PUBLISHED: Nov 25, 2019
UPDATED: Oct 6, 2020
How to Create
Your CFA® Exam Study Plan
The aim of this post is to guide you through planning your CFA exam prep. We focus on the level 1 exam but all the ‘how’ guidelines are also addressed to level 2 and level 3 candidates.
In fact, this blog post is sponsored by the word 'how' because as we pave the way towards answering our main question of how to create your CFA exam study plan, we’re first responding to the following 3 queries:
- How long does it take to prepare for Level 1 CFA exam?
- How many months do you need to study for Level 1 CFA exam?
- How do I prepare for Level 1 CFA exam?
How Long Does It Take to Prepare for Level 1 CFA Exam?
Level 1 CFA exam requires around 300 hours of preparation. Moreover, this is true of all 3 levels of your CFA exam. The thing is how you’re going to plan these 300 study hours of your CFA exam prep.
REMEMBER: The 300 hours is just the average study time before the CFA exam and the recommended minimum. You should add some extra hours for regular revision to enable quality learning and knowledge retention.
How Many Months do You Need to Study for Level 1 CFA Exam?
Objectively, it’s best if you start your CFA exam prep 6 months before your exam. It gives you around 11 study hours per week, which means you may study on weekends only, spending 2 days studying 5 and a half hours each. That’s reasonable and satisfactory.
Also, you’ll be able to easily add some revision hours on working days.
7 Monthly Variants of 300-hour CFA Exam Study Plan
|How Many Months
for L1 CFA Exam
|No. of Weeks||Study Hours
|Planning Your Study Hours
|8 months||35 weeks||8-9 study hrs/week||weekends: 2 x 4.5 study hrs|
|7 months||31 weeks||10 study hrs/week||weekends: 2 x 5 study hrs|
|6 months||27 weeks||11 study hrs/week||weekends:
2 x 5.5 study hrs
|5 months||22 weeks||13-14 study hrs/week||weekends: 2 x 7 study hrs
all week: 2 x 5 + 2 x 2 study hrs
|4 months||18 weeks||16-17 study hrs/week||all week: 2 x 5.5 study hrs + 2 x 3 study hrs|
|3 months||14 weeks||22 study hrs/week||all week: 2 x 7 study hrs + 4 x 2 study hrs|
|2 months||10 weeks||30 study hrs/week||all week: 2 x 7.5 study hrs + 5 x 3 study hrs|
In fact, we advocate CFA exam prep that lasts even as long as 8-months – the sooner you start, the better for the quality of your learning and your private life.
Notice that according to the table if you start to prepare for your CFA exam 5 months in advance, you’ll need to devote practically the whole of your weekends to studying or study also on some of your working days. With a 6-month exam prep, you can avoid that and study solely on weekends (and still have a lot of free time to enjoy yourself).
Also, as you opt for shorter exam prep, the number of study hours per week increases substantially. For example, with 3 months of preparation, you get to study almost every day assuming you have a full-time job.
But what’s the most important is that the table shows just the minimum 300-hour CFA exam study plan in its various monthly versions. We’d like to convince you to extend your study plan a bit and schedule some additional hours for regular review (not just a week or two before your exam).
Adding some extra hours can be useful also when some topics prove more difficult than you expected. Because when creating a CFA exam study plan you’ll want to take different things into consideration, topics difficulty being one of them.
How do I Prepare for Level 1 CFA Exam?
When preparing for your level 1 CFA exam, you’ll need to consider various aspects of your exam prep. They all fall under these 3 CFA exam preparation rules:
- RULE no. 1: Plan how to study.
- RULE no. 2: Study and get prepared.
- RULE no. 3: Check if you’re getting prepared the way you’ve planned.
Oh, there’s one more rule: If you fail to follow what you’ve planned – you rethink your CFA exam prep and reschedule your study plan!
If this study routine pays off (and we’re sure it will), you continue with this 3-step CFA exam prep strategy also for your level 2 and level 3 preparation.
But first things first! What are the exam prep aspects you need to consider when creating your CFA exam study plan?
How to Create Your CFA Exam Study Plan?
How to Create
Your CFA Exam Study Plan?
When creating your CFA exam study plan, you need to decide on the:
- exam prep time span,
- topic difficulty,
- exact study hours, aka. study routine,
- means to execute your study schedule.
1. CFA EXAM PREP TIME SPAN
When would you like to start your prep? Using the 7 Monthly Variants of 300-hour CFA Exam Study Plan table, you can now choose if you want an average 6-month preparation or if you’re fine with a longer/shorter study time.
As soon as you make up your mind, you take your study time span and divide it into topics. Before you set up your topics deadlines, remember to secure some time for the final revision before the exam, e.g. for mocks.
2. CFA EXAM TOPICS DIFFICULTY
How difficult are CFA exam topics to you? Depending on the exam level, topics have different exam weights, length (no. of pages in the CFA Program Curriculum), and contents (e.g. more or fewer formulas). You need to factor all this in when deciding on your subjective level of difficulty for topics.
