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New CFA Exam to Shave Down Excruciating Wait for Test Results

Students attend Dr. Carl Crego's lecture during a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) class offered by The Education Department of the New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA) at the World Trade Center in New York Monday evening January 31, 2000. Photographer: Andrew Serban/Bloomberg

The CFA Institute plans to administer the first level of its exam electronically starting in 2021 -- a move that will shorten the suspense for candidates who’ve poured hundreds of hours into studying.

The change after almost 60 years of paper testing allows the institute to offer a wider selection of venues and more flexible scheduling while expediting the announcement of results, it said Monday in a statement.

“This is a natural evolution in how we design and deliver our programs,” Paul Smith, chief executive officer of the Charlottesville, Virginia-based CFA Institute, said in the statement.

CFA candidates must pass a three-level exam in a process that usually takes several years to complete. Successful test-takers spend an average of more than 300 hours preparing for each stage, parts of which are administered in June or December, and then wait weeks or months to learn whether they passed.

“Results will be delivered sooner,” the institute wrote in a Q&A accompanying its announcement that didn’t specify how much faster. “At this time, we’re only focused on delivering computer-based testing for Level I.”

The institute has made other changes in recent years to update its certification and processes. They include plans to add questions on financial technology topics such as artificial intelligence, robo-advisory and methods for analyzing big data. It already offers an online study platform to help candidates. DM

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