How to Prepare for Feb 2021 Level 1 CFA® Exam in 3 Months?

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3-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan: Intro

This post tells you how to efficiently prepare a 3-month CFA exam study plan. Apart from the study schedule, below you will also find 4 level 1 CFA exam topic categorizations (Feb 2021 topic weights ranges included) together with some relevant exam preparation hints designed to let you make the most of the upcoming 3 months.



What Kind of Learner Are You?

To equip you with the right mindset for the next 3 months preceding your CFA exam, we begin with a BIG question:

ARE YOU A SUPERHERO?

Very Important: Your aim after reading this post is to accept who you are. Possible choices: natural learner vs supernatural learner:

  • I am a supernatural learner possessing intellectual skills worth a superhero.
  • I am a natural learner, which means I can acquire any kind of knowledge if I have enough time (as for my CFA exam, I would make do with these 3 months).

YES! There are (only) 3 months left before the exam is due. This implies lots of hard work for natural learners. For supernatural ones, it presumably makes no difference ;).

Have you ever heard a story how someone passed their CFA exam having studied for only [choose the option applicable to the story]:
6 weeks/4 weeks/2 weeks
?

We have.

And we know what it is when we hear it. A fairy tale!

It’s surely better to take it that you are not a superhero kind of learner and NEVER BELIEVE SUCH FAIRY TALES! This kind of devil-may-care scenario simply has no happy ending.

If you dream of a happy ending for yourself, take your CFA exam prep (and the exam itself) seriously. Otherwise, you may as well join the 25% of candidates who do not even show up for the exam because they know they did far too little to pass.



Level 1 CFA Exam Topic Categorizations

To prepare for your level 1 CFA exam, you need to study 10 topics. They can be handled using different techniques. Below, you can find 3 possible level 1 topic categorizations we prepared for you (plus 1 you will be guided how to create on your own).

Level 1 CFA exam topics can be divided using 3 criteria:

  • exam weights,
  • difficulty,
  • efficiency.

When you prepare to take your CFA exam, it's best if you apply a mix of the criteria to rationally plan how long to study each of the topics.

February 2021 Level 1 CFA Exam Topic Weights



The graph presents the topic weights for the upcoming Feb 2021 exam, now given in ranges. The most significant topics, i.e. given the highest-weight, are:

  • Ethics, with the exam weight even as high as 20% (note that ethical issues are important in the exam also because of the ethics adjustment), and
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis, with the exam weight ranging from 13% to 17%.

Then comes another group of topics with the same moderate weight range between 10% and 12%, namely Fixed Income and Equity Investments.

Economics, Quantitative Methods, and Corporate Finance closely follow with their weight ranging from 8% to 12%.

The last group is made of 3 topics given less weight. These are Portfolio Management, Derivative Investments, and Alternative Investments. Each topic weight amounts from 5% to 8%.


Exam preparation hint

Spend more time on the topics with higher weights – the higher the weight, the greater the number of topic questions per exam session.


Level 1 Topics & Their Difficulty

Another criterion used to categorize CFA exam topics is their difficulty. Contrary to the weight criterion, this one is subjective, which means that the classification we propose below may not work for you.

Our division is based on our observations during the courses we provided, as well as the opinions of Soleadea users given mostly through questionnaires.

According to this classification, we distinguish 3 groups of topics: difficult, moderate, and easy. Note that the sequence of topics is very important here: the higher the position, the more difficult the topic.



How do we define difficulty?

If a topic is said to be difficult, it means that the concepts it covers are considered difficult. It does not have to mean it will take you long to acquire the topic.

Just the opposite, if you easily grasp mathematical concepts but you find it difficult to memorize things and learn them by heart, you may feel that Equity Investments is a greater challenge to you than Fixed Income.

Difficult topics:

  1. Fixed Income (FI),
  2. Financial Reporting and Analysis (FRA),
  3. Derivative Investments (DI) – a positive thing about DI is that although its concepts are difficult, level 1 exam questions often prove much easier + there are only 2 DI readings in your CFA Program Curriculum.

Moderate topics:

  1. Ethics,
  2. Economics (ECO),
  3. Quantitative Methods (QM).

Easy topics:

  1. Portfolio Management (PM),
  2. Corporate Finance (CF),
  3. Alternative Investments (AI),
  4. Equity Investments (EI).

Based on topics difficulty, we proposed what we call Soleadea Topic Sequence, where we mix moderate, difficult, and easy topics plus – when possible – put topics thematically into pairs, namely Ethics, QM, PM, FRA, CF, FI, EI, DI, AI, ECO.

So, first come 2 moderate topics: Ethics and QM, then easy PM. FRA being difficult is matched thematically with easy CF, and so is difficult FI and easy EI. Last but not least, there is difficult but short DI followed by easy, bite-sized AI, and moderate ECO. You can choose this sequence when setting up your free CFA exam study plan here (or you can choose the CFA Program Curriculum topic sequence).


