Candidates often ask if 6 months are sufficient to prepare for level 1 CFA exam. Well, it’s just enough. Especially if you apply the 'Safety-First Rule for CFA Exam Prep'. This studying strategy factors in more than 300 study hours and assumes a regular review of study content.
Here it goes:
SAFETY-FIRST RULEfor CFA EXAM PREP
"Plan your preparation safely to MINIMIZE the risk of FAILING to achieve your GOAL. 300 study hours – it’s just a benchmark, not a guarantee of success. Aim for more than that, say 400 hours. Then, devote like 100 hours to regular revision. Even if it means you’ll need to forgo some of your free time. You give up this luxury to MAXIMIZE the chances of PASSING your EXAM!"
300 Study Hours:a Benchmark, not a Guarantee
Level 1 candidates usually begin their preparation 4 or 5 months before their CFA exam. The average number of hours they spend studying amounts to roughly 300. But what if 300 hours is simply not enough? What if it’s a prerequisite that cannot guarantee your success? Objectively speaking, it is hard to arrange more than 300 hours within a period of 4 or 5 months, especially if you have a regular job, family, and your daily duties to take care of. And while it’s surely true that an average level 1 candidate spends about 300 hours studying before the exam, the level 1 passing rate of just above 40% is also a fact.
And you want to do better than that!
The solution is simple:
respect the CFA exam plan to do better than an average candidate arrange ca. 400 study (and review!) hours to successfully prepare for your exam start your prep NOW, i.e. even 6 months before your exam.
This precautionary approach is what it takes to apply the 'Safety-First Rule for CFA Exam Prep'. So, join now and capitalize on the time you invest in your preparation:
Regular Review:Who Does It?
That’s the problem! Hardly anybody reviews study content regularly – on a weekly, or even daily, basis.
I don't know why.
Is it ill-defined self-confidence? Unawareness of how to best learn for such a huge exam? Or simply laziness? No matter the reason – regular review is what makes a difference!
Control Your Forgetting Curve
Forgetting curve is always present, whether you study for 6, 4 or 3 months before your exam. But if you start your preparation now, you will be able to plan some spaced review sessions. You should definitely use this possibility and make revision a part of your regular studying cycle to prevent the bad effects of the so-called forgetting curve:
As you can see – without reviewing – after one day, we remember only around 35% of what we read yesterday. To learn things and store them in our memories, we need to repeat them now and again. Spaced repetition gradually flattens your forgetting curve.
This simple rule is the reason why I tell my students to review parts of the study content systematically, at least once a week. That’s also why – when creating our CFA Exam Study Planner – I insisted on adding review sessions alongside study sessions. Because I strongly believe that frequent revision is the key to success and the topics review or the pre-exam revision, while important, are simply insufficient. The option of Proper Review-ON SystemTM is available in the paid version of the planner. In the free version, Topics Review and Final Review are scheduled, as you'll see below.
Are 6 Months Sufficient to Prepare for Level 1 CFA Exam?
6 months are definitely sufficient to prepare for your level 1 CFA exam. With 6 months, you can easily plan for roughly 400 hours of studying during your exam prep. You'll find lots of time for regular review sessions + you'll be secured against any unexpected events like busy periods at work, ill child or whatever else can make you give up your planned study hours.
I think it’s reasonable to say that even 60-70% of those who opt for 400-hour prep are likely to pass their exam. Bearing in mind that the average pass rate for level 1 is around 43%, I guess it’s worth a try. Therefore, if you can start your preparation now, go on and follow this safe study schedule:
Be careful, though!
Even if you decide to adopt the plan, there are 2 major threats that can seriously impede your preparation. The steep forgetting curve is one of them. The other is about inefficiently used study time.
Be Serious about Studying all Way Through
Be wary of ideas that would come to your head to tell you that since you started your preparation earlier than others, you have already gained an advantage that will surely pay off in the end. The thing is – it should, but it may as well not. To make this advantage work to your benefit, you have to study as diligently and efficiently as you can from the very beginning.
