Feb 2021 CFA® Exam Study Plan: Can 7 Months Be Not Enough?

CFA exam / Study plans / Level 1 Feb 2021, 7-month


Sadly, it’s possible.

Level 1 CFA exam prep lasting for 7 months can really turn out to be not enough. Let me take it step by step to explain why.

7-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Prep: Seemingly Sensible Choice

Don’t get me wrong.

Starting your preparation 7 months before your level 1 CFA exam is a good idea. It means you’re taking your exam seriously and you wouldn’t like anything unexpected to spoil your plans.

(Frankly speaking, since I’m a rather careful person myself I think I’d do the same and opt in for this 7-month CFA exam prep to have my "300 study hours" evenly spread among weeks without getting it to interfere too much with my private life.)

It doesn’t matter whether your attitude is driven by your character or if your strong resolution to start your prep well in advance is a result of your previous CFA exam failures. Either way, your choice is a sound one and all you need to do now is to exercise it well.

However, while a 7-month CFA exam prep certainly opens an opportunity for successful study time, it is not without its risks. And it is these risks I want to tell you about because they have the power to lead your sensible plans to ruin.

The first threat has to do with the length of your exam prep and the other is about the way you study.

How Did I Lose All This Time? Impossible…

With 7 months still to go, you need to plan around 10 study hours per week. So, you can study at a relaxed pace and you are not made to give up your social life or neglect your family, which is undoubtedly a great advantage. You can take it slow and still be certain you’ll be able to deal with all the readings in your CFA Program curriculum.

Be careful though not to lose this time!

7 months seems long. You may get tempted to study irregularly and postpone your study sessions by days or even weeks. Especially after you first manage to study successfully for a couple of weeks, you may find yourself full of excuses to justify your delayed study sessions. So beware of your inner voice telling you: “It’s ok if I put off my today’s study session. There’s still plenty of time before the exam and I’ve already studied a lot. I will surely handle all the study material in time”.

You don’t want to be taken by surprise 3 months before your exam when you realize you haven’t done as much as you planned. It may turn out to be too late with your study hours impossibly piled up. Were you still to think of success, you’d be forced to speed up and impose rigorous discipline.

With so much precious time just gone, your sensible 7-month CFA exam preparation would be a fiasco turning into a 3-month torture.

How Could I Forget It All? …? …?

The other danger is related to the way you study.

While this risk is true for all CFA exam candidates, regardless of when they take up their exam prep – it can affect you more negatively if you start your preparation now and fail to include this one key element in your study process.

Let me explain.

You are having your 7-month level 1 CFA exam prep. We already said that on average you should get roughly 10 study hours scheduled per week. Since you are aware now of how time can be irreversibly lost, I take it you’ll be smart enough and keep to your weekly plan.

You’ll spend all your weekly study hours on going through your CFA Program curriculum and watching various videos and presentations. After each reading, you’ll also do some practice questions to see if you know how to use all the theory. Since 7 months is indeed a long time, you’ll plan your 2-week holidays meanwhile. You’ll do some readings in advance so that you don't have to catch up too much after you come back.

You come back to reality. Batteries recharged. The smile on your face. Do you really strongly believe you’ll go back to your regular study sessions right away? Or will you delay for one more week or so?

But you know what? It doesn’t really matter!

Because the problem is you probably no longer remember too much of what you studied in all the previous months!

It’s the forgetting curve!

Unfortunately, the thing that was missing all this time from your study process was regular review. You did nothing to make sure you can actually learn what you study.

And that’s a mistake…

Only regular review sessions ranging in duration and technique can help you learn what you study:

Learning Curve

Otherwise, without constant reinforcement and practice you’re going to lose it all – the time you put to study and the effects of your hard work (with or without holidays meanwhile!):

It’s the forgetting curve!

Sensible Choice Only if Sensibly Approached

If you do not take these 2 threats seriously, it may all end up badly for you. I hope you can see it.

Your sensible choice to start your level 1 preparation well in advance is not enough. It needs a sensible approach based on regular weekly study hours and iterative revision.

It doesn’t mean you cannot postpone some of your study hours sometimes or that taking holiday is forbidden when preparing for the CFA exam.

No such thing!

