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CFA Institute to offer computer-based testing for Level I

The CFA Institute announced that starting in 2021, it will transition its Level I exam to a computer-based testing format from the traditional printed format.

Level I is the only exam of the program to be offered twice a year, once in June and again in December. The move to a digital format is expected to reduce the crowding on exam day when thousands of students fill convention centers and hotel ballrooms to sit for Level I, the CFA said in a news release Monday. Between 2013 and 2018, 347,108 candidates sat for Level I; June 2018 was a record year for Level I, with more than 79,000 taking the test. This growth led the CFA Institute to consider the sustainability of its current testing model and raised concerns of its ability to continue it going forward, said Steve Horan, the CFA Institute's managing director of credentialing, in an interview.

After the transition, Level I candidates will be able to take exams at a wider selection of venues that offer more scheduling options. While details of the transition are not final yet, Mr. Horan said the exam is expected to be offered four times a year and the number of candidates will remain unlimited. Historically, the test was offered only twice a year on the first Saturday in June and December at multiple testing centers in or near urban centers. Candidates will also get their results sooner than the typical six- to eight-week waiting period. Mr. Horan also noted that while there are no specific plans to move Level II and III to the computer-based format, the door is open to do so in the future.

The move is the next step in the CFA's effort to adapt the first stage of the program to a digital platform. Starting this year, it introduced its Learning Ecosystem to Level I candidates, which offers the entire curriculum, study materials and progress tracking tools in a digital format. This format eliminates the multivolume book-based study materials that have been the program's traditional right of passage.

"Our highest priority is to uphold the standard of the CFA charter," said Paul Smith, CFA Institute president and CEO in the news release. "Maintaining the security of the exam and the rigor of what is expected of candidates is critical to that process. This is a natural evolution in how we design and deliver our programs. Offering computer-based testing is part of a larger digital transformation for the CFA program."