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CFA Institute: "Computer-based testing represents the future"

This publication chose to publish an opinion piece, allegedly authored by four anonymous CFA charterholders, that mischaracterized and misrepresented the facts behind our move to computer-based testing for the CFA® Program.

We understand that change can be difficult to accept. It’s part of human nature to see change as an enabler, a simplifier, a way to make things easier.

The investment management industry continues to be disrupted by change. Yet resistance to change is not a business strategy; it’s a recipe for failure. Have you called a travel agent recently to book a trip?

We at CFA Institute have invested years in preparing to migrate to computer-based testing, having administered the exams on paper for nearly 60 years and recognizing that there were more efficient and more effective ways to test candidates’ knowledge and competencies. Upholding the standard of the charter and the rigor of the exams has remained paramount in our minds every single step of the way.

After the postponement of our June 2020 CFA Program exams as a result of the pandemic, we began to rigorously evaluate the opportunity to accelerate our transition to computer-based testing for all levels of the CFA Program.

The testing industry as a whole has shifted to computer-based testing over the past 25-years. This technological progression responds to how global testing and credentialing practices have changed and the recognition that the investment profession operates in a digital world. Further, this change addresses the learning and exam preferences of today’s candidates and those who will follow them. Offering the exams and learning experience in a digital environment will allow CFA Institute to better model the tasks and work experience of today’s investment professionals. While a few lament the loss of pencils and paper, the world has clearly moved on, and history is littered with examples of once-successful industries that were felled by innovation.

Technological advances in computer-based testing enable us to meet the growing global testing demands of candidates and will improve their accessibility and experience with a wider selection of test venues and more flexible scheduling options. The latter point is incredibly important in the midst of this pandemic. We need more venues, more testing dates, and more scheduling options to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of disappointed candidates whose journey through our program has been disrupted by COVID-19. Increasing the exams’ accessibility and frequency does not equate to degrading the charter; to suggest that these changes are designed to lessen the charter’s value, at a time when the world continues to grapple with a global health crisis, is both false, insensitive and frankly naive.

We have demonstrated success in administering computer-based exams for our Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement (CIPM) Program, and we have a high level of confidence in the reliability of our systems and processes.

To those who suggest that reducing the number of questions makes the exam easier: We have employed psychometricians and performed deep analysis on this matter. That analysis shows that answering fewer questions does not change the outcome. We liken this to taking one’s temperature: you do not get a different reading by leaving the thermometer in your mouth longer than the necessary time.

We believe that finance plays an incredibly important role in the global markets, and we think CFA charterholders are particularly well suited to help rebuild the global economy following the coronavirus-induced downturn. So, yes, the world could benefit from more charterholders, but we won’t change the rigor of our exams one bit. As one professor told the Financial Times earlier this year, “CFA is the gold standard of the investment profession.” Nothing about our move to computer-based testing and the other related moves will change that.

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Photo by Sam Albury on Unsplash

AUTHORPeg Jobst, Managing Director, Head of Credentialing, CFA Institute Insider Comment
  • ic
    30 October 2020

    I don't necessarily agree with everything in the opinion article. However, I agree that the rebuttal appears weak and the arguments shallow compared to the article.

  • Au
    Austin Duke
    24 October 2020

    I’m not satisfied by this response, and to say that “a few” are unhappy about the move to CBT is naive. Why not put it up to a membership vote and then you’ll know how we really feel?

    And, yes, I always use a travel agent. I’ve had enough bad experiences using internet companies that I’d rather work with a real person and support his or her business. Funny how I got the CFA charter so that more people would want to invest with me, instead of using those silly robo-advisors.

  • no
    21 October 2020

    This rebuttal reads like discourse between friends that are sharing a couple beers - not a professional response. The CFAI calling their own charterholders "naive" is a clear step in the wrong direction.

    I'm a charterholder that was already considering not paying my dues - this is one more point for the "don't pay category".

  • GM
    21 October 2020

    Mediocre reply. This guy didn't touch on any of the very valid arguments raised by the 4 anonymous charterholders!

    It is in the interest of current charterholders to strive to maintain the current high standards of the qualifications. Sadly, the CFA Institute has very obvious conflicts of interest, as it pushes to increase the number of fee-paying members, even if that means holding more exams (no need to wait a year to retake levels 2 and 3!) or irrationally reducing the number of years of experience required.

    Shame on you, CFAI. I'll be contacting my chapter to complain.

  • Ti
    21 October 2020

    Wow this reads defensively...

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