- The CFA Institute doesn’t give you an actual score but shows your score relative to the Minimum Passing Score and 10th and 90th
- You are given a likely range of scores given your test result and under favorable or unfavorable factors
- The breakdown by subject is a helpful tool in understanding whether you should allocate more resources to certain subjects
What’s my score? is the first thought in your mind when you get the pass/fail email. Well, the CFA Institute actually doesn’t give you a hard score for your CFA Exam results.
Wouldn’t it be nice for you to have a score on a scale? The CFA Institute doesn’t play that game. Considering the nature of the CFA charter, it makes sense. It wouldn’t be long before you’ll have people retaking the CFA a dozen times to get a “perfect score” to boost their career. More importantly, the CFA is not a comparative tool (like the GMAT for example).
How Does the CFA Institute Communicate The Results?
- A flash email with Pass/Fail and the pass rate of your exam.
This is the most obvious one – and also the most important! Roughly  to  weeks after your exam, you will get an email with the pass/fail newsflash. It will also state how many candidates passed the exam.
2. Your Detailed Results Report
A) Your Performance Report on the Exam
Your total exam performance chart will look like the one below. The box on the left indicates your actual score, and the Key on the right shows you what the individual items are.
Your Score Line
The candidate score line is your actual score. If this is below the Minimum Passing Score line, you have failed the exam. If it’s above, congratulations!
Minimum Passing Score (MPS)
The MPS represents the minimum score you need to pass the exam. It doesn’t refer to a specific percentage because this varies according to the difficulty of the exam. If your exam is found to be much harder (i.e. all candidates score a much lower percentage of correct answers), the MPS will be at a lower level. If you are a borderline case – then the ethics adjustment may tip you to a pass or fail. Read more on that in our article on Ethics in the CFA.
The box around your score is the confidence interval of your score. Your score on the exam can be influenced by many factors other than your true ability (which is the most important one). While the exam is long at 6 hours, the material covered spans thousands of pages. So the exam is essentially a sampling exercise. Add to that exam stress, last-minute cramming, poor sleep etc. and you have a cocktail for uncertainty. The box around your actual score represents that uncertainty.
10th/90th Percentile Lines
These give you some sense of your relative performance versus peers. You can broadly sum this up as follows:
- 10th Percentile: 90% of candidates scored better than this
- 90th Percentile: 10% of candidates scored better than this
- 10th to 90th Percentile: 80% of candidates scored between these lines
This will give you a sense of whether you are in the top-tier of your exam (higher than purple dashed line), or whether you have some catching up to do.
B) Your Performance by Topic Area
This is very helpful, especially if you failed. CFA breaks down your performance on the exam by topic, which allows you to identify individual strengths and weaknesses for your retake, next level or professionally (in case you have passed all three levels).
The difference in representation between the Exam and by Topic Area is in that there is no MPS for each topic. Strong performance in one topic area can offset weak performance in another (to a certain extent of course).
Topic Mastery Line (70%)
The black line in the topic area performance chart shows 70% of available points. The CFA considers this the hurdle to display Topic Mastery. While it is not explicitly stated anywhere in CFA resources, scoring over 70% on all topic areas pretty much guarantees a pass (unless your exam result is found to be invalid of course).
Why is the score box wider? you may think. The samples for individual topic areas are small relative to their contents. Hence, the influence of other factors may be relatively stronger in a topic area than on the overall exam. This leads to a wider confidence interval.
- Your Performance by Item Type (only for Level III)
The CFA Exam Report also breaks down performance by item type. Are you better at essays or item sets? Now you will find out!
What we think about the new performance reporting
We think the new performance reporting is a big step forward. It should help you better understand relative performance on the complete exam. Furthermore, it gives you a much better sense where you should focus your studies. Also, now you might find out you are actually really good at certain topics!
What do YOU think about the new format? Let us know below!