The CFA Institute recommends that CFA candidates study for at least 300 hours to prepare for each level of the CFA Exam properly. It’s a good, measurable, attainable goal. If only everything could be so clear-cut! But even a clear, quantifiable metric leaves unanswered questions. For example, how many CFA mock exams should you take before the actual exam? One? Twenty? What’s the sweet spot? Unfortunately, there isn’t a black and white answer to that question, but we have some suggestions.
Why take practice exams?
To start, why should you even bother with practice tests in the first place? In case you were uncertain, yes, practice exams are critical. You should probably take more than one. They are worth your time.
CFA practice exams help you to get into the rhythm and prepare for the real thing. You can get a feel for how much time you will need for each section and what the questions look like. Most importantly, they help you assess how you are performing.
Generally speaking, if you excel in your practice exams (without peeking at your notes or taking extra time), you will most likely have a higher level of confidence going into the exam. If not, you know you still have some work to do.
What’s the right number?
Spoiler alert: there is no “right” number. That said, you should plan to take at least four practice exams. But more is not always better. If you take twenty tests, chances are you’re using too much of your time taking tests instead of just reviewing (think diminishing returns). The most successful students tend to take between four and eight CFA mock exams. We recommend that you land somewhere in that range.
If you’re taking exams and performing exceptionally, maybe your time is better spent continuing to review rather than taking more tests. If your results aren’t quite as good as you’d like them to be, you should probably plan to take a few more at spaced intervals, giving yourself more time to study between each one. Measure your progress and adjust as you go along!
How do I know if I’m ready?
While nothing guarantees you a passing grade on exam day, there are a few signs from your practice exams that might predict what will happen on exam day.
First, your numeric results: if you consistently score above 70% on your exams, that is a good sign. The better your results, the more confident you can feel about what you’re learning, but of course, it needs to be consistent. If you do well once and not so well all the other times, don’t ignore the bad results and believe you’re ready to go. When you’re scoring above 70% consistently, you can start allowing yourself a certain level of confidence.
Beyond just the score, you should also consider the timing of the test. Are you finishing with plenty of time? If you’re cutting it close or even running out of time, that’s cause for concern. That doesn’t mean you need to be finishing with tons of extra time, but you should be completing the practice exams within the allotted amount of time. As you take more mock exams, be aware of your timing and practice keeping a good pace. When you’ve mastered that pace, you will feel much more assured on test day.
Last is the CFA test format and structure. Taking multiple exams should help you become comfortable with these. But it is important to keep in mind which sections give you the most trouble, which tend to take you more time, and what type of questions are more challenging for you. By taking notes of these things, you can spend more time with those sections and questions to build confidence in those areas.
Which mock exams should I take?
When you’re ready to get started on your mock exams, you should absolutely use the CFA Institute’s mock exams. As you continue taking more practice exams, you should look to additional sources to get a wider variety of questions.
UWorld’s practice exams with always up-to-date questions created by CFA professionals are perfect for preparing you for the real thing. Our expansive Q-Bank is also full of excellent practice questions to help you study outside the mock exams.
Ready to get started? Give UWorld Finance a try today with a FREE trial of our CFA Level 1 Learning Platform!