The pass rate for the first level of the chartered financial analyst exam jumped above its historic average to 44% — though test takers who’d already delayed their exam had a much lower success rate.

In February, 44% of candidates passed the Level I test, up from 35% for those who sat for the exam in November and 37% in August, the CFA institute said Thursday. That’s above the 40% average for the past decade, and the lowest pass rate in 2021 when exam as performance was first hurt by test-taking deferrals following the Covid-19 outbreak.

For the first time, the institute broke down the difference between those who took the exam for the first time versus those who took it after delaying their exam for various reasons, including Covid disruptions. First-time testers scored significantly above the average pass rate, at 52%, while those who had deferred the exam had an average passing rate of 28%, the institute said in a statement.

“Given the stark difference in exam outcomes, we urge candidates to stay on schedule where possible and devote the requisite study time,” Chris Wiese, managing director for education at the institute, said. “Preparation remains the key predictor of exam success.”

The CFA, which is offered several times a year and can lead to new job opportunities and higher salaries, has undergone changes in recent months. The Level I exam administered in February was the first time candidates had access to an updated curriculum, which the institute says is designed to make learning more efficient and provides more opportunities for practice.

“Exam difficulty remains constant across all CFA exams, and we are pleased to see more candidates achieve the passing standard and a bounce back in the overall pass rate for Level I candidates,” Wiese said.

Almost 17,000 candidates sat for the Level I exam in February, which was administered at 471 testing centers around the world. Historically, the institute offered the exam on paper, but transitioned to computer-based testing during the pandemic.

Those who took Level III of the exam in February are scheduled to receive their results next week, the institute said.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.