My recommended CFA exam study schedule

CFA is really hard to get.
What makes me laugh is to read on forum how easy it is to get prepared for it (2 months look like being overtime to many people). Well in the end, people writing these posts might be very smart, but only around 30% manage to pass level I and merely 50% for level II and III (knowing that these people have already successfully passed level I, ie. they do know it’s not a piece of cake at all => population is not the same => 50% pass-rate cannot be compared directly to 35% passrate of level I).

These pass rates are already quite low, keep in mind that CFA Institute does not take into account no-show people when computing it. => It’s really 35% of people who did sit down at the exam day (and not 35% of people registered to take the exam, ie. passrate would be lower than that!). More over, on average it requires 5 years for candidates to pass all three exams…

What’s the conclusion of all of the above? Passing CFA exams is not a piece of cake, but it’s not unachievable either.
You just need to be organized and dedicated.

Basis for my schedule

My  own experience.
I’ve successfully passed level I, and right now I am ending 5th book of level II, about to start the 6th (and last book) to hopefully pass the june 2010 level II exam.

Basically, content for level II (6 books) is as enormous as content for level I (6 books too) => I expect it to be the same for level III.

My schedule is also loosely based on CFA study recommendations:

  • not less than one week per “study session” (there are currently 18 of them in both level I and II)
  • keep 4 weeks prior to exam date to be able to assess your weaknesses (using mock exams) and focus on these areas

I personnaly agree with above two recommendations (less than one week per session is hard to achieve and makes forget data quicker).


Keep in mind the following aspects:

  • slow reader: yes, I am a slow reader (I was born like this) so you might be able to read quicker than me
  • tendancy to overprepare: I always overprepare exams, in the end rating closer to 90% than the required 70% sthg pass rate. Reasons for this are first that I don’t like being wrong | not knowing an answer, second is that I find it more interesting to study to increase my knowledge than rather pass the exam (=> I don’t target the minimum pass rate) and third (there’s always a third point), I cannot ignore the content of a single page (=> I don’t read only summaries, but almost all pages from all the six books of cbok – except for the index ;-))
  • background: my own personal experience is that I needed far much hours of work than recommended by CFA Institute (this might depend on your background – financial in my case – and your profession/experience)
  • strategy: mine is that it’s better to work very hard and get the exam the same year rather than work less harder and have the possibility to fail => then you will need to work hard one more year (and waiting one year is quite long!) to be able to give it another try. So play safe, try to nail it on your first attempt, it will be more profitable in the end.

My recommended schedule

These schedules are indicative only, you should adapt them to your own case and not follow the religiously.

I identify two different scenarios:

[You can study full time]

If you’re in this case, ie. you can study CFA full time, then my advice is to :

  • register as soon as possible (to get the best discount!)
  • start your study 3 months plus two weeks before exam date
  • review content at average speed of 1 book every half month (=> 2 books per month * 3 months = 6 books + 2 weeks for reviewing content)
    it’s true that some books are far bigger than others, but it’s just an average. It might be better to follow your schedule per study session (90 days (= 3 months) / 18 sessions = 5 days per study session) I don’t recommend going lower than 5 days per study session
  • within last two weeks:
    1. review all summaries from all books
    2. redo all exercices from all books
    3. perform mock-exams
    4. review your areas of weaknesses (identified with mock-exams and redone exercices)
    5. perform sample exams
    6. review all summaries from all books
    7. you’re ready!

[You’re working and cannot study full time]

  • first of all, avoid the ‘bully’ strategy (ie. studying a lot, incl. taking holidays, right before the exam, and not long before) instead prefer studying constantly a couple hours every days (wake up one hour earlier and sleep one hour later) and more intensively the week end, during a longer period (learned content will go to long-term memory rather than short-term memory)
  • register as soon as possible (ie. september) to get the best discount!
  • start studying 31 weeks prior to exam date
  • try to learn 2 study sessions every 3 weeks (ie. 1.5 week per study session), ie. 18 * 3 / 2 = 27 weeks. For some sessions, one week will be enough, for others two weeks might be necessary (esp. if you’re under hard time at work)
    hint: try to go a little bit faster than 1.5 week per study session since you might need the equivalent of 4 standalone weeks to review already finished books each time you finish a new book
  • use the last 4 weeks to:
    1. review all summaries from all books
    2. redo all exercices from all books
    3. perform mock-exams
    4. review your areas of weaknesses (identified with mock-exams and redone exercices)
    5. perform sample exams
    6. review all summaries from all books
    7. you’re ready!

