With passing rates at an all-time low, the CFA Exam has proved that it is as rigorous as a high-stakes exam gets, requiring that candidates devote a significant amount of time preparing for it. The CFA Institute (CFAI) recommends an average of 300 hours for each CFA exam level, but many CFA candidates often wonder when to start studying for the CFA Level 1 Exam. This article will give you some insights into CFA Level I preparation.
When To Start Studying
When exactly you should start studying depends on your unique circumstances, including your academic background, demands of your job, and family responsibilities. On average, most candidates begin preparing for the CFA Exam 4 to 5 months before their exam date. While you don’t want to start so early that you burn out and lose interest long before you take the exam, in general, the earlier you start, the better.
Whenever you decide to start preparing, make sure you create a study plan you can stick to. The key to successful CFA Level 1 preparation is not to necessarily study for many months on end but to study efficiently and effectively.
Advantages of Starting Level 1 Prep Early
- Work/Life Balance: Most CFA candidates lead busy lifestyles balancing work and family responsibilities while studying for the CFA Exam. The earlier you start, the more easily you can balance your responsibilities toward achieving all your goals. Creating a study schedule that you can maintain goes a long way toward an efficient prep experience. The earlier you start the process, the more likely it is that you create a feasible schedule.
- Pacing Yourself: CFA Level 1 Exam preparation is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to learn to pace yourself to get through it without getting burned out. You may choose to focus on a specific Level 1 exam topic each week, so you study in bite-sized chunks and aren’t overwhelmed by the volume of material.
- Settle Into a Routine: It’s important to avoid procrastination. Try not to skip study sessions because the more you try to cram in towards the end, the less likely you will remain motivated. Get a support system to keep your motivation where it needs to be so that you stay the course. Consistency with your study routine makes it easier to get through your study plan.
- Monitor Your Progress: A fundamental function of learning is measuring your progress. When considering how best to prepare for CFA Level 1, the more time you give yourself, the more you’ll be able to measure your progress. And if you study with a CFA prep course that offers reporting features, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. This performance monitoring enables you to know where to focus your efforts toward improving.
Just as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to studying for the CFA Exam, there is no right or wrong answer to when you should start studying for the CFA Level 1 Exam. For the most part, it depends on your educational background, motivation, drive, and study habits.
With a significant amount of the Level 1 content similar to undergraduate courses in Finance, Economics, and Statistics/Quantitative Methods, a CFA candidate with a finance background may be able to pass Level 1 in less than the CFAI’s recommended 300 hours of study time. Still, we don’t advise taking shortcuts on such a high-stakes exam and second the CFAI’s 300-hour recommendation.
When you should start studying boils down to how confident you are in approaching the exam. Ultimately, only you know your comfort level with finance and the CFA Level 1 topics. With the most recent Level 1 pass rate being 29%, the CFA Exam is difficult and requires your best study efforts. So, however little or long you choose to prepare, make sure you select a CFA prep course and study materials that give you the best possible chance of success.
Prepare for the CFA Level 1 Exam with our UWorld CFA Level I Comprehensive Learning Tools