This is important because depending on whether a topic is hard or easy to you, you can allocate more or less time to it, respectively. If you have no idea, you should treat all topics as medium in difficulty and allow for some additional study hours when establishing your daily study routine (in case you need it).
3. YOUR CFA EXAM STUDY ROUTINE
As soon as the deadlines and precise study times for your CFA exam topics are set, you need to take out your calendar and think about what days exactly you can study and how many hours. Are you going to study on weekends only? Or can you also study on your working days?
Also, think if you need any weeks off studying. It’s vital because if you need some time off – you need to study more in all the remaining weeks. Oh, and don’t forget to plan some regular revision sessions during your study weeks.
4. MEANS TO EXECUTE YOUR STUDY SCHEDULE
As soon as you’ve created your CFA exam study plan, it’s equally crucial to follow it. However, the execution of the study schedule usually proves more challenging than setting up your study plan.
That is why when creating our CFA Exam Study Planner we have thought not only of the 8 steps given above (which you can customize to your needs) but also of the means to execute your study plan such as:
- color statuses for CFA exam readings (grey – not yet done, yellow – partially done, green – done, red – overdue)
- weekly summaries of your study weeks (best done on Sundays)
- drag-n-drop & after-summary edition modes for flexibility and wise time management
- benchmark study times for CFA exam readings that factor in the readings’ length and level of difficulty based on our expert’s assessment
- benchmark study times for all your study weeks that count in your subjective assessment of CFA exam topics difficulty (given while creating the study plan)
- the Chance-to-Pass score to show your progress (its initial level depends on when you start your CFA exam prep – the longer the prep, the higher your initial chance to pass the exam)
- motivational messages we can send to your e-mail telling you how to develop and improve your study routine
- proper review system including all kinds of necessary revision, i.e. final review before the exam, topics revision after each competed topic, extra review of Ethics standards, and regular revision sessions in addition to your study sessions
- study and review materials – short and substantial – to facilitate your studying and enable quick and orderly revision, they include:
- LEVEL 1: 40+ hrs of videos, 1800+ questions, 50+ review tests, 50+ formulas lists, 50+ printable e-books (notes)
- LEVEL 2: 40+ hrs of videos, 300+ questions (=50+ item sets), 20+ formulas lists, 15+ printable e-books (notes)
Plus, inside your CFA Exam Study Planner, you’ll also find the VIDEO app, TEST app, FORMULAS app, NOTES app, and TOPICS app.
Based on these tools to execute your study plan, we have also designed a 5-step algorithm for quality learning:
How do you get a CFA Exam Reading done using these 5 steps?
You take our Notes e-Book for the CFA exam Reading. You print it out and read it twice to get the big picture. Then, already with the basic knowledge of key concepts, you move on to your CFA Program Curriculum. You read the CFA exam Reading there and add your own notes to the printed Notes e-Book. This way you smoothly move from passive to active learning. Plus, you keep all your notes for this Reading in one place, which facilitates the review before the exam and during your revision sessions planned all throughout your exam prep.
To test your knowledge, you can use the end-of-reading questions in your curriculum and also our exam-type questions. While testing yourself you can see if you feel confident enough to proceed to another Reading. If yes, you change the color of the Reading from grey (or yellow) to green in your Study Planner. If not, you are advised to repeat the 5 steps to nail your study content.
Side note: If after repeating this algorithm, you still feel unconfident – leave this Reading as PARTIALLY DONE. There are plenty of other Readings to get to know and you have to keep up the pace. If you find the time, you’ll get back to this Reading later on. If not – don’t worry, you don’t have to master each bit of CFA Program Curriculum to pass your exam.
And when you’re studying may the following quotation attributed to Winston Churchill give you strength and motivation:
"If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going".
Below there are links to different study plans, both for level 1 and level 2 candidates. In total: 10 CFA exam study plans ranging in length from 8 to 2 months.
Except for sample study schedules, every post also explains a different portion of knowledge you'll want to acquire if you take your exam prep seriously. For example, you will find information about 4 CFA exam topics categorizations (3-month post), strategic vs tactical study planning (4-month L1 post), or the strong and weak points you may have (8-month post).
Level 1 Study Plans for Dec 2020, Feb 2021 & May 2021 Exams
sample 8-month level 1 study plan read more
sample 7-month level 1 study plan read more
sample 6-month level 1 study plan read more
sample 5-month level 1 study plan read more
sample 4.5-month level 1 study plan read more
sample 4-month level 1 study plan read more
sample 3-month level 1 study plan read more
sample 2-month level 1 study plan read more
IMPORTANT: Due to COVID pandemic and June 2020 exams administration postponement, December 2020 is when candidates of all levels may take their CFA exam. Read more here
Level 2 Study Plans for Dec 2020 Exam
sample 5-month level 2 study plan read more
sample 4-month level 2 study plan read more
With our CFA Exam Study Planner, you can start studying whenever you want – you choose, we adapt your study plan. Also, you can set up your study schedule even if you have already begun to study – our CFA Exam Study Planner enables you to tick off the ‘already-studied’ readings. Finally, you can use this study plan with your CFA Program Curriculum or other prep providers’ materials. But we frankly think our study tools also come in handy.