Whatever your profile is (full time|part time), you should try your best to avoid ‘learn & forget’ effect.
Do the following:

  • study regularly (every days – even if it’s just to review already learned content)
  • prior to starting your new readings, review the (summary of) last 3 readings (ie. a moving average)
  • each time you finish a book, review all readings within all previously finished books (recently finished one included)
  • redo all the exercises from the entire book finished right before recently finished book

Do your best not to be late on your schedule, otherwise it will hard to catch up.
Well, that being said, good luck.

67 Comments: Trackback URL | Comments RSS

  1. sanchit Says:

    Thanks Buddy.....This was useful...
  2. Vishal Says:

    Real good work thanks for taking out time to write this
  3. nishant Says:

    Thanx bro.....I will try n apply ur strategies.
  4. Alok Says:

    thanx,, its really helpful
  5. Jason Says:

    Great tips.. it goes to show that theres no substitute for hardwork; and no shortcuts to take. I'm from an engineering background and am planning to take my level 1 in Dec 2011 and squeeze the GMAT somewhere in between. I too will read through all the books and am a slow reader and tend to read everything so your tips are especially helpful. How did you do with the level 2? Hopefully you should be at l3 by now. Cheers!
  6. remy Says:

    I've made my way through level 2 and am currently heading towards level 3 in june. Good luck!
  7. Manty Says:

    very useful notes.. thanks
  8. TRS Says:

    I'm very happy that you made it man. What curriculum did you use?
  9. remy Says:

    I'm using the official curriculum, the one they send when you register. The paper version, because there is no much to write!
  10. Stephan Says:

    I'm thinking of proposing to my employer that I take the CFA. Do most students working full time get a study package? If so, how many days per exam, and what support do they provide for materials? And do most students get a pay increase per exam pass? If so, what is the pay increase on average? Thanks!
  11. Matt Dunston Says:

    Generally true - If you are short for time - ie starting with 3months + 2 weeks i suggest you use the Schweser Study package. For areas where you have some weakness or that have significant depth you MUST cross reference with the CBOK books to gain a rounded understanding. I used it for level 1 and passed, and will be using it for level 2. I wrote the first level and failed the first time because i was so unprepared but i realised the pain of being 50 hours or so short after investing a good 180 hours of my life and $1200 of my hard earned money and felt very stupid and disappointed at myself enough to adequately prepare and pass the second time i wrote. In fact, when i went to write the exam, i knew i was going to collect my pass - there was no doubt in my mind. The Schweser notes do reduce time needed significantly and make sure you adequately address the learning outcomes far more directly. They are pricey so unless you want to waste your money you need to be totally convinced that you can put in the 250 hours required. Bottom line is the CFA exam is not difficult if you are prepared. The 250 hours recommended by the Institute are just about right and if you can't do the time, don't waste your time.
  12. Doris Says:

    I'm a student without financial background, will it be possible if I take the CFA exam? Will people like me (a single CFA, no other cirtifications) be welcome by financial institutions?
  13. remy Says:

    no idea, but keep in mind that CFA is a very long run (5 years in avg for the ones that succeed, and infinity for the other ones). you might first consider doing a Msc (one-year) and if your interest in finance is confirmed, go for cfa.
  14. Jimmy Says:

    Dude, did you pass last year with your method? We d like to know. Thank you! Hope you are doing level 3 this year!
  15. remy Says:

