CFA Level I Study Plan Quick Facts

  • The latest CFA Level I pass rates are around 26% due to the pandemic
  • The CFA curriculum is made up of more than 3,000 pages spread across six textbooks
  • Ethics and Financial Reporting & Analysis make up 28-37% of the Level I CFA exam
  • Your financial background will help determine how much time you need to set aside to prepare

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Create Your Level I CFA Exam Study Schedule

Creating your Level I CFA exam study schedule is an important step in the process. You’ll need to make sure that you have a clear plan for daily and weekly study goals. Make sure you don’t take on too much while remaining consistent and focused throughout the process.

Level I CFA Exam Prep Routine

When it comes to your Level I exam prep routine, the more organized you are, the better. If you start CFA Exam prep around 6 months before exam day, you’ll need to study for at least 11 hours per week to reach the average study time reported by successful candidates. Start early in that process to avoid last-minute cramming and added stress.

Whether you’re able to dedicate a full day or weekend to study or are just setting aside an hour or two daily, it’s important to stick to your schedule and be consistent with your study times. If possible, stick to the same days and times of day as you prepare.

As you develop the routine that works best for you, remember to pace yourself to avoid burnout and have a group of friends and family around to help support you through this process.

How Long To Study For the Level I CFA Exam

According to the CFA Institute, candidates who pass the Level I CFA exam say they spent just over 300 hours preparing. We recommend that you begin to study anywhere between 6-9 months before exam day.

  • With 9 months to prepare, you should aim for about 9 hours of study per week
  • With 6 months to prepare, you should aim for about 12.5 hours of study per week

You’ll also need to customize those study hours to best fit your schedule. Take the time to plan an hour or two into each day, or longer sessions if a full-time job and commitments during the week demand it.

Finally, if you’ve decided to begin your study much closer to the exam date, planning a series of 3-hour study sessions can help you reach your goal. And even if you’re in a hurry, you’ll want all that the UWorld Study Guides have to offer.

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Level I CFA Exam Study Plan Timeline

Below is a sample study timeline for your Level I CFA exam preparation. You’ll need to customize this to meet your needs. Remember to review each topic area thoroughly!Month 1: Focus on Quantitative Methods, Portfolio Management
Month 2: Focus on Corporate Finance, Financial Reporting & Analysis
Month 3: Focus on Equity Investments, Fixed Income
Month 4: Focus on Derivative Investments, Alternative Investments
Month 5: Focus on Ethics, Economics
Month 6: Review all the material and do as many mock exams as possible.

4-6 months Before Taking the Level I CFA Exam

During this time period, you should be getting into healthy study rhythms. Consistency is key and once you get through the first few weeks without any setbacks, it will help propel you to the next level. You’ll be focusing on Quantitative Methods, Portfolio Management, Corporate Finance, and Financial Reporting & Analysis. And once you’ve covered these topics, you’ll need to make sure you’re constantly reviewing the materials and completing plenty of practice questions to stay sharp.

2-3 months Before Taking the Level I CFA Exam

Now that you’ve established some consistent study habits, it’s time to dig a little deeper as you become familiar Equity Investments, Fixed Income, Derivatives, and Alternative Investments, while taking as many mock exams as possible during your review sessions. You’ll also focus on Ethics and Economics, a section many Level I candidates take for granted. Ethics is an important topic that you’ll find on Level II and Level III exams as well, with a minimum of 10% topic weight. So make sure you don’t take it lightly. If you feel a little in the weeds after reviewing CFA Institute materials, take advantage of UWorld’s Level I CFA Program study materials to keep things interesting and fresh.

Month Before Taking the Level I CFA Exam

Your exam date is just ahead, and your confidence level has grown considerably since you started to study. You see practice questions and mock exams in your dreams and have nearly worn your calculator out. But now is not the time to let up. During this final stretch, try to limit your time on each question to around 90 seconds to give you have enough time to answer all the exam questions. Also, make a checklist that includes each item you’ll need on exam day and have a plan to arrive at the testing center early. You might even want to have an extra calculator just in case your primary option isn’t up to the task.

How to Study for the Level I CFA Exam in 9-12 months

If six months of preparation time doesn’t seem like enough to get ready for the Level I CFA exam, there are plenty of ways to pace yourself over a longer course of study. After all, pass rates are low and many can benefit from a longer period of prep. UWorld’s study materials are an invaluable resource, but be aware that you can over prepare and run the risk burning out before you make it to exam day.

How to Study for the Level I CFA Exam in 3 months

We don’t recommend you only take three months to prepare for the Level I CFA exam, but there are many who want to speed things up. If you’re choosing the fast-track, be sure not to push yourself too hard, as this level of intensity can be all consuming. Although UWorld’s  study guides are not specifically designed for short-term studying, they can still act as a valuable resource as you speed through the materials on your way to test day.

