Updated: April 11, 2023

CFA exam / Study Plan / Motivation

If you’re gonna study for your CFA exam, motivation is what you’ll need. Strong motivation. Not a kind of motivation that fades away halfway through studying. The kind of exam motivation that keeps you both alert and satisfied from the start to the end of your prep.

No motivation to study?

Read this blog post on how to stay motivated, especially if what you tend to think during your exam prep could be summarized as “Oh no, I’m dropping out! Again!”. I hope you’ll find some tips on how to improve your motivation and some useful tools for developing a good study routine.

Motivation to Study for CFA Exam

What is a study plan without execution? It’s like having a cure and deciding not to take it. But you can have a CFA exam study plan that works and that can help your persistent CFA exam pain, which is the lack of MOTIVATION! Read on to find out all about it.


So, you have your personalized study plan. All you need to do now is to stay committed to your new study schedule.

Easier said than done, huh?

But I’m here to tell you it’s actually possible and show you how. Of course, the key is maintained, ongoing motivation. Add it to your study plan and you earn execution:


With motivation – however – the story’s rather tricky.

Your Motivation Is Laughing
At You

Your motivation is at its peak only at 2 points of your CFA exam prep:

  • at the very beginning
  • and
  • at the very end.

In other words – it is the highest when you make the decision to sit for the CFA exam and just before the exam is due. Meanwhile, your motivation tends to be lower (often much lower…) and usually hits its bottom halfway through your preparation period. Ironically, this phenomenon can be illustrated with a happy smile...

Motivation Smile :D

Your Study Motivation Smiles at You :D

Your motivation is high after you register for your exam
and shortly before you take it.

No wonder it’s hard to notice when things start to go bad and you start dropping out (actually, the odds are you’ll notice that a bit too late...).

How to Stay Highly Motivated to Study

This is why you need constant encouragement. To keep your motivation strong.

But how to stay highly motivated with several months of CFA exam prep ahead of you? With procrastination as your enemy and too many more "urgent" tasks than studying? To persist, you should take advantage of both:

  • internal motivation
  • and
  • external motivation.

Internal motivation is your drive to study and perform that you can find inside yourself. Just think about why you registered for your CFA exam in the first place. Surely because you saw it as something relevant to you. Because becoming a CFA charterholder means growth to you as a professional and is an important milestone in your career path.

Passing your CFA exam is your Great Goal with a big G. It would be perfect if you kept it in front of your eyes all the time while getting ready for your exam. Thus, constantly enhancing your internal motivation to help you get going with your preparation day by day.

However, internal motivation is extremely difficult to maintain. It’s more natural for those with self-desire to seek out new challenges, gain knowledge, and become their better selves. All in the name of growth for the growth’s sake (so: perfect for those we named the Growers last time).

But if your internal motivation is too weak, you can also rely on external motivation. It will trigger your drive to success by making your goal more attractive and worth achieving.

One such outer stimulus is a bigger salary as you reach this important milestone in your career path and get promoted thanks to passing your CFA exam. However, this money motivation is quite distant and – once again – can be insufficient to keep you motivated on an ongoing basis.

Does it mean then there’s no reliable way to stay continually motivated over the days, weeks, and months of your CFA exam prep?

Of course, there’s a way!

You need to seek external incentives that would have the power to repeatedly trigger your motivation. Here and now. As you're preparing for your CFA exam. Because to achieve your Great Goal, you need to stay motivated not just for some time after you register for the exam and before you actually take it. You need to stay motivated every week of your preparation.

Not to drop out but to stay in the game. And to execute what you’ve planned!

Motivation Smile :)

CFA Exam Motivation Smile :)

A small drop in your motivation over time is probably just natural :)

Finding Motivation to Study

The metaphor of a game is not accidental here.

To accomplish your Great Goal and pass your CFA exam – you’ll want to achieve a sum of small goals. Just like with a game – to win, you need to score a number of points that totals up to your victory.

Great Goal = the sum of small goals

These small goals that will enable you to achieve your Great Goal and pass your CFA exam are your weekly reading assignments – all scheduled in your personalized study plan the way you need it.

While doing these readings – you score (I explain below), which obviously increases your chance to succeed in your CFA exam (unless your rival – :De-motivation – scores more...). Yep. To play a winning game here, you need to employ your MOTIVATION and make it work for you non-stop on 2 layers: of long enough and good enough preparation. Just like sports champions spend long quality training hours before they win, you need to spend long quality study hours before you pass your exam.

But what does it mean long quality study hours? How many hours is long enough? And what quality is good enough?

Long Enough CFA Exam Motivation

It is repeated like a sacred mantra that you need approximately 300 study hours to get prepared for each level of your CFA exam. This overall number doesn’t tell you though how much you should be studying per day, week, and month to get yourself well prepared. And this detailed knowledge is something that would benefit you much more than the sacred 300 hours.