    Yep, so far so good. I am up for level III in less than three weeks, fingers crossed. Good news about level III is that it's around 2/3 of level I and level II in terms of pages => by the time we reach the exam day, I will have been preparing it for 4 months and it looks like an appropriate schedule to me. Well, we will see that on sept with exam results... Cheers, remy
  16. Kapil Says:

    Content on this blog is very helpful and learning.. I am thinking of appearing to Dec 2011 L1 exam and am concerned if I have enough time left. Not counting this week, I have a total of 25 weeks before the exam knocks my door. I also have a question for Remy.. You mentioned you only used the CBOK provided by CFAI.. Please let me know if that is sufficient to prepare for the exams.. I get intimidated by more than one options to prepare with.. Much appreciated Thanks Kapil
  17. gaurav Says:

    Thanks buddy.....could you pls provide me soft copy of the study material for CFA....I just want to go through that and check out my potential and hence would helpful for me in registering for the exam as early as possible....
  18. remy Says:

    I would like to, unfortunately it's against cfa policy good luck
  19. Bob Says:

    I hope you passed CFA Level 3?
  20. remy Says:

    Yep. Results went out and I passed :) Good luck to you if you're on the way of earning it.
  21. dave Says:

    Great schedule. I will be using it for all three levels. Thanks for posting it!!!
  22. Faruque Says:

    I have a question for CFA part I. Should I just read the Pearson Learning solutions books or do I have to read others.
  23. remy Says:

    Knowing content provided by CFA institute is enough to pass all the exams. "Reading" might not be sufficient. Given the huge volume of the books, you might be interested in 3rd party solutions that focus on the most important concepts (schweisser, kaplan...). A lot of people use them and find them useful. In my case, I only used CFA curriculum. Good luck
  24. sera Says:

    thanks for the info very helpful and I plan on using it. am registered for level 1 June 2012. while reading the material does one need to follow the books based on their sequence or can one skip for instance start with Volume 2 ( Econ) then go to either volume one ethics or 3 financial reporting? what was your experience? any thoughts?
  25. remy Says:

    I did this on a linear way (starting from first page to last). I believe you could deal with Ethics at the end without any issue. In level 1, parts are quite segmented so you could go the way you want, but I would still recommend doing it as recommended by cfa. Good luck
  26. LAKSHMY Says:

    my friend passed CFA PART ONE IN2007 attempted CFA part 2 twice in 2008 and failed is the part one valid now also please reply to my e-mal address please
  27. remy Says:

    I believe there is no reset date on any CFA exam (once you passed them they are considered passed, no matter how long it was ago). I believe I read it somewhere on cfainstitute website in the past but could not find it back. Best way to discard any doubt is to contact them directly and ask them by email.
  28. Godfred Says:

    I intend taking CFA1 in December 2012. Can you give an advise as to how to study the CFA materials. I am actually asking for a help to design a study plan. I work at the moment. Do I start from Ethics and finish with the ethic material move Quantitative Methods and finish with that as well and keep on going down that line Or can I mix studying the course outline, thus start with say Quantitative Methods, move to Financial Reporting and Analysis, etc. Any ideas ......... Thanks
  29. remy Says:

    Best way is to follow the order provided in the curriculum. But make sure not to skip an important step: review past material every two weeks otherwise you will forget stuff. Good luck anyway.
  30. Gourang Says:

    Hi Remy, Great advice. I am planning for Dec 2012 exam and using Schweser. Godfred, Since you are also planning for December 2012, I was wondering if we could network. Thanks and Good luck to all ( wish me luck as well), Gourang
  31. CJR Says:

    Would appreciate your immediate reply in this regard. Level 1 result came in Jan and I cleared it. But the problem is now L2, with only 4 months remaining. Would I be able to cover the 18 study sessions along with a 9-5 job ??? Just to give you an insight, my reading habits are just like you and you can say I am a 'slow' reader. Given this fact, are 4 months enough ?
  32. V Says:

    Hi Remy. Very nice blog. Could you please tell me approximately how many numerical questions appear on the level 1 exam? Thanks.
  33. Khadija Says:

