How Long to Study for CFA® Exam? Is 6 Months Enough?

CFA exam / Study plans / Level 1 AUG 2024, 7-month


How Many Months to Study for Level 1 CFA Exam?

Special offer for candidates who start studying in JAN/FEB


Study 300 Hours for Level 1 CFA Exam

Study around 300 hours to prepare for your level 1 CFA exam. This 300-hour recommendation is based on what those who passed say. Successful CFA candidates usually report over 300 study hours per exam level.


Are 6 Months Enough to Prepare for CFA Exam?

Sadly, 6 months of CFA exam prep (or even 7) may not be enough to get ready for your level 1 exam if you fail to approach your prep seriously.

Let me take it step by step to explain why.


7-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Prep: Wise Choice?

What I'd like to do here is convince you to start your level 1 CFA exam prep even 7 months before your exam day. In this blog post, you'll find a sample 7-month AUG 2024 level 1 study schedule and here's a 6-month CFA exam study plan, if you prefer.

But I also want to play the devil's advocate and say that even 6 or 7 months of prep may not be enough to guarantee success in your CFA exam.





Don’t get me wrong.

Starting your preparation 7 months before your level 1 CFA exam is a good idea. It means you want to take your exam seriously and wouldn’t like anything unexpected to ruin 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 this 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 good one.

However, while a 7-month CFA exam prep certainly opens an opportunity for successful study time, it is not without its risks. I want to tell you about these risks 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.


Two Major Risks of CFA Exam Prep



There are 2 major risks you should avoid to have successful CFA exam prep:

There are 2 major risks you should avoid to have successful CFA exam prep:

  1. poor study time management, and
  2. ignoring regular revision.


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 (aka. modules) contained in your level 1 CFA exam 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. To still 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 intensive course.




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 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 exam 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 think 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 from your study process all this time 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 – both the time you put to study and the effects of your hard work (with or without holidays meanwhile!):


It’s the forgetting curve!




Wise Choice Only if Wisely 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 wise 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 a 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 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 busier over the next week – try to study more this week to have as few overdue study hours as possible.



Get 7-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan, Personalized & Motivating

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 AUG 2024 CFA exam study schedule:

  1. No. of CFA exam readings per WEEK
  2. Your personalized CFA exam study plan should be divided into readings (aka. modules) 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). Not all CFA candidates do 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, i.e. weeks without studying. If you use our CFA Exam Study Planner, you'll be able to do it whenever you need.




CFA Exam Study Plan for 7-Month Exam Prep

with editable weekly schedules keeping you in charge

& review mode to encourage learning


START on 22 JAN 2024

1st Study Block:
QM + PM + Topic Review

2nd Study Block:
FSA + CI + Topic Review

*HOLIDAYS*

3rd Study Block:
FI + EI + Topic Review

4th Study Block:
DER + AI + Topic Review

5th Study Block:
ECO + ETH + Topic Review

FINAL REVIEW
(15 July – 19 Aug)

END on 20-26 AUG 2024


Special offer for candidates who start studying in JAN/FEB


The AUG 2024 level 1 exam window lasts from 20 to 26 August 2024. So, you can have from 5 to 6 weeks of – what we call – Final Review. Basically, that's when you should do as many mock exams as possible!


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 AUG 2024 CFA exam. Based on these dates, you can set the deadlines for your level 1 exam prep:

Level 1 Topics AUG 2024 Exam Deadlines
Quantitative Methods 10 Feb
Portfolio Management 23 Feb
QM+PM Review 26 Feb
Financial Statement Analysis 18 March
Corporate Issuers 27 March
FSA+CI Review 31 March
QM+PM Review 31 March
*HOLIDAYS* 14 Apr
Fixed Income 6 May
Equity Investments 21 May
FI+EI Review 27 May
QM+PM+FSA+CI Review 27 May
Derivatives 3 June
Alternative Investments 8 June
DER+AI Review 15 June
QM+PM+FSA+CI+FI+EI Review 15 June
Economics 29 June
Ethics 11 July
ECO+ETH Review 14 July
Final Review 19 Aug

If you set up your personalized study plan,
the deadlines will get adjusted and you'll be able to decide if and when you need
*HOLIDAYS*, i.e., time without studying.





About Soleadea:

Our CFA Exam Study Planner is available to candidates of all levels at groundbreaking Pay-What-You-Can prices. You decide how much you want to pay for our services. After you activate your account, you get unlimited access to our Study Planner 4.0 with study lessons inside, various level 1 study materials & tools, regular review sessions, and a holistic growth approach to your preparation. Join


Here’s a sample level 1 CFA exam study schedule as displayed in our Study Planner:



PLAN VIEW of CFA EXAM STUDY PLANNER:


CFA Exam Study Planner: PLAN VIEW

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 schedule using your Study Plan personalization options and the DRAG & DROP for both topics and study weeks.



STUDY VIEW of CFA EXAM STUDY PLANNER:


CFA Exam Study Planner: STUDY VIEW

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). Here, you'll also find your study lessons, including videos, tests, PDFs, etc. At the end of the week, your hard work will be evaluated (hit the SUM UP button).



PROGRESS VIEW of CFA EXAM STUDY PLANNER:


CFA Exam Study Planner: PROGRESS VIEW

CFA Exam Study Planner: PROGRESS View You will be able to see your progress by topics and weeks. Each week your Chance to Pass score will go up or down.



REVIEW VIEW of CFA EXAM STUDY PLANNER:


CFA Exam Study Planner: REVIEW VIEW

CFA Exam Study Planner: REVIEW View To learn, you must review. Use the special view of your Study Planner to review your study lessons, rewatch videos, revise formulas, etc.



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!


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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UPDATED: Dec 11, 2023