CFA Level 1 Syllabus | CFA Exam Syllabus for All Levels


If you are looking to prepare for CFA Level 1 Exam 2018, then you should know about the CFA Syllabus. As you might know, the CFA Exam has three levels- Level 1, 2, 3. In this article, we would take a look at the CFA Level 1 Syllabus as well as the syllabus for other levels.

Before we take a look at the CFA Course Syllabus, we would suggest that you take a look at the eligibility criteria. Click on the button below to know more:

CFA Eligibility Details 2018

CFA Level 1 Syllabus – Knowing the Exam Pattern

Before we take a look at the CFA Level 1 Syllabus as well as the CFA Course Syllabus for other levels, we need to know about the exam pattern. The exam pattern changes according to the Level that you are appearing.

The following table gives an overview of the CFA Exam Pattern:

Level I Level II Level III
Morning Evening Morning Evening Morning Evening
No of Questions 120 120 60 60 12 10
Type MCQ MCQ 10 Set of Items 10 set of Items Essay Set of Items
Duration 6 Hours 6 Hours 6 Hours
Passing Score 70%* Above 70%* 50-70%* Approx.
Passing Rates 42%* 46%* 53%*

Note: * These numbers vary every year. This is just an approximation based on the historical data.

To know more details about the CFA Paper Pattern for 2018, click on the link below:

CFA Exam Pattern 2018

CFA Level 1 Syllabus

Let us take a look at the topics and their weightage in the CFA Level 1 Syllabus

Topic Percentage of marks Sub-topic
Financial reporting analysis 20 Financial reporting mechanics & Standards
Understanding income statements
Understanding balance sheet
Ethics 15  Standards of professional conduct
Global Investment Performance standard
Quantitative analysis 12 Time value of money
 Discounted cash flow applications
 Statistical concepts and market returns
Fixed income analysis 10 Fixed income securities
Fixed income markets
Introduction to fixed income valuation
Equity Investment 10 Market organization and structure
Security market indices
Market efficiency
Economics 10 Demand & supply analysis
The Firm & market structures
Aggregate output, Prices, Economic growth
Corporate finance 7 Capital budgeting
Cost of capital
Portfolio management and wealth planning 7 Portfolio management
Basics of portfolio planning and construction
Derivatives 5 Derivatives market and instruments
Basics of derivative pricing and valuation
Alternative investment 4 Mutual funds
Real Estate
Total 100

Overview on Important topics of CFA Level 1:

Based on the percentage of marks distributed, there are 6 most important topic that you have to focus more that is

  • Financial Reporting Analyses
  • Ethics and Professional Standards
  • Quantitative Analyses
  • Fixed Income Analyses
  • Equity Investment
  • Economics

Financial Reporting Analyses:

In this study you will get the idea of financial reporting, analysis of financial reports in investment decision making, the principal financial statements and management discussion and analysis of results.

Ethics and Professional Standards:

This module focuses on the essential foundations for the investment globally by promoting the highest standards of ethics, education, trust, reputation, confidence and value which is essential for a strong and healthy industry.

Quantitative Analyses:

This study represents the quantitative techniques that are essential in financial analysis. This session introduces the several tools of quantitative analysis like time value of money, descriptive statistics, and probability.

Fixed Income Analyses:

This part focuses on understanding the yield curve affects portfolio strategies and risk management. It includes interpreting future and implied spot rates, duration and convexity.

Equity Investment:

This study session presents additional valuation methods for estimating a company’s intrinsic value.


This study focuses on the micro economic principles. These principles are used to describe the marketplace behavior of consumers and firms.

CFA Level 2 Syllabus

Now, let us take a look at the CFA Exam Syllabus for Level 2. The following table shows the weightings of these topics and broad areas for the Level II exam.

Topic Area Level II
Ethical and Professional Standards (total) 10
Investment Tools (total) 30-60
Corporate Finance 5-15
Economics 5-10
Financial Reporting and Analysis 15-25
Quantitative Methods 5-10
Asset Classes (total) 35-75
Alternative Investments 5-15
Derivatives 5-15
Equity Investments 20-30
Fixed Income 5-15
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning (total) 5-15
Total 100

Overview on Important topics of CFA Level 2:

Ethics and Professional Standards

This section covers the code of ethics, professional standards and the global investment performance standards. Ethics is one section that is equally important in all of the three levels. The questions will be aimed at the application of the seven standards in professional situations. Other important topics are the soft dollars and Research Objectivity Standards (ROS).

Quantitative Methods

You can expect about one to two item sets from the quants section. The case statement will most likely present data, for example, regression and ask you to analyze and interpret the data. You may even be asked to calculate some key metrics based on the data provided.


Similar to quants, economics is also a small section in Level II. You can expect one item set for this topic. You need to have a good conceptual knowledge of economics, as many of these concepts can be tested along with other topics. One important concept is foreign exchange and you are likely to be tested on the application of its concepts.

Financial Reporting and Analysis

Financial reporting and analysis represent a large portion of the exam. You can expect about four to five item sets from this section. The important concepts are accounting for inventories, accounting for long-lived assets, accounting for leases, inter-corporate investments, accounting for acquisitions, variable interest entities (VIEs) and financial reporting quality. You are more likely to be asked item set questions based on a combination of these concepts. You need to learn the processes and principles and practice their application thoroughly. Understanding the nuances and differences in IFRS and U.S. GAAP is critical.

