How to Know When You’re Ready to Take the CFA® Exam

Girl studying on comptuer

You’ve been studying and working hard to prepare for your CFA exam, but you’re just not sure if you’re ready. You may be wondering, Have I studied enough? Did I learn what I need to know? How can I know if I am ready? 

Here are a few ways to gauge if you are ready for the CFA exam. When you can check off everything on this list, you should feel confident and adequately prepared for exam day.

1. You’ve Completed a CFA Exam Prep Course

There is no better way to build confidence for test day than successfully using a CFA learning platform. A CFA exam prep course will help you study the right materials and guide your study habits along the way. 

Preparing with exam-realistic practice questions, mock exams, and data-driven study plans tailored to your learning style and needs will give you the confidence you need on exam day. 

2. You Created a Plan and Implemented It

Creating and implementing a solid study plan is critical to your success. If you set out with a clear plan that covers all the CFA Institute’s Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) and follow that plan, you should feel confident going into your exam. However, make sure that the tools you are using to study – instruction materials, practice questions, etc. – are up to date, credible, and relevant. Otherwise, even the best-laid plan may not be enough.

3. You’ve Mastered the Learning Outcome Statements

The CFA Institute provides the LOS to help CFA Candidates know precisely what they must understand to pass the CFA Exam. Each LOS has a “command word” indicating what you need to do with a specific piece of information. Some command word examples are “analyze” or “calculate,” while others are more conceptual, such as “describe” or “explain.”

As you work through your study plan, try to understand how the command words relate to the LOS, what they entail, and, most importantly, how to use them. If you know the ins and outs of each LOS and its associated command words, you should feel confident on test day.

4. You’ve Worked Through Plenty of Flashcards

It is not enough to know something in theory – you must be able to put it into practice. For every topic that you learn or review, you should also go through plenty of flashcards to make sure you understand the theory and its application. This kind of repetition helps reinforce your memory of the concept, making it much easier to implement on test day.

5. You’ve Taken Several Practice Exams

You should spend a significant portion of your preparation time taking mock exams that simulate the actual exam conditions: no notes, no breaks beyond what is allowed on test day, and no phone calls (and, yes, that includes texts). 

Taking these mock exams gives you a feel for the exam’s timing, structure, and the types of questions you might encounter. They also help you identify where you have excelled and where you need more practice. With each practice exam, you should learn something about yourself and where you can improve. 

If you have taken multiple mock exams, analyzed your strengths and weaknesses, and appropriately adjusted each time, you should feel confident on test day. 

6. You Didn’t Skip Ethics

Most CFA Candidates don’t realize that the ethics portion of the exam is not a freebie. You do need to study for it. In 2021, Ethics has the greatest weighting of any of the topics. If you think that you can answer Ethics questions just using common sense, you may find you’re in for a nasty surprise. However, if you reviewed Ethics just as seriously as you did everything else, you should feel confident on test day.

7. All the Above

Ultimately, your success depends on your ability to incorporate all these items into your overall study plan. The good news is, if you employ each of these tactics, you may rest easy the night before your exam and go into the exam with the confidence needed to pass. Take a deep breath; you can do it!

If you want to optimize your chances of success in the CFA Exam, click here for a FREE trial of our CFA Level I Exam Learning Platform.