February 2021 Level 1 CFA® Exam Study Plan & Tips

CFA exam / Study plans / Level 1 FEB 2021, 8-month


It's 23 June. Exactly 8 months to go before your February 2021 level 1 CFA exam.

Feb 2021 level 1 exam is the first computer-based exam (read more ) and it will be available from 23 Feb to 1 March 2021. Within this exam window, you can choose the day when you will take your level 1 exam. However, the exam day availability may differ depending on the region and test center. CFA Institute has already opened the registration. First, you need to register at the CFA Institute's website and then self-schedule your exam using the so-called ProScheduler available on a dedicated platform.

Since you're reading this post, you must be thinking about registering for your exam and starting your preparation soon. Before you get down to your books, you need to arrange your level 1 CFA exam study schedule which factors in:

  • your strengths,
  • your weaknesses,
  • your learning pace,
  • your finance background.

Below, we help you create your CFA exam study plan by providing a table with topics and topics review deadlines. It's a good basis for your own study schedule, which you can personalize using our free study planner. First, however, we take a moment to discuss the issue of strengths and weaknesses.

Are You Like Billy, Danna, Larry or Umber?

Your strengths and weaknesses may relate to things such as time management, motivation to study, diligence, and determination. But also to the previous knowledge of topics you gained as a student or at work. You will need to take all this into account when making your study plan. Just take a moment to think about it before you get down to books.

You know best what your strong and weak points are but here we'd like to draw your attention to some key aspects including the ability to prioritize, ability to plan, ability to act as planned, and ability to focus. Why? Because CFA exam candidates:

  • are often very busy,
  • find it hard to fit their study hours into their full calendars,
  • are no different than the others and procrastinate at times,
  • struggle with efficient learning.

CFA Exam: Develop Your Soft Skills

Remember that even with 8 months to go it is important to study systematically and at a suitable pace. The exam day will come sooner than you think and you want to be prepared for this day and then satisfied when the exam is over.

CFA Exam Tips for Organized and Focused Learning

KEY CFA EXAM TIP: It's no mistake to start your level 1 exam preparation so soon. On the contrary, it may be a very prudent and responsible decision as long as you can manage your study time reasonably and use it to your advantage.

Here’s some advice on how to do it:

  1. Develop both hard and soft skills
  2. It means that apart from studying your CFA Program curriculum (hard skills), you should also learn about the specifics of the CFA exam and exam prep. So, read as much as you can to get familiar with the exam format, requirements, policies, etc. Also, get to know how much time you should prepare for your exam and how to prepare to pass (soft skills). We write about it all on our blog.

  3. Manage your distractions
  4. If you stay busy with everything else but your CFA exam prep, you won't be able to organize your prep successfully and study productively. Plus, you'll be tempted to put your study sessions off, which is not a good idea if you want to be among the 43% of candidates who pass their exam.

  5. Devise a clear CFA exam studying strategy
  6. Treat learning as a process, not an event – a good strategy drives every efficient process! The strategy we recommend can be put into 4 words: PLAN – STUDY – REVIEW – ASSESS. We implemented this strategy into our CFA Exam Study Planner and it is intended to help those who feel busy, disorganized, lazy or unproductive.

  7. Get yourself a good CFA exam study plan
  8. Plans make things happen! Plan for the big picture but focus on your everyday tasks. The level 1 study plan you will find below is a good basis for your own 8-month study schedule. If you use our CFA Exam Study Planner, you'll be able to adjust it to your needs, e.g. you’ll be able to allocate fewer study hours to those topics you are good at by marking them as ‘easy’. We say more about it at the end of this post.

  9. Study regularly, then simply relax
  10. Study hard, then rest once in a while – a good student is a relaxed student. When you study, best go to your study space where nobody disturbs you. When you relax, don't think about the exam. It's the only healthy approach.

  11. Review and practice a lot
  12. Be careful! I’ve studied ≠ I’ve learned. It's because of the forgetting curve that makes us forget even up to 60% of what we study. To learn, you need to regularly review what you study. Also, practice systematically by doing lots of exam-type questions to get familiar with the exam format.

  13. Assess your study progress
  14. Each week you should check if you follow your study plan. Reward yourself if you’re making progress, try harder if you don’t. Remember that it's ok to make some reasonable adjustments to your study schedule as long as you do not postpone too much and too often.

Warning Against
8-Month Prep Threats

The worst you can do is spend these 8 months ineffectively! Grrr…
Only the responsible attitude of regular and productive work leads to success.
Let the time slip through your fingers and you’re in for real trouble – make sure you don't wake up too late to a great deal of work ahead of you!

Creating a Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan for Feb 2021

Below, there's a sample 8-month study plan for the Feb 2021 level 1 CFA exam. It is divided into 4 study blocks with topics revision in between the study blocks and the Final Review just before your exam.

