PUBLISHED: Nov 25, 2019

CFA exam / Study plans



Creating CFA Study Plan in 8 Steps

How to Create
Your CFA 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 study plan, we’re first responding to the following 3 queries:

  1. How long does it take to prepare for CFA Level 1?
  2. How many months do you need to study for CFA Level 1?
  3. How do I prepare for CFA Level 1?

How Long Does It Take to Prepare for CFA Level 1?

CFA level 1 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 CFA Level 1?

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.

NOTE: Most of CFA June 2020 candidates will start to prepare in January, which gives them 5 months of study time. While the New Year is usually the starting point for June exam prep, there’s no one obvious study trigger for Dec candidates.


7 Monthly Variants of 300-hour CFA Study Plan


How Many Months
for CFA Level 1
No. of Weeks CFA Study Hours
per Week
Planning Your Study Hours
(our ideas)
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
OR
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-monthsthe 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 CFA 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 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 study plan you’ll want to take different things into consideration, CFA topics difficulty being one of them.


How do I Prepare for CFA Level 1?

When preparing for your CFA level 1 exam, you’ll need to consider various aspects of your exam prep. They all fall under these 3 CFA 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 CFA 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 study plan?


How to Create Your CFA Study Plan?

How to Create
Your CFA Study Plan?

When creating your CFA study plan, you need to decide on the:

  1. exam prep time span,
  2. topic difficulty,
  3. exact study hours, aka. study routine,
  4. 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 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 CFA topics. Before you set up your CFA topics deadlines, remember to secure some time for the final revision before the exam, e.g. for mocks.


2. CFA TOPICS DIFFICULTY

How difficult are CFA topics to you? Depending on the exam level, topics have different exam weights, length (no. of pages in the CFA 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.

Click here to see changes

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 STUDY ROUTINE

As soon as the deadlines and precise study times for your CFA 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.



Creating a CFA Study Plan in 8 Steps:


Creating a CFA Study Plan
in 8 Steps:

  1. Decide how many months you’re going to study.
  2. Think if over these months you need any weeks off studying.
  3. Secure some time for the final revision before the exam.
  4. Deduct your "weeks off" and the "final revision" and divide your available study time into study weeks.
  5. Allocate weeks to CFA topics – consider topics difficulty when setting your CFA topics deadlines.
  6. Count how many study hours you need to spend doing each of the topics.
  7. Take out your calendar and think what days exactly you can study and how many hours (remember: you have the minimum of 300 hrs total to distribute).
  8. Factor in some regular revision sessions (make it 300+ hrs).

SET UP FREE CFA STUDY PLAN FREE CFA Study Plan

We have thought of all 8 steps!





4. MEANS TO EXECUTE YOUR STUDY SCHEDULE

As soon as you’ve created your CFA 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 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:

CFA Study Planner 3.0: Weekly Summaries & Improved Chance to Pass Score CFA Study Planner 3.0: Benchmark Study Times and more


  1. color statuses for CFA readings (grey – not yet done, yellow – partially done, green – done, red – overdue)
  2. weekly summaries of your study weeks (best done on Sundays)
  3. drag-n-drop & after-summary edition modes for flexibility and wise time management
  4. benchmark study times for CFA readings that factor in the readings’ length and level of difficulty based on our expert’s assessment
  5. benchmark study times for all your study weeks that count in your subjective assessment of CFA topics difficulty (given while creating the study plan)
  6. 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)
  7. motivational messages we can send to your e-mail telling you how to develop and improve your study routine
  8. 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 CFA ethics standards, and regular revision sessions in addition to your study sessions
  9. 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, 1700+ questions, 50+ review tests, 40+ printable e-books (notes)
    • LEVEL 2: 40+ hrs of videos, 300+ questions (=50+ item sets), 14+ printable e-books (notes)

    Plus, inside your CFA 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:


CFA Exam Prep Algorithm - 5 Steps for Quality Learning


How do you get a CFA Reading done using these 5 steps?

You take our CFA Notes e-Book for the 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 Curriculum. You read the CFA Reading there and add your own notes to the printed CFA 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 CFA 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 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 CFA study plans, both for level 1 and level 2 candidates. In total: 10 CFA 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 CFA exam prep seriously. For example, you will find information about 4 CFA topics categorizations (3-month post), 3 main reasons why you may fail your exam (5-month L1 post), or the strong and weak points you have (8-month post).


CFA Level 1 Study Plans for June 2020 Exam

No. of Months

START

END

8 months read more

7 Oct 2019

5 June 2020

7 months read more

4 Nov 2019

5 June 2020

6 months read more

2 Dec 2019

5 June 2020

5 months read more

6 Jan 2020

5 June 2020

4.5 months read more

20 Jan 2020

5 June 2020

4 months read more

3 Feb 2020

5 June 2020

3 months read more

March 2020

5 June 2020

2 months read more

Apr 2020

5 June 2020


CFA Level 2 Study Plans for June 2020 Exam

No. of Months

START

END

5 months read more

6 Jan 2020

5 June 2020

4 months read more

3 Feb 2020

5 June 2020


With our CFA 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 Study Planner enables you to tick off the ‘already-studied’ readings. Finally, you can use this study plan with your CFA Curriculum or other prep providers’ materials. But we frankly think our study tools also come in handy.