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

CFA exam / Study plans / Level 1 NOV 2021, 3-month


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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 (NOV 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.

November 2021 Level 1 CFA Exam Topic Weights


CFA Exam Topic Weight Ranges:

  • Ethics: 15-20%,
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis: 13-17%,
  • Fixed Income: 10-12%,
  • Equity Investments: 10-12%,
  • Quantitative Methods: 8-12%,
  • Economics: 8-12%,
  • Corporate Finance: 8-12%,
  • Derivative Investments: 5-8%,
  • Alternative Investments: 5-8%,
  • Portfolio Management: 5-8%.

The graph presents the topic weights for the upcoming NOV 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 QM, PM, FRA, CF, FI, EI, DI, AI, ECO, Ethics.

So, first comes moderate 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. As far as Ethics go – you can do it either at the beginning or at the end of your prep. You can go for the Soleadea Topic Sequence when you set up your CFA exam study plan or you can quickly DRAG&DROP topics in your study plan options to get your desired topic order.


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:

\(\text{E}=\frac{\text{W}\times\text{180 questions}}{\text{N}}\times\text{100 pages}\)

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 9.2, it means that in the exam you will find about 9 questions per every 100 pages on Ethics in the Curriculum.


CFA Exam Topics Efficiency:

  • Alternative Investments: 16.1,
  • Derivative Investments: 9.5,
  • Corporate Finance: 9.3,
  • Ethics: 9.2,
  • Equity Investments: 6.9,
  • Fixed Income: 5.4,
  • Quantitative Methods: 5.3,
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis: 4,
  • Economics: 4,
  • Portfolio Management: 3.2.

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 choosing the topic sequence or using the DRAG&DROP feature to quickly move CFA exam readings across study weeks (go to the PLAN view of your study schedule).


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 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 August, 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 August 2021

1st Study Block (16/Aug – 31/Aug)

  • Quantitative Methods
  • Portfolio Management
  • QM+PM Review

2nd Study Block (1/Sept – 19/Sept)

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

3rd Study Block (20/Sept – 3/Oct)

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

4th Study Block (4/Oct – 10/Oct)

  • Derivative Investments
  • Alternative Investments
  • DI+AI Review
  • QM+PM+FRA+CF+FI+EI Review

5th Study Block (11/Oct – 24/Oct)

  • Ethics
  • Economics
  • ECO+ETH Review

FINAL REVIEW: 25 Oct – 15 Nov 2021

END on 15 November 2021


The NOV 2021 level 1 exam window lasts from 16 to 22 November 2021. 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!


3-Month Level 1 CFA Exam Study Plan Timetabled


Level 1 CFA Exam Topics NOV 2021 Study Deadlines
Quantitative Methods 22 Aug 2021
Portfolio Management 29 Aug 2021
QM+PM Review 31 Aug 2021
Financial Reporting and Analysis 11 Sept 2021
Corporate Finance 17 Sept 2021
FRA+CF Review 19 Sept 2021
QM+PM Review 19 Sept 2021
Fixed Income 26 Sept 2021
Equity Investments 1 Oct 2021
FI+EI Review 3 Oct 2021
QM+PM+FRA+CF Review 3 Oct 2021
Derivative Investments 6 Oct 2021
Alternative Investments 8 Oct 2021
DI+AI Review 10 Oct 2021
QM+PM+FRA+CF+FI+EI Review 10 Oct 2021
Economics 17 Oct 2021
Ethics 22 Oct 2021
ECO+ETH Review 24 Oct 2021
Final Review 15 Nov 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 CFA Exam Study Planner, which allows you to organize your personalized CFA exam preparation successfully.
  7. Not everyone can be a superhero ;).

Here’s a sample level 1 CFA exam study schedule as displayed in our new Study Planner 4.0:

CFA Exam Study Planner: PLAN VIEW

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

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).



Last Update: July 12, 2021



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