If you want to have a successful CFA level 1 prep, there are some universal principles you’ll always need to follow, no matter how long you’re going to prepare for your CFA exam. When you start your prep, make sure your learning strategy takes into account:
20 Recommendations for Effective CFA Level 1 Study Plan
Here is a list of 20 universal principles of an effective CFA level 1 study plan.
If you want to pass your CFA level 1 exam make sure to:
- plan your study schedule carefully,
- take into account your job, friends, and family obligations,
- analyze your weak points,
- divide your whole CFA exam prep into: (i) core study schedule and (ii) final review time,
- divide your core study schedule into: learning, practicing, and testing knowledge,
- allocate your study weeks to CFA topics,
- consider topics difficulty when setting your CFA topics deadlines,
- count how many study hours you need to spend doing each of the topics,
- develop your daily study routine,
- control your study plan on a weekly basis,
- stick to your schedule but be flexible when needed,
- apply passive and active learning techniques,
- study systematically CFA reading after CFA reading,
- review regularly for better knowledge retention,
- monitor your progress regularly,
- practice using exam-type questions,
- focus on conscious learning – understand, don’t just memorize!
- reward yourself when you follow your study schedule & be more demanding when you fall behind it,
- take at least 6 mock exams over the final review time,
- sleep well before your exam day.
In this blog post we focus on proper planning, analysis of weaknesses, 3 main reasons why you may fail in your exam, and finally we discuss the best 5-month study plan before June 2020 CFA level 1 exam.
Proper CFA Exam Planning
Let’s explore the first rule in more detail. If proper planning is more than just a list of topic deadlines, then what is it?
With 5 months to the exam, your listed topic deadlines pass every two weeks on average (because CFA topics vary in length, difficulty, and exam weight, their deadlines should be also varying). This way, all you know is that you work to a strict deadline a couple of weeks away. Frankly speaking, there’s quite a serious threat you won’t make it. To meet the deadline, you need to break these weeks further down – into readings and study days.
CFA Level 1 Study Plan See what a proper 5-month CFA study plan should look like (details below).
Interested in a different study plan? See:
Then, obviously, you need to stay in control of your detailed study plan to execute it.
Why is this break-it-further-down-and-control thing so important?
Because when you divide your CFA exam prep into topics (which BTW is the first and most natural step to take), you create a perfect model that would work in an ideal world. It doesn’t allow for real life. But no two weeks are the same and not always will you be able to devote the same amount of time to studying to meet your deadline. Plus, if the deadline’s still far away, you are likely to procrastinate. That’s where control and flexibility understood as sound management come into play. When your CFA exam prep is arranged to weeks and then readings, you can make it from day to day and react if things do not go as planned. With deadlines just for topics, how are you going to catch up if something goes wrong? But if you know what readings to do each week and how much time you should take to complete them, it’s much easier.
Also have a look at the CFA topic weights (new since 2019), which you should take into account when setting up your study schedule and deadlines:
|CFA Topics||Level 1 2020 Exam Weights|
|Financial Reporting and Analysis||15%|
|Fixed Income Investments||11%|
We come back to the issue of proper planning below when we talk about the 3 main reasons why CFA candidates fail their exam. Apart from strict deadlines for both topics and readings, we also show you can survive this 5-month CFA exam prep and still have a week off. This is something that should cheer you up .
Analysis of Weaknesses
While it’s all clear now how to best plan your CFA exam prep, one more piece of advice is due. As you go down the road, you need to get to know your weak points. Surely, you know some of your weak points already but mind that some may appear as your prep evolves. For example, you may be well aware of your unorganized nature. That’s why you are reading this post – to do something about it. But as time passes, you may also find out that you tend to put off studying too often. Regular procrastination can ruin your plans altogether. Not to let that happen, you’ll need to react and find the motivation to follow your study plan without delay.
So, stay observant. Best if you analyze every week of your CFA exam prep, then draw conclusions and seek solutions whenever you and your study schedule are in danger.
Now, have a look at what else can jeopardize your chances of passing your CFA exam.
3 Main Reasons
Why You May Fail In Your CFA Exam
We’ve been helping people to prepare for the CFA exam for many years now. While doing so, we found out there are 3 major reasons why candidates fail their exams. Before you sit down to plan your CFA exam prep, consider if you also struggle in these areas:
Problems With Math
First of all, though it may sound rather surprising, some people struggle with math.
It’s true not only of those who graduated from the university some time ago but also of students who currently attend their classes. This group constitutes even up to 30% of all CFA candidates.
Mathematics used in the exam is not complicated. It’s sufficient to know how to transform formulas and do fractions. Of course, those who can calculate and analyze things in their mind are better off when it comes to the real exam.
If you master your math, you'll be able to do even more than 50% of all calculations in your head, which will very often prove to be much quicker than if you used the calculator.
Not Enough Practice
Here’s the second reason for failure in the CFA exam. Most of the candidates practice too little.
They study their CFA Curriculum but they fail to test themselves on what they’ve actually learned. What you need to do is to solve countless exam-type questions all way through your exam prep. Over and over again. To see where you’re standing.
It’s best if you develop the right habit from the very beginning. It would be perfect if you tested yourself on a daily basis, after each reading and each topic. If you do tests regularly, you’ll see your progress and you’ll know which areas still need some improvement and which are fine.
Moreover, by doing different exam-type tests, you get accustomed to the form of the CFA exam, which should definitely make you feel more comfortable when the exam day comes.
If what you know about the exam is that it’s a multiple choice test consisting of 120 questions of the morning session and 120 questions of the afternoon session, you will not feel that much comfortable for sure.
