The Level I CFA exam can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned financial analysts. Being prepared required hundreds of hours of study and structured review.
Here are five study hacks to help you get ready the right way.
1. Start Early (Earlier Than You Think!)
Successful CFA candidates study, in general, at least 300 to 350 hours in preparation for the Level I examinations. To break up this amount of study time — and keep your sanity with work and family obligations — it’s smart to start a good six months (or more) out from your exam date.
If you give yourself six months, that means you’ll need to set aside around 12 hours a week for study and review. For comparison, if you give yourself only four months of study time, you’ll need to put in around 20 hours a week, which is more than equivalent to a part-time job.
2. Get a Structured Plan & Stick to It
Every candidate has a topic or two they get stuck on, which can eat away at their study time and keep them from advancing. To avoid this common trap, get a structured study plan and stick to it, no matter what. With tough topics, it’s normally in the review and question drills that you can better understand and apply the concepts. One of the easiest ways to stay on course is to use the digital exam planner included in Wiley’s CFA review courses. It breaks down your study schedule to the lesson and day so you can keep moving forward.
3. Go By & Trust the CFA® Curriculum
Literally, anything in the CFA Institute’s curriculum, which changes every year, is testable on the exam.
That’s why it’s imperative that you study using the latest CFA program curriculum. It may be cheaper to use older texts or materials, but you put yourself at risk of learning the outdated material, which will harm your exam score. This is particularly important if you are re-taking the exam, as a lot of the material may have changed from the prior year/exam.
Working with a reputable CFA prep provider like Wiley is the easiest way to ensure you’re always using the latest, current curriculum. And don’t forget: Wiley offers the only “Partner Til You Pass” guarantee — you pay once for your course and enjoy free repeats and updates until you pass the CFA exam.
4. Practice Questions!
Another common trap that CFA candidates fall into is not focusing enough on applying the concepts they learn in the curriculum. That means practice questions … lots and lots of practice questions. The more problems you work and review, the more likely you are to understand how a concept is applied on exam day and in the real world. The key to getting your question drills right is to use the right practice questions — those that closely mirror the wording and format used by the CFA Institute. This is the best way to ensure you’re ready for the questions you’ll see on the exam.
5. Be Ready for the Rigors of Exam Day
The CFA exam is not computer-based. It is a long, grueling written exam. The best way to prepare for it — including all the requirements for approved calculators, breaks and whatnot — is to take as many mock exams as you can.
We recommend taking at least three full-length, timed mock exams using questions that closely align to what you’ll see on exam day. You should take a mock exam near the middle of your studies and then two or more in the final weeks before your exam date.
Also be sure to learn the rules and exam procedures to ensure you aren’t disqualified for a silly mistake during the exam.