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Should you postpone your December CFA exam to 2021?

As the December 2020 CFA® exams approach, I'm getting lots of candidates asking me many variations of the same question - is it a good idea to postpone the CFA exam from December 2020 to a 2021 date?

Personal choices and circumstances will drive a lot of your reasoning - but at the same time, there are some definite advantages and disadvantages of postponing to 2021.

Here are three reasons to postpone your CFA exam to 2021 - and three reasons to keep your Dec20 CFA exam appointment.

3 reasons why you should postpone your December 2020 CFA exam

1. 2021 exams are less likely to be cancelled

We recently ran a survey asking 300Hours readers what the situation was like where they were, and collected 1,500+ responses.

​In the survey, candidates were asked to factor in local regulations, as well as their best estimate on whether COVID regulations will continue (or tightened) in December.

With very few exceptions, such as New Zealand, candidates in almost all countries indicated that it's more likely that the CFA exams would not take place as planned in their location.

You can probably get a feel for your own location, but the survey may confirm what you're already feeling - it's not looking great for an as-usual Dec20 CFA exam. Postponing to 2021 might be a good chance to get more certainty over your exam dates.

2. The 2021 CFA exams will be shorter

Some might bemoan the loss of prestige of a 'harder' CFA exam - with the new CFA computer-based exam format, the exam is now 4.5 hours long, rather than the 6-hour paper-based marathon.

The CFA Institute has stated that after about 4.5 hours of testing, additional testing is unlikely to further improve the accuracy of the assessment. But a shorter exam in our opinion would work in your favor, and improve your chances in being better prepared for the exam. A shorter exam makes for a less tired candidate, and less tired candidates are likely to perform better.

3. The 2021 CFA exams will have more flexible exam dates

Instead of just the one exam day, computer-based CFA exams will now be offered in a 10-day exam window. Candidates will be able to choose a day that suits them, and with two or four exam slots a year (depending on the level), you'll be able to choose a time of year that better suits your workload, or personal plans like holidays, weddings or babies.

3 reasons why you should NOT postpone your December 2020 CFA exam

1. You could be angling for a refund

CFA exam refunds are now possible if your exam has been postponed for a second time. So if you're a postponed Jun20 candidate registered for Dec20, and your exam is postponed again, you would then be eligible for a refund.

Therefore, if a refund is what you're aiming for, not postponing and hoping for a postponement could be your best bet.

2. Don't delay the pain

"Let me get on with my life already," a candidate lamented in one of our Dec20 survey responses.

If you're a candidate that's been postponed from Jun20, you might also dread the prospect of having to yet again 'restart' your studies.

3. You want to participate in the last paper-based CFA exam

Maybe you're an L3 candidate and you want to make it a clean-sweep of paper exams. Or you'd like to experience a paper-based exam in one level and computer-based exams in future levels.

Whatever the reason, there is genuine preference by many candidates for a paper-based CFA exam, and Dec20 will be the last chance to take the CFA exam in a paper-based format.

What do I think?

Personally, I’m leaning slightly towards the idea that it might be better to postpone - it’s likely COVID-safer, more certain to take place as planned, and will be a shorter, more flexible exam.

Personal circumstances will likely trump this advice, of course. But if you’re on the fence, why not postpone it to a later date, when we all have less to deal with (hopefully)?

Zee Tan is the founder of, a free help portal for CFA candidates. You can also follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

CFA Institute does not endorse, promote or warrant the accuracy or quality of eFinancialCareers. CFA® and Chartered Financial Analyst® are registered trademarks owned by CFA Institute.

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Photo by Suganth on Unsplash


AUTHORZee Tan, Insider Comment

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