Ten Habits of Successful CFA® Exam Candidates

A studying CFA student

Studying for the CFA Exam is a full-time job, requiring a significant investment of time and energy and often accompanied by angst and tears. However, as the saying goes, if it were easy, everyone would do it. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. You can pass this test and earn the Charter.

We wanted to learn more about what has helped our candidates most during their CFA preparation, so we talked with several of them who have already passed one or more levels. While the answers varied, some common themes emerged that spoke to their adopted habits to maximize their chances. Here are the ten most common practices in their responses about being successful on the CFA Exam.

1. You Need A Plan

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” That couldn’t be more true for the CFA Exam. Successful candidates used top-quality resources such as our comprehensive online learning platform to prepare for the CFA Level 1 Exam. They also factored in time for breaks and unplanned events so they wouldn’t fall behind if they needed to take some time off.

 2. Consistency

Creating a plan is only half the battle. Sticking to it is the other half. Successful candidates understood the importance of being consistent in their studies every single day. This habit conditioned their minds and bodies to get into an automatic study routine and kept the information they were learning fresh.

3. Get Up Early

Successful CFA candidates found that waking up between 4:00 and 6:00 am represented the ideal time to study. Early in the morning, there are fewer distractions, and getting a head start made them feel motivated and productive throughout their entire day. They used this time to learn new material and used tools such as digital flashcards during the rest of their day to reinforce the information they learned in the morning. It also prevented fatigue by not having to learn new information when they got home from work.

4. Prioritize Responsibilities

For successful candidates, the CFA Exam is one of their top priorities. As a result, they know what should (temporarily) take a back seat in their lives and adequately manage their responsibilities to positively impact and maximize their study efforts.

5. “Failure” Means “Opportunity”

If they failed a CFA exam level, they looked for the silver lining and took it as a learning opportunity to do better next time. Very few CFA exam candidates pass each level on the first attempt. In fact, the average CFA charterholder takes four to five years to complete all levels of the CFA Exam. That means that most CFA candidates have failed, learned from it, and gone on to succeed.

Whether that requires changing their study techniques or going back and reviewing an entire section, successful candidates don’t let failure determine who they are or what they can accomplish. Instead, they pick up where they left off, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and leverage the experience positively.  

6. Experiment Until You Find What Works

There’s no cookie-cutter way to study for the CFA Exam. Everyone learns and retains information differently; the key to passing the exam is finding the study techniques that work for you and sticking to them. And that may require trial and error, which successful candidates are not afraid to do.

7. Study Smarter, Not Harder

Successful candidates know that time is precious. Passing the CFA Exam isn’t just about doing as many customizable exams as possible. It’s about studying the right material. Anything else is a waste of time.

That’s why at UWorld, each question has undergone a meticulous review process to ensure that the content goes beyond the basic concepts, covering all Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) of the CFA Exam. Every single question goes through extensive vetting before it can be approved for inclusion in the QBank. Plus, we continuously gather user feedback to improve and update our QBank, so the concepts tested remain accurate and relevant year over year.

8. You Need A Strong Support System

When the going gets tough, it’s critical to have a robust support system to help you through frustrations and hard times. So, while candidates need to let family and friends know they need space to study, it’s equally essential to lean on them for encouragement and support when you hit a rough patch.

9. You Can’t Memorize Everything

Learning the concepts behind the process is vital to understanding the material. There is a lot of information that can’t, and shouldn’t, just be memorized. To alleviate that, successful candidates try to figure out the “why” behind the process and what the result is trying to accomplish, instead of just memorizing facts and crunching numbers. That way, they can apply their knowledge rather than just regurgitating information.

10. Keep Your Eye On The Prize

When studying for the CFA Exam day in and day out for months, it’s hard to stay positive 24/7 on your journey to the Charter. However, successful candidates know that hard work and long hours are rites of passage that they must navigate before enjoying the benefits. They always have the end goal in sight: obtaining their CFA Charter will improve their professional lives tremendously. The sacrifices they’re making now to pass the exam will yield a huge payoff down the road.

Maximize your chances for success by preparing with our UWorld CFA Level 1 Learning Platform. Click here for a FREE trial.

Scroll to Top