If you want to have a successful level 1 CFA exam 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:
The 20 Recommendations for Effective Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan
Here is a list of 20 universal principles of an effective level 1 study plan.
If you want to pass your level 1 CFA exam make sure to:
- plan your CFA exam 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,
- set up deadlines for topics but also your weekly tasks,
- consider topics difficulty when setting your 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 and hold yourself accountable,
- stick to your schedule but be flexible when needed,
- apply passive and active learning techniques,
- study systematically reading after reading,
- review regularly for better knowledge retention,
- monitor your progress regularly and react if needed,
- 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 how to plan your CFA exam study schedule. We also give you a 5-month level 1 study plan for your May 2021 CFA exam. It’s just a sample study schedule, which you’ll be able to personalize when you use our free CFA Exam Study Planner.
Looking for a specific study schedule?
Choose your 2021 CFA Exam Study Plan:
Looking for a specific study schedule? Choose your 2021 CFA Exam Study Plan:
- 8-month L1 Study Plan
- 7-month L1 Study Plan
- 6-month L1 Study Plan
- 5-month L1 Study Plan
- 5-month L2 Study Plan
- 4.5-month L1 Study+Review Plan
- 4-month L1 Study Plan
- 4-month L2 Study Plan
- 3-month L1 Study Plan
- 2-month L1 Study Plan
Plan Your CFA Exam Study Schedule Carefully
Let’s explore the first rule in more detail.
Proper planning is more than just a list of topic deadlines. Why? Because when you divide your CFA exam prep into topics (which BTW is the first and most natural step), you create a perfect model that would work in an ideal world. It doesn’t allow for real life, though.
In real life, no two weeks are the same. Sometimes, you won’t be able to study enough to meet your deadline. How are you going to catch up if something goes wrong? With deadlines just for topics, you’re likely to find out too late that you haven’t been studying enough.
Moreover, when you have your topic deadlines – all you know is that you work to a strict deadline a couple of weeks away. If your deadline’s still far away, you are likely to procrastinate. If you postpone studying too often, there’s quite a serious threat you won’t make it.
That’s why – apart from topic deadlines – you need your topic readings scheduled into consecutive weeks. Weekly schedules allow you to control your prep. When you know what readings to do each week and how much time you’ll need on average to complete them, it’s much easier. You can make it from day to day and react if things do not go as planned.
Weekly schedules also enable you to be flexible, where flexibility means sound management which doesn’t pose a threat to your study plan and exam prep. Using our free study planner, you can easily drag & drop your scheduled CFA exam readings between weeks (go to the All Weeks view).
So, when planning your CFA exam prep, you need to have:
- your topics deadlines,
- weekly schedules (exact topic readings included in consecutive weeks),
- estimated amount of time you need to spend studying each week to meet your deadlines.
To execute your CFA exam study plan, it’s best if you have some means to hold yourself accountable and control your prep (and a bit of flexibility, too).
When we devised our CFA Exam Study Planner, we took it all into account. Your CFA exam study plan has 3 views:
- All Topics – where you can see your progress in topics and topics deadlines,
- All Weeks – where each week has an exact number of readings you should cover and that you can easily drag and drop if need be,
- Current Week – where you can focus on your weekly tasks: watch videos, do questions, mark your readings as done or partially done, and see your benchmark study times for the whole week, as well as for each reading.
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 button).
Also, note that for each week you will find some useful practice tools & compact study materials inside your study plan .
How to Prepare for CFA Exam in 5 Months
This sample 5-month May 2021 level 1 CFA exam study plan starts on 4 January 2021 and ends on 14 May 2021, that is a few days before your scheduled May level 1 exam. The last month should be devoted to revision and mock exams in countless numbers. The first 4 months are divided into 4 Study Blocks with a weekly break meanwhile. The 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!