Level I CFA Exam Prep: Topic Areas Order of Study

As you map out your study plan for the CFA exam, it’s important to understand how to prioritize topic areas based on how they are weighted, as well as your own personal areas of strength and weakness.The curriculum for Level I of the CFA exam covers 10 different topics. The topics and weights change regularly, but the CFA Institute recently shared the details of the curriculum to help you prioritize.

Level I CFA Exam Curriculum

  • Ethical and Professional Standards: 15-20%
  • Quantitative methods: 8–12%
  • Economics: 8–12%
  • Financial reporting & analysis: 13–17%
  • Corporate issuers: 8–12%
  • Portfolio management 5–8%
  • Equity investments: 10–12%
  • Fixed income: 10–12%
  • Derivatives: 5–8%
  • Alternative investments: 5–8%

Prioritizing Topics Areas

The topics and weights listed above should help you prioritize your customized study plan for the Level I CFA exam. You’ll want to make sure you have the more difficult and heavier weighted topics mastered while being able to alternate between the tougher and easier topics to keep things in balance.

  • One way to approach the curriculum is to start with Quantitative Methods. You can tackle this fully or break it into two chunks. Keep in mind that the second half of the material is more challenging.
  • Financial Reporting & Analysis is a good area to focus on next with its 13-17% weight. Topics covered include Leasing and Accounting for Bonds, Depreciation, Intangible Assets, Deferred Taxes, and Inventory Costing.
  • Fixed Income could be next, making up 10-12% of the exam weight. Your Quantitative Method experience should come in handy here.
  • Take on Corporate Finance next for a dive into Financial Analysis Techniques, Budgeting the Cost of Capital, Measures of Leverage and more.
  • Move to Equity Investments next and learn all about the analysis, valuation, and characteristics of equity securities.
  • Alternative Investments is a shorter section than others, but with a focus on Private Equity and Real Estate, it’s a vital piece of your study plan.
  • Derivatives can be the next area you target. You’ll unlock information surrounding Forwards, Future Options, and Derivative Securities.
  • Consider Portfolio Management at this point on your journey to learn more about diversification and more about standard deviation.
  • Economics is a large section of the study and can be approached at this stage. The section covers Monetary and Fiscal Policy, International Trade, Currency Exchange Rates, along with two sections on Microeconomic and Macroeconomic Analysis.
  • Finally, you’ll need to tackle the Ethical and Professional Standards section. This essential topic will help you understand the rules and regulations that make up the Ethics syllabus and is a section that cannot be overlooked.

Level I CFA Exam Prep: Periodic Review

No matter how many hours you’ve committed to preparing for the Level I exam, if you aren’t regularly reviewing all of the material, you lessen your chances to succeed.

With 5 volumes of textbook or printable eBook, UWorld’s Level I CFA Program Curriculum will ensure that you understand, retain, and earn a passing score on exam day. Our materials are proven with students in over 100 countries, and include unique features like adaptive review that customizes your studies based on your aptitude level.

Ready To Start Preparing for the CFA Exam?

There’s no better time than now to begin preparing for the Level I CFA exam. And there’s no better way to prepare than with UWorld. Our 2020 SIIA CODiE award-winning best-in-class platform is geared towards your learning style and helps you study and retain more in shorter time frames. We also have a team of world-renowned expert instructors who bring their subjects alive, inspiring you to not just learn, but understand. You’ll even be able to identify the areas you need to study the most and gain confidence for exam day with our reliable predictive score range.Two out of three candidates who’ve used a competitor product prefer UWorld’s CFA Program Exam Review, and you will too.

Ready to start your journey to becoming a CFA? Compare UWorld’s CFA Review Course options now.

Level I CFA Exam Study Plan – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • You can expect to study for an average of six months for the Level 1 exam.
  • A recommended order of study for the Level 1 exam looks like this:
    1. Quantitative Methods
    2. Financial Statements & Analysis
    3. Fixed Income
    4. Corporate Finance
    5. Equity Investments
    6. Alternative Investments
    7. Derivatives
    8. Portfolio Management
    9. Economics
    10. Ethical and Professional Standards
  • It’s generally recommended to set aside over 300 hours of time to study for the Level I CFA exam. Those hours can be customized based on whether you’ve decided on a more traditional approach or by taking a fast-track approach.
  • Three months can be enough time, but typically it takes a candidate at least six months to prepare for the Level I CFA Exam. UWorld’s course is designed to be used for a more traditional six-month timetable but can be adjusted to meet each candidate’s needs.
  • The best way to study for the Level I CFA exam is to plan well, practice regularly, and use a trusted resource like UWorld to help you pass the first time.