CFA®

The Best Time To Take the CFA® Exam

CFA candidate contemplating the best time to take the CFA Exam

As a CFA candidate, are you wondering when the best time to take the CFA Exam is? The answer is: it depends. Studying for the CFA Exam requires a lot of time and effort, so you want to ensure you can balance work, life, and studying successfully. To determine the best time to start your CFA journey, organize your current priorities and short- and long-term career goals. Below are some considerations depending on where you are in your career.

Entry-Level Finance Professional

If you are currently in an entry-level finance position, we recommend taking the CFA Exam as soon as possible. When you are just a few years removed from school and have only two to three years of finance experience, it’s likely you’ll have a more open schedule in the evenings and on weekends to study for the CFA Exam. Balancing workload, studies, and personal life will probably be easier now versus later when you will have gained more experience but at the same time greater job responsibilities.

Seasoned Finance Professional

If you’re a more experienced finance professional who has decided to advance your career with the CFA Charter, we also recommend starting as soon as possible. It’s likely that your work and life responsibilities will require you to create a more customized study plan. We recommend the following, to the extent that they are realistic options for you:

  • Condition your body and mind to study around the same time each day. If you’re a morning person, find an hour or two before you go to work to study. If you prefer nights, study before going to bed. The most important thing is to find a time that works for you, schedule it in your calendar, and stick to it.
  • Consider switching to part-time work. If you have the resources and support from family and friends, and your company approves it, moving to part-time employment for a while will free up your schedule to study for different levels of the CFA Exam. Work with your employer to see if they are willing to accommodate this short-term request so that you can provide more value to the company once you become a CFA charterholder.
  • Consider a leave of absence. If your employer cannot move you to part-time employment, consider asking for a leave of absence or using some vacation time to focus on your CFA Exam studies. Think of these as “study vacations” to focus on studying to pass each level of the CFA Exam process. While studying for the CFA Exam is not an ideal vacation, it will give you the time you need to focus solely on the goal at hand—passing the CFA Exam and reaching your career advancement goals sooner.

When deciding if you are ready to start your CFA journey, remember that each CFA Exam level requires different time commitments. CFA candidates typically take between four to five years—an average of about 300 hours per level—to pass all three levels. Focus on each level separately as you begin planning out your study goals and create an efficient schedule to make the entire experience more manageable.

Each CFA candidate’s situation is unique, and these scenarios do not cover all circumstances. Nonetheless, regardless of circumstances, passing the CFA Exam requires commitment, planning, and almost superhuman perseverance. Establishing a detailed plan based on where you are in your career for each level will help you create a study schedule that best aligns with your work and personal life.


If you are ready to start studying for the CFA Exam, prepare with UWorld; click here for a FREE trial of our CFA Level 1 Learning Platform.