That is why – in your CFA exam study plan – you’ll find benchmark study times that tell you how much time approximately you should spend doing all of the readings that are scheduled for your current study week (each reading is also given its benchmark time!).

For those of you who like challenges, these benchmark study times may motivate you to study the recommended amount of time. As you study over the week, you will also see your achievements in real time because the weekly benchmark study times are divided into done & not done. The former grows as the latter falls every time you do your reading completely or partially (and change the reading’s status to done or partially done in your study plan).


CFA exam readings execution

How long exactly you need to study weekly for your CFA exam depends on several factors: some technical ones (e.g. how many weeks there are until the exam) and some individual ones (e.g. how much you already know about the topic).

The benchmark study times that you get are meant as a hint for you – to give you both the accountability and flexibility that you need. And, above all, to encourage you to keep on executing your study plan despite difficulties.

SMALL NOTE ON DAILY STUDY HOURS: To see how many hours you should aim at on a daily basis, all you need to do is choose your study days (e.g. Mon., Wed., Sat.) and divide the weekly benchmark study times by the number of your study days (e.g. 3) – you’ll get your estimated daily study session time.


Your weekly benchmark study time is the total sum of the times given for each reading that is scheduled in your current study week.

Good Enough CFA Exam Motivation

To be executed, a good study plan requires data. And calculation. There is no calculation-free planning as such.

Using the study time estimations given inside your study schedule, you can calculate how well you’re doing over the week. You can also adjust your execution accordingly, especially if you’re not doing that well... And while there’s nothing wrong with one poor study week (it can happen to anyone), there’s a problem if it becomes a rule.

That is why a measure that shows your progress from week to week is built into your CFA exam study plan. It’s called Chance-to-Pass because obviously if you execute your study plan in the long run – your chance to pass your CFA exam increases, and if you don’t – it decreases.


CFA Exam Study Planner, PROGRESS VIEW

In the way it works, the Chance-to-Pass measure has its motivational aspect (find it in the PROGRESS view of your Study Plan). By growing – it rewards those who are consistent in their study plan execution, and by falling – it rightly punishes for inconsistency and procrastination. You can see your Chance-to-Pass growing or falling after each study week as you sum up your weekly tasks, e.g., every Sunday.


  • 1. Sum up your current study week on Sunday.
  • 2. State if your readings are done, partially done, or not done.
  • 3. See how much your Chance-to-Pass has increased or decreased.

A systematic summary of your study weeks is something that always affects your Chance-to-Pass positively because it shows your commitment and determination – the qualities you need to develop for successful study plan execution.

But Chance-to-Pass also gives you a wider than weekly perspective – by tracking your progress from week to week, it shows you in advance if you’re headed for a good month study-wise, or not. And gives you the opportunity to react just in time, not to drop out again! Because you need to keep up your good work over all the months of your exam prep, not just the first 2 weeks or so.


Your Chance-to-Pass is a detailed measure that reveals your progress and attitude.

Unbelievable how much motivation and information about your study plan execution you can get simply by observing your benchmark study times and Chance-to-Pass score. But I bet you’re asking one thing now: What do I do exactly to carry on with my readings and see my benchmark study times go down day by day and my Chance-to-Pass go up week by week?

Building Your Long’n’Good Study Routine

Good study planning requires not only data. It also requires tactics.

You need to plan what to study, when to study, where to study, and how to study best.

In other words, you need to develop your study routine. One that fits in your weekly agenda and responds to your study needs.

That’s why – together with your study schedule – comes a series of motivational messages and study tips. Sent to your inbox, they inspire you to persist with studying and help you execute successfully!

A successful study routine is a combination of 2 factors: high motivation & good performance. In fact, all the motivation incentives that come together with your new study plan are motivation-oriented and performance-related.


  • 1. BENCHMARK STUDY TIMES these recommended study times are given to let you know how much on average other candidates spend studying a certain reading and they push you to do the same,
  • 2. CHANCE-TO-PASS this individual measure is based on quantitative data (done vs not done readings) and it shows both your progress and your attitude,
  • 3. MESSAGING a series of motivational messages sent to you to urge you to execute your study plan weekly and not to drop out... 'cos falling behind is not an option for you!

Now, with the flexi benchmark times, detailed progress measure, and study tips that help to build your study routine = you know how to execute + you stay motivated all throughout your CFA exam preparation period .

More About Quality Performance

Do you know what else motivates students, whatever exam they study for? Talking about growth.

Because talking about growth makes us aim higher and do better – no matter if we’re more of a Fixer or more of a Grower. In other words, it makes no difference if with your fixed mindset you care more for achievement or with your growth mindset you choose the challenge. Talking about growth always makes you improve.

I would like to motivate you to be your better self and encourage you to learn how to learn so as to optimize your study time and study results.

To get to know how to outdo yourself and get the best prep ever – one that maximizes learning and minimizes forgetting – read my next post. Because the ultimate goal for your study time is to have quality .

Yours, Margaret

About Soleadea:

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