Actually, it’s best if you take some time to rest and relax over such a long prep. But when it's the study time keep in mind that the 2 dangers of notorious delay and neglected review are true also for you!

Moreover, it’s only natural that no two weeks will be the same over your whole CFA exam prep (regardless of its length). Some weeks will be harder at work, some – at home. While it may be a serious problem when you have just 3 months to your exam, it’s not such a big deal with 7 months still to go.

But you need to stay reasonable about it. If you fail to study your 10 hours for a week or two, catch up as soon as possible. Even better, if you know you’ll be more busy over the next week – try to study more this week to have as few overdue study hours as possible.

In Charge of Level 1
CFA Exam Prep

If you want to stay in full control of your level 1 CFA exam prep, I’d encourage you to set up a study plan that you can tailor to your needs but which urges you to study. There are 6 things you want to consider when creating your February 2021 CFA exam study schedule:

  1. No. of CFA exam readings per WEEK
  2. Your personalized CFA exam study plan should be divided into readings and study weeks that you’ll be able to edit easily and according to your needs.

  3. Progress measure over the WEEK
  4. As you follow your plan from week to week, it's best if you mark your CFA exam readings as done or partially done to see your progress over the week.

  5. Progress assessment after each WEEK
  6. After each week, always sum up your weekly tasks. Sometimes you may be more busy and fail to do some scheduled readings. It would be great if you could easily see which ones are overdue by having them marked red.

  7. Benchmark study times for WEEKS and readings
  8. For your motivation, it's good having benchmark study times that are reduced when you get your concrete readings done (and marked as done).

  9. Regular review sessions
  10. For your knowledge retention, you need your review sessions properly scheduled (in addition to topic reviews & pre-exam Final Review). Hardly anybody does that on a regular basis but that’s what makes a difference.

  11. Holiday
  12. Last but not least, when starting your prep 7 months before the exam, you may want to schedule some holiday weeks. If you use our CFA Exam Study Planner, you'll be able to do it already at registration (regardless of whether you'll choose Retention PLAN, Motivation PLAN, or Free PLAN).

CFA Exam Study Plan for 7-Month Exam Prep

with editable weekly schedules keeping you in charge

& review mode to encourage real learning

START on 23 July 2020

1st Study Block (23 July – 5 Sept)

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

2nd Study Block (6 Sept – 25 Oct)

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

suggested dates: 26 Oct – 8 Nov

3rd Study Block (9 Nov – 14 Dec)

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

4th Study Block (15 Dec – 17 Jan)

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

FINAL REVIEW: 18 Jan - 19 Feb 2021

END on 19 February 2021

The Feb 2021 exam window lasts from 23 Feb to 1 March 2021. If you manage to finish everything as planned on 19 Feb, you'll still have some time to relax before your exam, as well as to do some final touches and reviews .

Level 1 CFA Exam Topic Deadlines

The table below shows the deadlines for all level 1 topics, including regular topic review sessions and a month of proper revision before your February 2021 exam. Based on these dates, you can set your own deadlines for your level 1 CFA exam prep:

Level 1 Topic Topic Deadlines
Ethics 1 Aug 2020
Quantitative Methods 16 Aug 2020
Portfolio Management 31 Aug 2020
QM+PM Review 5 Sept 2020
Financial Reporting and Analysis 7 Oct 2020
Corporate Finance 18 Oct 2020
FRA+CF Review 25 Oct 2020
QM+PM Review 25 Oct 2020
*Holidays* 8 Nov 2020
Fixed Income 25 Nov 2020
Equity Investments 6 Dec 2020
FI+EI Review 14 Dec 2020
QM+PM+FRA+CF Review 14 Dec 2020
Derivative Investments 21 Dec 2020
Alternative Investments 25 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.

Below you can see both ALL WEEKS and CURRENT WEEK views of your 7-month level 1 CFA exam study plan:

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).

About the Author:

If you’re reading our CFA exam blog, that’s most probably me, Margaret, who wrote it. Usually, it’s simply copywriting. But here – at the Study Planning section – it’s more than that. I like to think it’s all about keeping you motivated and making you outdo yourself!

Last Update: July 2, 2020

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been regularly updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness ever since.

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