To get the fact resonate better:
Imagine that you are to play a basketball match and all you know about basketball is that you need to throw a ball into a basket but never in your life have you tried to score a point. Certainly, you’ll agree that to win that match, you’ll need a lot of luck.
No Proper CFA Planning
That’s how we come to the third reason of many CFA exam fiascos. It’s about the volume of the study material required in the exam and due planning.
To cope with 10 CFA topics covered on over 3000 pages, you need to work systematically. This – as we know well – can often be a great challenge!
The first step to overcome this challenge is to have a timetable with deadlines for all the topics, which you can find below for the 5-month CFA level 1 study plan.
Then, you want to have control over your learning progress. That you can have only if you adopt the approach of small steps, where a well-organized study week forms the basis of your exam prep.
To put you in charge of your study time, we launched a new and advanced CFA Study Planner available for FREE to candidates of all levels.
You will find there the whole CFA Curriculum divided not only into topics but also into readings. And while you’ll have your 5-month study calendar, you’ll also have the means to control your weekly study progress. You’ll have the average study time per week stated which you’ll be able to edit according to your needs (take away a reading or two OR add some readings if you’ll have a busy week at work OR you’ll want to quickly move on with the study material, respectively).
That’s not all!
If you plan your CFA exam prep using our app:
you’ll surely find enough time to practice (see below) – and if you practice enough:
you’ll be able to improve your mathematical skills!
How to Prepare for CFA in 5 Months
Let’s begin with the big picture before and then move on to topic deadlines and more details about this study plan.
6 January is the first day of this CFA level 1 study schedule. The last day falls on 5 June, that is the day before the exam. The last month should be devoted to revision and mock exams in countless number. The first 4 months are divided into 4 Study Blocks:
5-Month CFA Study Plan:
START on 6 January 2020
1st Study Block (6 Jan – 7 Feb)
- Quantitative Methods
- Portfolio Management
- QM+PM Review
2nd Study Block (8 Feb – 15 March)
- Financial Reporting & Analysis
- Corporate Finance
- FRA+CF Review
- QM+PM Review
suggested dates: 16-22 March
3rd Study Block (23 March – 17 Apr)
- Fixed Income
- Equity Investments
- FI+EI Review
- QM+PM+FRA+CF Review
4th Study Block (18 Apr – 10 May)
- Derivative Investments
- Alternative Investments
- DI+AI+ECO Review
- Ethics Review
FINAL REVIEW (11 May – 5 June)
END on 5 June 2020
There’s a special topic sequence applied to help you focus on the more challenging topics and facilitate the uptake of related topics (that’s why, for instance, you’ll find Portfolio Management follow Quantitative Methods).
Ethics is scheduled twice – at the beginning and at the end because of the specific nature of this material (moreover, our Study Planner urges you to review Ethics regularly, which is definitely a good idea with the ethics adjustment being in force).
The time scheduled for each topic depends on its difficulty understood as the number of pages in the CFA Curriculum, topic weight in the exam (CFA 2020 exam weights applied), and the share of math and calculations in the topic (but you can further custom topics difficulty inside the Study Plan app).
Holiday & Revision
As you must have noticed, our study plan also includes:
- 1 week of holidays* (right in the middle, after you do your Ethics, QM, PM, FRA, and CF, but *you can choose otherwise!),
- 4 weeks of Final Revision preceding your exam (indispensable to be ready for the CFA test),
- spaced revision sessions all throughout your exam prep (for topics – as available inside the Free Study Plan Application, but since topic and final review are not enough to fully overcome your forgetting curve – you may also opt in for proper review system inside Knowledge Retention PLAN!).
All this to help you prepare for your exam thoroughly.
The weekly break has 2 functions. On the one hand, it allows you to recharge batteries in the middle of your exam preparation. On the other hand, it motivates you to work hard on the first 5 topics. It’s like an award for those who follow the plan!
And as far as the hard work goes, all the revision sessions arranged inside the study plan give you plenty of space to practice and review what you’ve learned. It’s an important prerequisite to successful and productive learning.
Your CFA Study Plan In 5 Months
Below, you can see topic deadlines for your 5-month CFA level 1 study schedule with 1 week off studying in between. The deadlines take the 2020 topic weights into account. As soon as you create your personalized study plan, the deadlines will get adjusted to your preferences (e.g. topics difficulty, number of weeks off, etc.). Also, you’ll get CFA readings assigned to your study weeks to ensure better control and successful execution of your study plan.
|CFA Level 1 Topics||June 2020 Exam:
|Ethics||11 Jan 2020|
|Quantitative Methods||23 Jan 2020|
|Portfolio Management||3 Feb 2020|
|QM+PM Review||7 Feb 2020|
|Financial Reporting and Analysis||1 March 2020|
|Corporate Finance||8 March 2020|
|FRA+CF Review||15 March 2020|
|QM+PM Review||15 March 2020|
|>Holidays*<||22 March 2020|
|Fixed Income||31 March 2020|
|Equity Investments||10 Apr 2020|
|FI+EI Review||17 Apr 2020|
|QM+PM+FRA+CF Review||17 Apr 2020|
|Derivative Investments||22 Apr 2020|
|Alternative Investments||24 Apr 2020|
|Economics||5 May 2020|
|DI+AI+ECO Review||10 May 2020|
|Ethics Summary||10 May 2020|
|Final Review||5 June 2020|
If you set up your personalized study plan,
the deadlines will get adjusted.
Your Current Week View You will be asked to focus on your current week of studying. You will know what to study, when to study, and how much to study. At the end of the week, your hard work will be evaluated (hit the ‘Sum Up Current Week’ button).
Also note that for each week you will find some useful practice tools & compact study materials inside the study planner. Enjoy!
Updated: November 27, 2019