How to prepare for CFA level 1?

CFA is considered to be one of the toughest exams around the world. And so it is needless to say that its preparation will be no child’s play. Preparing for the CFA exams requires complete dedication and hard work as it has an extensive curriculum. The CFA curriculum is based on financial topics and tools, the knowledge of which is a must for a Chartered Financial Analyst. The CFA opens door to many financial career options which can give the career the required enhancement and also bring along some lucrative packages. But for all that to happen and happen in the right way, one needs to succeed in all the 3 levels of the CFA exam. 


Just as for any examination, the preparation part is the most important and toughest period, the same goes with CFA. The comprehensive CFA course demands full attention and strategic reading to gain knowledge and utilize it in the examination. If experts and successful candidates are to be believed, the CFA preparation demands around 300+ hours of dedicated studying. This much time and focused studying is the key to success and a step towards a flourishing career. 


Although studying is a very personal preference when it is to CFA, a well-planned and executed strategy can be handy to overcome the confusion and turmoil about how to prepare for the CFA level 1 course. The curriculum of CFA level 1 includes 10 different financial topics that are divided into various weightage. However, the weightage of the topics differs from level to level. When levels 2 and 3 of the CFA course structure are compared with level 1, it can be discovered that in level 1 all the topics are only introduced, whereas in levels 2 and 3 the candidates are exposed in-depth.  


Here are some tried and tested strategies that could be helpful in your CFA preparation.

  • Ideally one should begin the CFA preparation some six to nine months before the exam day and at least three months before the examination the preparation should be finished. Most successful candidates swear by this pattern of preparation and is a tested strategy for CFA. It is absolutely important to make a study plan and routine for yourself and consistently stick to it.


  • Studying for CFA would not only require proper study material to gain knowledge but also the understanding to be able to apply the same to real-life scenarios. The question pattern includes certain case studies where the aspirants are asked to make commentary based on their understanding and knowledge. 


  • For the initial five to six months that you are going to dedicate exclusively to studying, make sure that you are engaged with 300 hours of studying. The 300 hours plan is tested and betted for by most experts and successful candidates. To make your preparation period more streamlined, it is recommended that you enroll in an online preparation class. The CFA classes adequately plan the curriculum and offer various video and text tools that can be instrumental in understanding better.


  • If study sessions are concerned, then candidates appearing for the CFA level 1 exam should engage in 80 to 100 study sessions across the course of nine months. Taking greater study gaps between sessions can make it difficult to cover the extensive curriculum and understand it. However, the preference for weeks, days, or hours depends on the candidate’s choice. You should also be aware of the fact that the more frequently you take a break during the sessions, the lesser the number of study sessions you get. So, it only makes sense to meet the recommended study time and sessions. 


  • Even before you start the preparation, you should be well aware of the curriculum. Knowing the curriculum topics and their respective weightage in the CFA level 1 courses can help in making a strategic plan for the preparation. The best way to score higher is to do understanding learning where you can concentrate on the topics with greater weightage. In that way, you will be able to attend to more questions and consequently have a higher score. 


  • As the CFA Institute keeps updating the CFA curriculum based on contemporary financial topics and tools, candidates must be well-read and upgraded to it. After knowing the curriculum, one should start preparing based on the weightage of the topics. Start preparing for topics that will have a higher percentage of questions in the examination. For example, in CFA level 1, Financial reports and analysis, Ethics, Equity investments, and Fixed income are the ones with the most marks and so you should be on top of these topics to succeed in the level 1 exams. 


  • And finally, after the initial six months of study, keep the last 3 months of preparation for revision and practice. Both revision and practice are extremely important for the preparation as this will give you the required exposure to the probable questions and the question pattern and time management.


Bottom Line

Although everyone hears about the difficulty level of the CFA exams, no one believes it unless experience it first-hand. With the vast CFA course, there is a minimum percentage that you need to acquire to qualify for the level 1 exams. The all-time average CFA pass rate is 42% but every candidate appearing for the exam work hard to achieve at least that much. If you need to succeed and aim for a glorious career, you need to have a strategy and study plan. Hopefully, the above-mentioned strategies can help you just like they helped many others.

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