Essential Tips for Passing the CFA Exam

Essential Tips for Passing the CFA Exam

If you are not a natural test-taker, an exam as dense as the CFA exam can feel intimidating.  You and thousands of others feel the same way every year.  Fortunately, there are many ways that you can set yourself up to do your best and pass the exam.  Passing the CFA exam is not an insurmountable task, but it is best to be prepared.  Here are the essential tips to ensure that you will pass the CFA Exam.

1. Parts of the Exam. It is important to know the different parts of the exam.  They are called Levels I, II, and III.  The test is offered annually on the first Saturday in June.  However, the Level I exam is also offered in December.  Note that the test must be passed sequentially and is only offered in English.   Each portion has different criteria, as listed below:

  • Level I: Focuses on knowledge of ethical standards. It also tests your knowledge of investment tools and analysis.
  • Level II: Builds off of Level I, it tests your ability to apply the above standards to common situations with more complexity.
  • Level III: To add even more, this section deals with portfolio management and compliance in accordance with critical thinking.

2. Create a Plan. With these exam sections in mind, it is important to plan out how you will spend the next several months of your time.  Give yourself plenty of time to study.  Since the exam is offered on the first Saturday in June, you may want to give yourself an entire year to make certain that you pass.  Plan the next year accordingly.  If you have vacations or weddings to go to, then factor them in.  After this is considered, start making a daily routine for yourself.  Ideally, you would study every day, but for most people this is unrealistic.  Instead, set reasonable goals for yourself.  How much studying can you pull off in a week, given the hours of your current job?  You may also have family or other obligations to think about.  It is important to recognize these parts of your life so that you can carve out time.  Perhaps you’ll find that you work best early in the morning before the family wakes up, or that you must spend your Sundays away at a busy café.  Find what works for you and stick to it.  You must build a lot of discipline to study for this exam.

3. Start Studying Early. After you create a plan, you need to start studying.  The average prospective financial analyst spends over three hundred hours per section of studying.  That becomes a whopping nine hundred hours!  Thus there is no better time than now to start.  Do not put it off or go for long gaps without studying.  You will want plenty of time to learn and go over every section as much and as thoroughly as possible.  Some people find that reviewing all of the material briefly at first lays a good foundation for more detailed study later.  Find what works for you so that you can maximize your time.


4. Utilize Study Resources. If you feel like you need help to pass this exam, you are not alone.  It takes many people several years to pass the exam, but with the right resources you may pass it on your first try.  You may find assistance in every step, such as with CFA Level 1 study material.  There are many more resources as well, including practice exams and courses.  Find what

5. Find Learning Methods that Work for You. Everyone learns differently.  Not everyone can learn well by reading.  Some people are more adept at tactile learning, others at audio learning.  Find out your natural learning ability to study more efficiently.  You will find resources that work best for you.

6. Take Care of Yourself. Part of what makes discipline happen is the ability to take care of yourself.  You will never pass the exam if you neglect your needs.  Health is first and foremost important, so keep track of what you need to be healthy.  Find a form of exercise that keeps you interested and active, and adjust your diet to regulate your metabolism and give you more energy.  Sleep is also an important aspect of health.  You may be determined to ace the exam, but if you are not well rested, you will be unable to perform at your top level.  Follow this tip and the others above to pass the CFA exam with flying colors.

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