How to Prepare for The CFA Level 1 Exam

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If you’ve made the honorable decision to take the CFA exams, there are many things you would have to do to successfully come through.


 You will require a solid CFA level 1 study plan. In short, preparation for CFA exams requires a serious commitment and following a structured CFA level 1 study plan is one of the key factors that will enable you to perform well. Statistics indicate that the pass rate for the CFA Level I exam is about 37-40%. This shows that only dedicated candidates are likely to pass the exam, so be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices and put in the required effort. Your biggest investment in the CFA is your time, so spend it efficiently. According to the CFA Institute successful candidates on average report that they spent approximately 300 hours preparing for the CFA exam in total. The required preparation time can be greater for those with a poor background in the subject matter and less for those who have a strong background in the subjects that the CFA curriculum covers. As a guide for a study plan, let's use this estimate of 300 hours of reading and CFA practice exam hours as a benchmark.


The CFA Level I exam covers 10 topics, 18 study sessions, and 60 readings. Each subject carries a different weight in the exam. A good way to manage your study time is by allocating study time based on each topic's weight. 
On average you would need to dedicate 4 months to reading and the last month just for reviewing what you’ve studied.

If you read two hours per day on weekdays and eight hours on the weekends, it will take about 17 weeks (four months) to complete all of the readings.

Weekends and non-working days are the best time to study for the CFA. During the week, you will barely have time for CFA practice exam questions, in addition to end-of-chapter questions. Therefore, plan to spend an additional two to four hours during the weekend on practice questions. Do not forget—the more you practice, the higher your chances of being successful on the exam.

Make sure you take the CFA practice exam every once in a while, to know exactly where you stand.


End of the Chapter Questions

Do not defer solving end of the chapter questions and always write down your results to track your CFA level 1 study plan. End-of-chapter questions will give you an overview of what areas are tested on the exam, so you can be more focused on these areas. Additionally, these questions will reveal the weaker areas that you must focus on to improve. The following table summarizes how to allocate best your study time for the various CFA exam topics if you were to give yourself 300 hours and four months (120 days) to study.

The Last Four Weeks

CFA exams are held on the first Saturday of June (all levels) and the first Saturday of December (only Level I). Taking these dates into account, allow yourself four weeks prior to the exam date to review questions and have practice sessions. During this period, you should practice more intensively than in previous periods. The CFA Institute will give you one mock exam. It's recommended that you set aside at least one day to simulate exam conditions at home with the mock test: a three-hour morning session, two hours of break and a three-hour afternoon session. The CFA practice exam will help you to be well-prepared for the exam physiologically.

Summing up, he key to preparing for the CFA Level 1 exam is to study in a structured way over a period of at least 300 hours. Hopefully, after studying in a structured way for the CFA level 1 exam, you will be ready to ace the exam, and 2 months after taking the test, you will receive an e-mail from the CFA Institute which starts with the word "Congratulations!”

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