Exam preparation hint

If you happen to REALLY struggle with something while studying, be careful not to lose too much time on it. Instead, consider leaving it out (at least for the time being) in favor of other concepts & problems. Go back to it when you feel you can afford it.


Efficiency of Level 1 CFA Exam Topics

The last classification we are going to present is about the efficiency of the topics.

Efficiency is understood as an average number of exam questions for a given topic per 100 pages of the CFA Program Curriculum and it is calculated using the following equation:

\(\text{E}=\frac{\text{W}\times\text{240 questions}}{\text{N}}\times\text{100 pages}\)

Where:

  • E – topic efficiency,
  • W – topic weight,
  • N – no. of pages on a topic in the CFA Program Curriculum.

For example, if the efficiency for Ethics is 12, it means that in the exam you will find about 12 questions per every 100 pages on Ethics in the Curriculum.


Exam preparation hint

If during your exam preparation you feel that you have to give up on certain topics, make sure that Portfolio Management and Economics are the first to drop out. Do not give up on other topics too easily! (Also, remember to catch up before your level 2 exam...)


Your CFA Exam Topics Classification

The last division is yours to decide.

For example, you should consider your previous knowledge of topics. If you took your finance course at university or you work in finance, you will definitely know some topics better than the others.

You must take this into account while arranging your 3-month study plan. Because every candidate has different knowledge background and, thus, different study needs. While exam weights or topic efficiency are objective criteria, there is a number of subjective factors such as topic difficulty or fluency that are equally crucial when you plan your CFA exam preparation. We know this and that's why we enable our users to easily customize their study plans by using the DRAG&DROP feature in the All Weeks view of the CFA exam study schedule. Use it to quickly move CFA exam readings across your study weeks!


Exam preparation hint

When planning your CFA exam prep, take into consideration what you already know.



LEVEL 1 CURRICULUM = over 3000 pages

Are You a Superhero?

If NOT get down to work now using our Free CFA Exam Study Planner.

YES? Quit the CFA exam & save the world like superheroes do .


3-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan

If you plan to start your CFA exam prep as of 16 November, you will get a study schedule exactly like the one below. Of course, unless you choose to personalize it... and personalize you should! By all means, we recommend you to choose topic difficulty or tick off the already-studied readings. 'Cos a personalized study plan is what you need! Let the one below be a sample 3-month schedule then...


START on 16 November 2020

1st Study Block (16 Nov – 8 Dec)

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

2nd Study Block (9 Dec – 3 Jan )

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

3rd Study Block (4 Jan – 19 Jan )

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

4th Study Block (20 Jan – 7 Feb)

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

FINAL REVIEW (8-19 February 2021)

END on 19 February 2021


The Feb 2021 exam window has been extended >> it now lasts from 16 Feb to 1 March 2021.


3-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan Timetabled


Level 1 CFA Exam Topics Study Deadlines
Ethics 20 Nov 2020
Quantitative Methods 28 Nov 2020
Portfolio Management 6 Dec 2020
QM+PM Review 8 Dec 2020
Financial Reporting and Analysis 23 Dec 2020
Corporate Finance 30 Dec 2020
FRA+CF Review 3 Jan 2021
QM+PM Review 3 Jan 2021
Fixed Income 10 Jan 2021
Equity Investments 17 Jan 2021
FI+EI Review 19 Jan 2021
QM+PM+FRA+CF Review 19 Jan 2021
Derivative Investments 24 Jan 2021
Alternative Investments 27 Jan 2021
Economics 5 Feb 2021
DI+AI+ECO Review 7 Feb 2021
Ethics Summary 7 Feb 2021
Final Review 19 Feb 2021

NOTE: If you set up your personalized study plan,
the deadlines will get adjusted.


7-Point Summary

Let us recapitulate the key things you need to remember after reading this post:

  1. There are 3 months left no time to lose before the exam.
  2. You should spend more time on the topics with higher weights in the exam – the higher the weight, the greater the number of topic questions per exam session.
  3. If you happen to REALLY struggle with something while studying, be careful not to lose too much time on it. Instead, consider leaving it out (at least for the time being) in favor of other concepts & problems. Go back to it when you feel you can afford it.
  4. If during your exam preparation you feel that you have to give up on certain topics, make sure that Portfolio Management and Economics are the first to drop out (see efficiency). Do not give up on other topics too easily! (Also, remember to catch up before your level 2 exam...)
  5. When planning your CFA exam prep, take into consideration what you already know.
  6. Soleadea offers a free CFA Exam Study Planner, which allows you to organize your personalized CFA exam preparation successfully.
  7. Not everyone can be a superhero ;).

Below you can see both All Weeks and Current Week views of your 3-month study plan:


LEVEL 1 CFA EXAM Study Plan: 3 Months, All Weeks

Level 1 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.


LEVEL 1 CFA EXAM Study Plan: Current Week

Level 1 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).



Last Update: Oct 22, 2020



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