Some basic information about our sample level 1 CFA exam study plan (8 months):

  1. Starting date: 23 June
  2. Ending date: weekend before the Feb 2021 exam window begins – that's basically when you should be done with your studying and review, now it's time for some final touches!
  3. Final revision: 5 weeks before the exam

START on 23 June 2020

1st Study Block (23 June – 17 Aug)

  • Ethics
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Portfolio Management
  • QM+PM Review

2nd Study Block (18 Aug – 19 Oct)

  • Financial Reporting & Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • FRA+CF Review
  • QM+PM Review

3rd Study Block (20 Oct – 6 Dec)

  • Fixed Income
  • Equity Investments
  • FI+EI Review
  • QM+PM+FRA+CF Review

4th Study Block (7 Dec – 17 Jan)

  • Derivative Investments
  • Alternative Investments
  • Economics
  • DI+AI+ECO Review
  • Ethics Review

FINAL REVIEW (18 Jan – 19 Feb)

END on 19 February 2021

This plan follows the optimal topic order – topics come in quite natural pairs, where one is more challenging and one a bit easier, namely QM+PM, FRA+CF, FI+EI, DI+AI. Ethics starts and Economics ends your preparation. Also, apart from the final month of revision, there are 7 topic review sessions scheduled meanwhile.

*Topic difficulty is a rather subjective criterion (here as estimated by Soleadea expert). To learn more about it, see CFA exam topics categorization.

What is great about this level 1 CFA exam study schedule is that you will be able to study every topic thoroughly. You may as well read each topic twice, which will give you a more in-depth understanding. The final revision lasts roughly 30 days. Proper revision enhances your long-term memory and allows you to better recall things in your exam. There is really a lot of time and you should try to use it as effectively as possible.

Detailed Level 1 CFA Exam Study Schedule

Here’s a table with all the topic deadlines for your 8-month Feb 2021 level 1 CFA exam study plan. Given in the table are also the deadlines for topics revision and for the Final Review scheduled for 5 consecutive weeks before your exam.

Level 1 CFA Exam Topics Feb 2021 Exam:
Topic Deadlines
Ethics 1 July 2020
Quantitative Methods 23 July 2020
Portfolio Management 12 Aug 2020
QM+PM Review 17 Aug 2020
Financial Reporting and Analysis 27 Sept 2020
Corporate Finance 11 Oct 2020
FRA+CF Review 19 Oct 2020
QM+PM Review 19 Oct 2020
Fixed Income 8 Nov 2020
Equity Investments 25 Nov 2020
FI+EI Review 6 Dec 2020
QM+PM+FRA+CF Review 6 Dec 2020
Derivative Investments 13 Dec 2020
Alternative Investments 19 Dec 2020
Economics 10 Jan 2021
DI+AI+ECO Review 17 Jan 2021
Ethics Summary 17 Jan 2021
Final Review 19 Feb 2021

NOTE: If you set up your personalized study plan,
the deadlines will get adjusted.

Your CFA Exam Study Plan: 35 Weeks, 315 Study Hours

The topic deadlines given in the table above are based on the 35-week exam prep (8 months). With 8 months to go, you need not study every day. By studying 3 hours 3 days a week, you get yourself as many as 315 study hours, which you can easily split into study time and review time.

In the paid versions of our CFA Exam Study Planner, you can find separate sessions devoted to regular revision and get benchmark study times for all topics given on a weekly basis and allocated to every CFA exam reading one by one.

* * * * *
Adjust the Study Schedule to Your Needs!

Using our CFA Exam Study Planner, you can personalize your study schedule. That's what you can do:

  • choose the topic sequence,
  • choose the exact starting date of your CFA exam prep (need not be today),
  • decide for each topic if it's easy, moderate, or difficult to you (easy means you’re not new to the topic and you can cover the topic more quickly, difficult means you’ll need more time to study the topic),
  • tick off the readings you have already studied (if there are such),
  • choose if you want to take any weeks off studying and say when exactly,
  • opt in for some aids to help your motivation,
  • decide if you wish to add review sessions to your study schedule and fill in your study plan with study tools & review apps to support the productivity of your work,
  • edit each study week by adding or deleting concrete readings or simply by using drag & drop in the All Weeks view.

Below you can see both ALL WEEKS and CURRENT WEEK views of our sample 8-month level 1 CFA exam study schedule:

CFA Exam Study Plan: All Weeks View

CFA Exam Study Plan: All Weeks View That’s where you can view all the weeks of your CFA exam prep to see how much you’ve done and how much is still ahead of you.

Also, here you can customize the plan to your needs using the DRAG & DROP feature (the icon) to move the readings around.

CFA Exam Study Plan: Current Week View

CFA Exam Study Plan: Current Week View You will be asked to focus on your current week of studying. Each week you will find some useful practice tools & compact study materials. At the end of the week, your hard work will be evaluated (hit the SUM UP button).

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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