risk measurements, the needs of individuals and institutions, and the range of investments available keep advancing at each level of the CFA exam.
An Overview of 2022 CFA Curriculum Update
As is the norm, CFA Institute reviews the CFA program curriculum annually to ensure the content is up-to-date with the current market practice.
The CFA curriculum updates are important because they help candidates know the core topics of the CFA exam, the weighted topics, which require more time, practice, and focus, and the study materials they need in the updated curriculum.
This year, there are no major updates as the topic weights remain the same.
Despite that, some topic areas have been updated.
That is, some of their sub-categories have been removed, and others added across the three levels of the exam.
A notable change includes the ethics topic, which has been moved to the last study session, and the corporate finance topic, which has been renamed corporate issuers.
In the level 1 exam, the readings have increased from 57 in 2020/2021 to 60.
The additional sub-categories are corporate issuers, quantitative methods, alternative investment, and ethics.
Five readings were removed in the level 1 exam.
Level II experienced some slight changes too.
Candidates have 47 readings instead of 48.
The institute updated 14 readings, removed four, and added two new readings.
As for level three, the readings were reduced to 35 from 38.
The Level III curriculum has two new readings.
Five readings were removed and seven updated.
The CFA curriculum is robust.
It covers all the key concepts crucial for an investment professional career path.
The curriculum is updated regularly so that CFA charterholders can gain the expertise the finance industry is looking for.
Even more important, the Institute avails all the updates in advance to optimize CFA candidates’ exam preparation.
Candidates can research prep providers, acquire exam prep materials, develop a study plan and be on their way to acing the CFA exam.
With a pass rate of 34.6% in 2021, chartered financial analysts must be totally committed to having any chance of passing the CFA exam, given how comprehensive the CFA curriculum is.