Corporate Finance

Corporate finance is an important but easy to handle subject. The concepts in corporate finance are linked with the financial reporting and equity sections. So, the questions may be combined with material from the other sections. The key concepts include: capital budgeting, capital structure, dividend and repurchase policy issues, corporate governance and mergers and acquisitions.

Portfolio Management

You can expect one or two item set questions from portfolio management. The material in this section is huge, and it may be wise to keep this section for the end. Remember that the portfolio management material will get deeper in the Level III exam, so it’s a good idea to have a general understanding of concepts here. You will be tested on portfolio theory, market efficiency and asset pricing concepts.

Equity Investments

Equities is an important section for financial analysts and you can expect about four to five item set questions from equities. There is a lot of material on equity analysis and valuation methods. Note that the equity section is heavy on formulas and you may be asked to perform formula-based calculations and interpretations.

Fixed Income

Fixed income is a small but important part of the exam similar to corporate finance. Given the recent financial crisis, this section has become even more important. You can expect one or two item sets on this topic. Like equity investments, fixed income is also heavy on formulas and some of the concepts are quite complex. Key concepts include: credit analysis, term structure, bonds, mortgage-backed securities and their valuation.


This is a more challenging section and you can expect at least two item set questions from derivatives. The material covers futures and forwards, options and swaps. Within derivatives you should be familiar with currency forwards, interest rate futures and forward rate agreements. In options you need to understand the options strategies and the models for pricing option contracts. In swaps, you should be able to interpret a swap transaction and figure out the cash flows to the parties involved.

Alternative Investments

This section covers asset classes other than equity and fixed income. The three asset classes, which are a part of the CFA curriculum, are real estate, hedge funds and private equity. There will be one or two item sets questions from this section. This is a relatively easy section and can help you get that additional score without getting into complex stuff.

CFA Level 3 Syllabus

The following table gives the details of the CFA Course Syllabus for Level 3

Topic Area Level III
Ethical and Professional Standards (total) 10
Investment Tools (total) 0
Corporate Finance 0
Economics 0
Financial Reporting and Analysis 0
Quantitative Methods 0
Asset Classes (total) 35-45
Alternative Investments 5-15
Derivatives 5-15
Equity Investments 5-15
Fixed Income 10-20
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning (total) 45-55
Total 100

As is evident from the table, the Ethics and Professional Standards gets as much importance as in the other levels of the exam. The investment tools are not tested separately, except economics, which is a part of the portfolio management and wealth planning section for level III. The majority of the exam revolves around portfolio management and asset classes in the portfolio context.

Overview on Important topics of CFA Level 3:


In level III, standards primarily consist of the Code of Ethics and Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS). Standards account for 10% (i.e., 36) of the 360 possible points. The Code of Ethics section will most likely be an item set in the afternoon session. However, GIPS could be tested either as an essay question in the morning session or as an item set in the afternoon session.

Asset Classes

The exam tests your knowledge on all of the major asset classes, including alternative investments, derivatives, equity investments and fixed-income investments. However, the focus is now on the portfolio management aspects of these investments. For example, a whole session is dedicated to the management of active and passive fixed-income portfolios, covering investment objectives, benchmarking, return analysis, portfolio immunization strategies, relative value analysis and so on. The syllabus also covers strategies used in international and emerging markets and how derivatives are used to manage interest rate and credit risks in fixed-income portfolios.

The second asset class is equity securities, which are an essential component of most investment portfolios and crucial for the portfolio’s success. The discussion here surrounds equity investment strategies, evaluation of equity fund managers and equity indexes. The syllabus also discusses the corporate governance issues related to conflicts between managers and shareholders that erode value and have a direct impact on equity portfolio managers. Finally, there is a discussion on measuring and managing portfolios in international and emerging markets.

The section on alternative investments primarily discusses the alternative investment classes and how derivative instruments such as swaps, futures and forwards are used to manage some alternative investments.

Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning

This comprises the largest portion of the exam and will account for at least 180 points out of the 360 possible points. Portfolio management concepts will dominate both the morning and afternoon sessions. The syllabus is very comprehensive and introduces new concepts such as behavioral finance, which forms the basis for financial decision making. Risk management concepts, covering tools and techniques for measuring and managing risk are also discussed. Apart from these, you are likely to be tested on questions related to individual and institutional wealth.

The number of concepts that can be tested are limited but are important. One such important concept is the Investment Policy Statement and its components, which is highly testable. Economics, which was a part of the investment tools in Level I and II, is included under portfolio management in the exam. Other important concepts are managing portfolios of institutional investors, asset allocation, risk management applications and evaluating portfolio performance.

Within the portfolio management section, the CFA Institute provides no hints about which topics are more important. However, it does make available essay questions from previous years, which can be very useful for practicing and developing your exam strategy.

CHECK OUT: The Best Books for CFA Preparation

These were the details of the CFA Level 1 Syllabus and other levels. You can keep this handy for future reference. To know more about CFA 2019, click on the link below:

CFA Course 2018