CFA Exam Lures Record Crowd of Candidates Seeking Career Boost

A record number of people are set to take the Chartered Financial Analyst exam this weekend after applications poured in from 174 countries, led by those in Asia.

A total of 159,889 candidates registered to sit for the exam’s three levels, an increase of 7.4 percent from a year earlier, according to a statement Thursday from the Charlottesville, Virginia-based CFA Institute. Asia accounted for 43 percent of registrants, with the Americas providing 35 percent and Europe, the Middle East and Africa 22 percent.

Candidates take the test hoping the certification can lead to new jobs, higher salaries and a better understanding of markets. Typically, about 30,000 people who register don’t end up sitting for the exam. The first level is given in December and June; the final two are administered only in June. Average pass rates over the past 10 years have improved with each level: 39 percent, 44 percent and 53 percent.

The not-for-profit CFA Institute said candidates spend about 300 hours on average studying for each phase of the test. Topics range from ethical standards and securities valuation to financial-statement analysis and portfolio management. Completing all three levels costs about $3,000 and takes an average of four years.

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