5-Month CFA Exam Study Plan:
START on 4 January 2021
1st Study Block (4 Jan – 1 Feb)
- Quantitative Methods
- Portfolio Management
- QM+PM Review
2nd Study Block (2 Feb – 7 March)
- Financial Reporting & Analysis
- Corporate Finance
- FRA+CF Review
- QM+PM Review
suggested dates: 8 – 14 March
3rd Study Block (15 March – 4 Apr)
- Fixed Income
- Equity Investments
- FI+EI Review
- QM+PM+FRA+CF Review
4th Study Block (5 Apr – 25 Apr)
- Derivative Investments
- Alternative Investments
- DI+AI+ECO Review
- Ethics Review
FINAL REVIEW (26 Apr – 14 May)
END on 14 May 2021
The May 2021 level 1 exam window lasts from 18 to 24 May 2021. If you manage to finish everything as planned on 14 May, you'll still have some time to relax before your exam, as well as to do some final touches and reviews.
There’s a special topic sequence applied to help you focus on the more challenging topics such as QM or FRA and facilitate the uptake of related topics (that’s why, for instance, Portfolio Management follows Quantitative Methods).
Ethics is scheduled twice – at the beginning and at the end because of the specific nature of this topic (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 has been estimated by our expert and depends on the topic’s difficulty understood as the number of pages in the CFA Program Curriculum, topic weight in the exam (May 2021 CFA exam weights applied), and the share of math and calculations in the topic (but you can further customize topics difficulty using our free study planner).
The chart gives you the estimated number of days you will most likely spend studying (and reviewing) each topic. It totals up to 117 study days. Note that the period of 26 days of Final Review is excluded for the estimation. Also, we left out the week of holidays proposed in this schedule.
With a 5-month CFA exam study plan, it is calculated that you should study approx. 15 hours a week. Assuming roughly 143 days of studying and review, you'll get a bit over 300 study hours if you follow this study plan (which is the average study time recommended for each CFA exam level).
Regular Revision = Effective Execution
What’s quite exceptional for this study plan is spaced revision. Review sessions are scheduled all throughout your exam prep:
- Topics Review and Final Review – available as given above in our Free CFA Exam Study Planner,
- regular weekly review – since topic and final review are not enough – available in our PAID PLAN as part of Proper Review-ON SystemTM to help you fully overcome your forgetting curve.
All the revision sessions arranged inside your study plan give you plenty of space to practice and review what you’ve learned. Bear in mind regular review is an important prerequisite to successful and productive learning!
5-Month May 2021 Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan
Topic Deadlines Timetabled
|Level 1 CFA Exam Topics||May 2021 Exam:
|Ethics||8 Jan 2021|
|Quantitative Methods||18 Jan 2021|
|Portfolio Management||29 Jan 2021|
|QM+PM Review||1 Feb 2021|
|Financial Reporting and Analysis||21 Feb 2021|
|Corporate Finance||28 Feb 2021|
|FRA+CF Review||7 March 2021|
|QM+PM Review||7 March 2021|
|*Holidays*||14 March 2021|
|Fixed Income||21 March 2020|
|Equity Investments||30 March 2021|
|FI+EI Review||4 Apr 2021|
|QM+PM+FRA+CF Review||4 Apr 2021|
|Derivative Investments||8 Apr 2021|
|Alternative Investments||11 Apr 2021|
|Economics||21 Apr 2021|
|DI+AI+ECO Review||25 Apr 2021|
|Ethics Summary||25 Apr 2021|
|Final Review||14 May 2021|
If you set up your personalized study plan,
the deadlines will get adjusted.
These are the topic deadlines for your 5-month level 1 study schedule with 1 week off studying in between. The deadlines take the May 2021 topic weights into account. As soon as you create your personalized study plan, the deadlines will get adjusted to your preferences (e.g. start date, topics difficulty, number of weeks off, etc.). Also, you’ll get concrete topic readings assigned to consecutive study weeks to ensure better control and successful execution of your study plan.
May 2021 Level 1 CFA Exam Topic Weights
Now In Ranges!
When creating you study plan, you should take topic weights into account. The table below presents the level 1 values given in ranges as of the Dec 2020 level 1 exam. Also, the table compares new 2020/2021 and old 2019 level 1 CFA exam topic weights:
|Level 1 Topics||2020/2021 Topic Weights||Average May 2021 Topic Weights||2019 Topic Weights|
|Financial Reporting and Analysis||13-17%||15%||15%|
|Fixed Income Investments||10-12%||11%||11%|
IMPORTANT! As of the Dec 2020 exam, CFA Institute introduced ranges for level 1 topic weights. So far, topic weights were given in ranges only for level 2 and level 3 exams.
Updated: Nov 9, 2020