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2018 CFA EXAM RESULTS: How to Interpret your CFA Exam Score

UPDATE 2018! The official June 2018 CFA Exam results have been released on August 14, 2018. Level 1 CFA Exam passing rate was 43%, while the Level 2 CFA Exam passing rate was 45%. Do you belong to the pass list? Congratulations for a job well done!

The CFA Level 3 Exam results, meanwhile, will be announced on August 28. Stay tuned and good luck to all Level 3 candidates!

If you took the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam and have received the official results, you’re probably wondering what the visual graphs representing your scores actually mean, check out this guide to help you understand your overall performance during the CFA exam.

First, a background. The CFA Institute recently revamped how the examinee’s exam scores are presented. In the past, the exam results show the examinee’s relative performance versus the pass and fail bands. With the new presentation format, the examinee’s scores are now shown as visual graphs and compared to benchmarks such as the Minimum Passing Score (MPS), Other Examinees’ Performance (90th Percentile), etc.

Check out other posts about the CFA Exam!

Minimum Passing Score

The Minimum Passing Score or MPS is, literally, the minimum score you have to hurdle in order to pass the CFA exam. The MPS is shown in the results as a thin dashed black line (- – – -).

The thick blue line, meanwhile, is your exam score (although the actual numerical figure will not be shown).

Simply speaking, if the thick blue line (examinee’s score) lies above the MPS line, you passed. Congrats! But if the score lies below the MPS line, you failed the CFA exam.

Scores that are very close to the MPS score may appear to slightly overlap the MPS line. To remove confusion about the actual results, refer to the summary results that explicitly tell you if you passed or failed the exam.

Confidence Interval

The light-blue box that surrounds your exam score line represents a 90% confidence interval. This means that based on the characteristics of the exam, your true ability (as of exam day) probably lies somewhere in this range, as would your scores on similar exams with different questions.

This “score box” is an estimate of your performance given various factors and circumstances of the CFA exam (i.e., your level of preparedness, state of alertness during the exam, noise level in the venue, temperature in the exam room, etc.). This means, depending on the circumstance, your score could have been as high as the upper limit of the score box OR as low as the lower limit of the score box.

Let’s look at these three scenarios to understand your “score box”.

1. Score and Confidence Interval Above the MPS

If this is your score box (located way above the MPS line), you could have high confidence that you would have passed under nearly any circumstance.

2. Score and Confidence Interval Below the MPS

If this is your score box, you could have high confidence that you would not have passed under nearly any circumstance. This means you will need to study much more in order to pass the retake of the CFA exam.

3. Score Below the MPS but Confidence Interval Overlaps the MPS

If your score box is close to the MPS line, you might have passed under some  circumstances, but in most cases you would not have passed. This is shown in the score box being mainly below the MPS. (The opposite is true is your score line is above the MPS and majority of the score box is also above the MPS).

Relative Performance vs. Other Examinees

The thick purple dashed line represents the 90th percentile score. This means 10% of candidates that took the exam scored higher than this on the exam.

The thick black dashed line represents the 10th percentile score. 10% of candidates scored lower than this on the exam.

Performance by Topic Area

The exam score results will not show a separate passing score for each topic. Instead of representing the minimum passing score, the thin black line represents 70% of the available points in that topic. (According to the CFA Institute, the 70% level may appear arbitrary, but consistent scores above 70% is supposedly a reasonable signal of topic mastery.)

Combining this with the thick purple dashed line (90th-percentile line) and the thick black dashed line (10th-percentile line):

  • The lower the 90th-percentile candidate line, the harder the topic area was.
  • The higher the 10th-percentile line, the easier the topic was.

If your total score (thick blue line) is way above the 70% line, the more confident you can be that you have mastered that particular topic area.

By looking at your exam score and confidence interval and comparing it with the 70% line and relative scores of other candidates, you can have an idea about your overall performance and where to focus on in future studies (for the higher CFA exam level or the same exam in case of a retake).

Performance by Item Type

Looking at your item-type scores, meanwhile, can help you identify which question formats you need to spend more time on practicing and preparing for.

Comparing again your overall score with the thick purple dashed line (90th-percentile line) and the thick black dashed line (10th-percentile line):

  • The lower the 90th-percentile candidate line, the more difficult the item type was.
  • The higher the 10th-percentile line, the easier the item type was.

That’s it. We hope that you now have a better understanding of your CFA exam score. Congrats!

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Information Sources: CFA Institute (

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