To be successful, every CFA exam candidate needs a good study plan. Setting deadlines for the topics is the first step. A conventional one.
But how about a somewhat unconventional approach which – apart from arranging your CFA exam schedule – takes care of your knowledge retention?
Intrigued? Keep on reading.
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:
- 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
Conventional CFA Exam Study Planning
3 main assumptions of conventional CFA exam study planning are as follows:
- Study topics one by one according to the CFA Program Curriculum sequence.
- Focus on one topic at a time (go back or forth to other topics sporadically, only if needed).
- Revise the whole study material after dealing with all the topics (usually, it’s the last month before the exam).
Pros & cons of conventional CFA exam study planning:
As any organized study rhythm, it enables systematic learning.
It makes you focus on one topic before you move on to the next.
At the end of your exam prep, there's a lot of time planned for revision. In special circumstances, it may act as a buffer against your failure to study all the topics. You may choose to devote less time to revision, which is not an ideal situation but it reduces the risk of failing to cover the whole study material.
ONE BIG drawback:
If for a couple of months you study topic by topic and you revise the material only in the last month before your exam, you completely ignore one thing which is extremely important from the perspective of a learner. This thing is forgetting curve >> only when you resist its harmful effect can you have good CFA exam prep with all topics covered and properly reviewed.
Impact of Forgetting Curve on Knowledge Retention
The forgetting curve – which is shown in the graph below – makes us realize that the retention of information drastically decreases as time passes.
How to improve your knowledge retention?
Develop ways to actively put yourself in touch with what you’ve already studied. Do tests, watch videos, write index cards & stick them around, use flashcards, read summaries of the study content, take notes.
All this on a regular basis!
It helps you retain the most crucial information as it systematically challenges your memory. It comes as no surprise that it is better for you to revise more often for shorter time spans than to have one long revision just before the exam.
Bearing all this in mind, we give you CFA Exam Study Planner that helps you fight against forgetting.
CFA Exam Study Planning Against Forgetting
Our CFA exam study planning approach is based on 6 assumptions:
- Reorganize the CFA exam topics into the optimal sequence.
- Plan plenty of short revision sessions all throughout your exam prep.
- When revising topics, accumulate the revised material by going back also to the previous topics (even if just for a while).
- Do many exam-type questions to get familiar with the form of your CFA exam.
- Secure some time for a proper pre-exam revision.
- Do as many mock exams as possible before your exam.
The importance of these 6 points just cannot be overstated and that's why:
- Some CFA exam topics are more important and/or difficult than others. You don't want to neglect the most important and the hardest level 1 topics.
- You best remember what you studied just after you studied it. If you review the material on a daily or weekly basis, you react against the detrimental impact of the forgetting curve.
- Topics are often correlated with each other. By reviewing them in groups, you can see this correlation, which enhances your learning and understanding. Plus, once again, you show some respect for the forgetting curve.
- Getting used to the form of CFA exam makes you more confident on the exam day. It's a boost that can often decide about your success.
- Even if you revise on a regular basis, a proper pre-exam revision is a must! Why? See no. 6 below.
- It's too risky to leave mock exams for the last week before your exam. You should do as many mocks as possible over the last couple of weeks before the exam. Worried that you haven't dealt with all of the topics yet? Well, you can still fight against time and do your readings but also make sure you get enough practice.
CFA Exam Study Planner That Meets Your Needs
These 6 assumptions formed the basis for our CFA Exam Study Planner 4.0 (with the recommended topic sequence):
The topic sequence applied is not random. 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. And if for a reason you don't like this topic sequence, you can easily arrange your own topic order using your Study Plan options available in the PLAN view of your schedule.
Recommended CFA Exam Topic Sequence:
- Quantitative Methods (QM),
- Portfolio Management (PM),
- Financial Reporting and Analysis (FRA),
- Corporate Finance (CF),
- Fixed Income (FI),
- Equity Investments (EI),
- Derivative Investments (DI),
- Alternative Investments (AI),
- Economics (ECO),
- Ethics (ETH),
You are asked to focus on your weekly tasks, including both CFA exam readings and review sessions (to have regular review scheduled go for the paid version of your study plan, now available at pay-what-you-can prices). To aid your revision, there are free & paid tools available inside the study planner.
There are 5 topic revision sessions, each accumulating topics into groups. This way the topics covered first are revised most often while the topics covered just before the exam are revised once (you should remember them well enough). Note that if you change your preferred topic sequence, the topic revision groups & order will adjust accordingly.
CFA Exam Topic Revision Groups:
- Group I: QM+PM
- Group II: QM+PM+FRA+CF
- Group III: QM+PM+FRA+CF+FI+EI
- Group IV: QM+PM+FRA+CF+FI+EI+DI+AI
- Group V: ECO+ETH
Inside your Free Study Plan, you will find some free exam-type questions. And even more of them in the paid version of our CFA Exam Study Planner.
It all wraps up with a proper Final Review! Its length is proportional to your whole CFA exam prep.
During the Final Review, some revision tasks are suggested to you such as mocks or formulas review (use our Test App or Formulas App, respectively).
Below, you will find a sample 4.5-month level 1 CFA exam study plan that follows all the above-mentioned assumptions. Moreover, you can have your own personalized study plan, with your own deadlines and topic sequence but the same study planning approach.
4.5-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Study + Review Plan
START on 5 April 2021
1st Study Block (5/Apr – 27/Apr)
- Quantitative Methods
- Portfolio Management
- QM+PM Review
2nd Study Block (28/Apr – 28/May)
- Financial Reporting & Analysis
- Corporate Finance
- FRA+CF Review
- QM+PM Review
3rd Study Block (29/May – 20/June)
- Fixed Income
- Equity Investments
- FI+EI Review
- QM+PM+FRA+CF Review
4th Study Block (21/June – 3/July)
- Derivative Investments
- Alternative Investments
- DI+AI Review
- QM+PM+FRA+CF+FI+EI Review
5th Study Block (4/July – 25/July)
- ECO+ETH Review
FINAL REVIEW:26 July – 13 Aug 2021
END on 13 August 2021
The August 2021 level 1 exam window lasts from 13 to 30 Aug 2021. So, you can have from 3 to 5 weeks of – what we call – Final Review. Basically that's when you should do as many mock exams as possible!
August 2021 Level 1 CFA Exam Deadlines Timetable
|Level 1 Topic||You CFA Exam Deadline|
|Quantitative Methods||15 Apr 2021|
|Portfolio Management||25 Apr 2021|
|QM+PM Review||27 Apr 2021|
|Financial Reporting and Analysis||18 May 2021|
|Corporate Finance||25 May 2021|
|FRA+CF Review||28 May 2021|
|QM+PM Review||28 May 2021|
|Fixed Income||9 June 2021|
|Equity Investments||15 June 2021|
|FI+EI Review||20 June 2021|
|QM+PM+FRA+CF Review||20 June 2021|
|Derivative Investments||25 June 2021|
|Alternative Investments||27 June 2021|
|DI+AI Review||3 July 2021|
|QM+PM+FRA+CF+FI+EI Review||3 July 2021|
|Economics||13 July 2021|
|Ethics||23 July 2021|
|ECO+ETH Review||25 July 2021|
|Final Review||13 Aug 2021|
If you set up your personalized study plan,
the deadlines will get adjusted.
Here’s a sample level 1 CFA exam study schedule as displayed in our new Study Planner 4.0:
You will 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 plan using both your Study Plan personalization options and the DRAG & DROP feature.
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). At the end of the week, your hard work will be evaluated (hit the SUM UP button).
Editor's Note: In June 2020, this post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Last Update: March 31, 2021