If you are too lenient with yourself instead of being competent and productive, your advantage will melt away. Even worse, your inefficiency may surprise you and leave you empty-handed.
So: you better fix your mind on your ultimate goal, which is to pass your CFA exam, and keep this goal in front of your eyes while studying!
Your 6-Month CFA Exam Study Plan Detailed
This is a sample 6-months level 1 study schedule. What you need to do is to customize it to your needs and expectations. One of the basic things you should decide is how difficult all the level 1 topics are to you. This will tell you exactly how many study hours from the range of 300 to 400 you actually need to prepare well. Also – to get your number of hours – you should decide if you want to follow the Proper Review-ON SystemTM and revise on a weekly, or even daily, basis. You know where I stand on this issue.
START on 22 February 2021
1st Study Block (22 Feb – 4 Apr)
- Quantitative Methods
- Portfolio Management
- QM+PM Review
2nd Study Block (5 Apr – 19 May)
- Financial Reporting & Analysis
- Corporate Finance
- FRA+CF Review
- QM+PM Review
3rd Study Block (20 May – 22 June)
- Fixed Income
- Equity Investments
- FI+EI Review
- QM+PM+FRA+CF Review
4th Study Block (23 June – 25 July)
- Derivative Investments
- Alternative Investments
- DI+AI+ECO Review
- Ethics Review
FINAL REVIEW (26 July – 23 Aug)
END on 23 August 2021
The August 2021 exam window lasts from 13 to 30 August 2021. So, you can have from 4 to 5 weeks of – what we call – Final Review. Basically that's when you should do as many mock exams as possible!
Using our Study Planner, you can choose your topic sequence. In our sample level 1 study plan, all 10 topics are divided into 4 Study Blocks. Every block always ends with topics revision. Ethics may be done either at the beginning or at the end but don't forget about the ethics adjustment.
After you study & revise all the topics, there’s the Final Review. With all mocks and other practice tests, it’s usually the most intensive of all the study time. But this Final Review will be just a cherry on top if you review regularly not only after each quality-time Study Block but also as you move from one CFA exam reading to the other.
Below’s a timetable for this 6-month level 1 study plan. Upon creating your own study schedule, the dates will get adjusted and you'll be able to choose your START DATE and EXAM DATE (within your exam window).
6-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan Timetabled
|Level 1 Topics||Topic & Review Deadlines|
|Ethics||28 Feb 2021|
|Quantitative Methods||14 March 2021|
|Portfolio Management||30 March 2021|
|QM+PM Review||4 Apr 2021|
|Financial Reporting and Analysis||2 May 2021|
|Corporate Finance||13 May 2021|
|FRA+CF Review||19 May 2021|
|QM+PM Review||19 May 2021|
|Fixed Income||6 June 2021|
|Equity Investments||16 June 2021|
|FI+EI Review||22 June 2021|
|QM+PM+FRA+CF Review||22 June 2021|
|Derivative Investments||30 June 2021|
|Alternative Investments||4 July 2021|
|Economics||18 July 2021|
|DI+AI+ECO Review||25 July 2021|
|Ethics Summary||25 July 2021|
|Final Review||23 Aug 2021|
If you set up your personalized study plan,
the deadlines will get adjusted.
Here’s a sample level 1 CFA exam study schedule as displayed in our new Study Planner 4.0:
You will find your Study Plan in the PLAN tab View all the weeks of your CFA exam prep, see how much you’ve done and how much is still ahead of you, as well as customize your plan using both your Study Plan personalization options and the DRAG & DROP feature.
CFA Exam Study Planner: STUDY View You will be asked to focus on your current week of studying. You will know what to study (left-hand menu) and how much to study (benchmark study times). At the end of the week, your hard work will be evaluated (hit the SUM UP button).
About the Author:
Bart Mankowski has been helping candidates from around the world to pass their CFA exams for 10 years now. He’s the initiator of Soleadea and its CEO. His ideal job is to find solutions to problems and potentials for innovation. That is why Soleadea and its unique CFA Exam Study Planner are being improved all the time ;).
Last Update: Feb 17, 2021