After reading this post, you’ll learn:
- why the level 1 CFA exam passing rate is so low,
- how much time you need to prepare yourself for the level 1 CFA exam,
- what is strategic vs tactical CFA exam study planning,
- how a good level 1 CFA exam study plan should look like.
Looking for a specific study schedule? HERE:
- 2-month L1 Study Plan
- 3-month L1 Study Plan
- 4-month L2 Study Plan
- 4-month L1 Study Plan
- 4.5-month L1 Study+Review Plan
- 5-month L1 Study Plan
- 5-month L2 Study Plan
- 6-month L1 Study Plan
- 7-month L1 Study Plan
- 8-month L1 Study Plan
How to Prep for Level 1 CFA Exam in 4 Months?
If you want to devote 4 months to studying for your level 1 CFA exam, you need to start your prep in mid-Oct at the latest. FEB 2024 level 1 CFA exam takes place from 19 to 25 February. You can register until 8 Nov and you should schedule your exam before 21 Nov 2023.
As soon as you decide you're gonna take your CFA exam in February, you'll probably be looking for some extra study materials to match your exam curriculum and to get ready for the hardships of the study time. Our CFA Exam Study Planner 4.0 with study lessons and various study resources inside can definitely be of great help to you. You can have your own personalized study schedule in seconds, free but limited or unlimited available at pay-what-you-can prices::
Before you get down to work, however, stop for a while and ask yourself one fundamental question, which is: “How do I beat the low level 1 passing rate?”. It used to be around 43% but now it's below 40% and in 2021 it was even lower, down to ca. 20-25%. To be very specific, we should also add here that this low passing rate is a real value calculated for those who actually took the exam (i.e. it excludes no-shows usually accounting for as much as 20-25% of all registered candidates).
Why Is Level 1 CFA Exam Passing Rate So Low?
Possible causes of the low CFA exam level 1 passing rate can be many. Difficult financial concepts, some complicated or tricky exam questions, limited time you can approximately spend on one exam question, the minimum passing score set at a high level, or even advanced English (often an obstacle to non-natives).
Undoubtedly, all this counts but the real culprit here may be still at large.
Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan & Bulky CFA Program Curriculum
Level 1 CFA candidates have voluminous study material to cover.
Just have a look at your CFA Program Curriculum. It's 6 books, hundreds of pages each. You need a lot of time to read it all and understand what you study. That's why, to make good use of your study time, you need a good study plan. And a good study plan means it should both respond to your needs in real-time and keep you on your toes every week!
But one more word about the study content.
I would call the level 1 CFA exam conceptual ‘cos it verifies your general knowledge and understanding of finance. Best focus on the concepts required in the exam and make sure you get them right. To reach this goal, you may consider taking advantage of numerous study materials available online that will naturally facilitate your uptake of the obligatory dose of knowledge.
How Much Time Do I Need to Studyfor Level 1 CFA Exam?
It is said that an average candidate needs around 300 hours to get well-prepared for the level 1 CFA exam. Of course, it's a mean value and it need not apply to you. From my own observation, I can tell that some candidates will be fine with only 150 hours of preparation (this is extremely rare, though), but the majority will need to spend 300+ hours before they pass their level 1 exam.
If you work in finance, you studied finance at university and you like to test yourself, you will probably find 300 hours just enough. If, however, you define yourself as a finance greenhorn, you barely fancy poring over the books or you wish to change your field of specialization (of which taking the CFA exam is only a step), you'll surely need more than 300 hours of preparation.
It is very important for you to be able to estimate the number of hours you’re going to need for your exam prep. This estimation would allow you to see what’s the average time per month, week, and day you should spend studying.
This is where our Study Planner comes in handy. If you set up your personalized level 1 study plan, you'll get around 300 study hours divided into roughly 4 months. This time is arranged so as to factor in all 10 topics and a proper revision before your exam. You'll be given the average study time per week plus an estimated time for every reading (module). With this knowledge, it's easier to see how much time you need to study daily, weekly, and even monthly.
My advice is that you treat these estimations as a benchmark to lead you through your exam prep but also allow for some extra hours in excess of your staple preparation time. What I mean is that I haven’t met a person who would say they are fully prepared for the exam or that the exam is just in time for them.
What Is Strategic Study Planning?
How About My Tactics?
When preparing for the CFA exam, you have to tackle the issue both holistically and atomistically. What it means is that, on the one hand, you need to establish how much time overall you’re going to devote to different topics, mock exams, revision, etc. and when. On the other hand, you should be able to systematically adapt your schedule and make plans for shorter periods, usually for the upcoming week. The former, I call general planning strategy and the latter – detailed tactics.
Below, you will find a hint at how to handle strategic study planning (in the form of a 4-month level 1 study plan). As for tactical planning, you'll be in better control of every study week if you opt for your own personalized study plan using our Study Planner app:
Before we move on to a sample 4-month level 1 CFA exam study plan, there is one more piece of advice:
Have a look at the concepts of the forgetting curve and learning curve – they may actually give you some idea about what your CFA exam prep should look like to be fully successful.
How Does a Good Level 1 CFA Exam Study PlanLook Like?
This sample 4-month level 1 CFA exam study plan starts on 16 Oct 2023. The last 3-4 weeks are devoted to Final Review when you should try to do as many mock exams as possible.
The study plan is divided into topics (5 Study Blocks) and I believe that the sequence is just optimal (though you can easily change it if you wish). More challenging topics are coupled with more easy ones allowing you to take a sort of break meanwhile. Also, where possible, topics are coupled based on the similarity of concepts. The time scheduled for each topic depends on its difficulty, the number of pages in the Curriculum, and the number of questions devoted to the topic on the exam (for the possible number of level 1 questions, go here ):
START on 16 OCT 2023
1st Study Block:QM + PM + Topic Review
2nd Study Block:FSA + CI + Topic Review
3rd Study Block:FI + EI + Topic Review
4th Study Block:DER + AI + Topic Review
5th Study Block:ECO + ETH + Topic Review
FINAL REVIEW(29 Jan – 18 Feb)
END on 19-25 FEB 2024
The FEB 2024 level 1 exam window lasts from 19 to 25 February 2024. So, you can have from 3 to 4 weeks of – what we call – Final Review. Basically, that's when you should do as many mock exams as possible!
4-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Study Schedule
|Level 1 Topics||FEB 2024 Exam Deadlines|
|Quantitative Methods||28 Oct|
|Portfolio Management||5 Nov|
|QM+PM Review||6 Nov|
|Financial Statement Analysis||21 Nov|
|Corporate Issuers||28 Nov|
|FSA+CI Review||1 Dec|
|QM+PM Review||1 Dec|
|Fixed Income||13 Dec|
|Equity Investments||24 Dec|
|FI+EI Review||28 Dec|
|QM+PM+FSA+CI Review||28 Dec|
|Alternative Investments||5 Jan|
|DER+AI Review||9 Jan|
|QM+PM+FSA+CI+FI+EI Review||9 Jan|
|ECO+ETH Review||28 Jan|
|Final Review||18 Feb|
If you set up your personalized study plan,
the deadlines will get adjusted.
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:
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 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 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 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:
Bart Mankowski has been helping candidates from around the world to pass their CFA exams for over 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 ;).
- Level 1 CFA Exam Study Materials
- When to Start Prep for CFA Exam?
- How to Create Study Plan in 8 Steps
- CFA Exam: Registration to Results
- 3 Reasons Why You May Fail Your Exam
UPDATED: Sep 13, 2023