    Hi Remy, Thats for the plan... it has given me light.. Im planning to sit for Level 1 in Dec 12. hello Gourang and Godfred, i too wld like to network with u guys and we can form a study group.
  34. EGY Says:

    Hey Remy! I have a question you might help me with : - I sat the December 2011 L1 exam and didnt pass. I’m thinking of sitting the June 2012 exam and will have 3 months to study for it again. Do you think its doable if I can dedicate around 15 hours a week? Im studying using the Schweser notes. You input is very much appreciated. Thanks
  35. remy Says:

    It looks like doable to me, given that you already know what to expect. With some extra work in final two weeks you should have your chances. Good luck!
  36. suraj jadhav Says:

    thanks ........its really good.
  37. Gaurav Says:

    I was wondering if anyone can give me a old copy of the CBOK for cfa L1. I am planning on giving the exam in december 2012 and I will register for exam in july since its very expensive and I can't afford to register yet. I am using scheweser for prep but I wanted to read the book at the same time. Thanks a lot.
  38. agnimitra Says:

    hey remy........ great blog......... i wanted to ask that, being an engineering graduate in third year can i get into financial sector by passing the first level of CFA, after graduating from college. i am interested in material and i think i can crack the exam but i am not from finance sector , so can i get opportunity based on level 1 result, if i pass it? please do reply,,,,,
  39. remy Says:

    Hey Agnimitra, This is great for you to get exposure to finance via CFA, it will for sure give you sound foundations, no doubt about it. Regarding if you can crack the exam, no doubt about it provided you put sufficient effort into it. And being new to finance means even more effort before CFA is all about finance (esp. corporate finance!). If you are ready to commit to it, I see no reason for you not to succeed! I hope it helps. Regards, Remy
  40. agnimitra Says:

    thanks for replying remy........... by the way congrats for passing all the levels,,,,, i m going to go for the CAT in my fourth year along with the CFA, i am working hard trying to prepare for both,.
  41. Basira Says:

    Thanks, I just got my level 1 books and was looking for some tips on how to organize my study. This is very helpful. Good luck on exam III.
  42. Ahmad Says:

    Thanks for the advice Remy. I recently bought the Level 1 books to sit for Dec 2012 exam. But the one thing i can't manage is the study plan, like how much time for each session is needed, etc.. if anybody could help, i will be very thankful. Good luck for all candidates ;)
  43. Anna Says:

    Hi, I am just trying to figure out if the fees for exam registration include books and preparation material provided by CFA or not? or is it additional?
  44. remy Says:

    Last time I sat for the exam, the fees included exam registration and preparation materials
  45. Amulya Says:

    Hi, I an engineer want to get really good at investment stuff and planning to take CFA Level 1 soon.I am going through basics.Where can i get the CFA Prescribed books.What are they called.Should we be buying each book seperatly? It would be great if someone could help me. Thanks!!
  46. remy Says:

    When you apply for the exam, you receive the books. That's how it worked when I passed it. I hope it helps. (+ the sooner you apply, the greater the discount :))
  47. Merrin v Says:

    Great Advice Remy! very rarely people would care to help others. Ur advice is much appreciated. I am planning to write December 2012 level 1.I havent registered yet. I would like to know a few things; 1.After the registration, does CFAI recommend u a study planner? 2.Is CFA level 1 alone valid to impress a good employer? 3. After registration, do they provide u financial calculator as well ? Thanks and Regards, Merrin
  48. remy Says:

    Hello Merrin: 1. Not that I remember of 2. "impress" might be too strong of a word, I would say that for sure it shows you are interested in finance and open to learn new skills 3. nope, not at the time I did it
  49. Anna Says:

    Thanks Remy! One more question. I am in procurement but have some finance education. I am thinking to take level 1 and then get a job in Finance and then continue with levels 2,3 (granted i pass level 1) . Is it possible to take a break between level 1 and 2, 3 or it has to be in 3 consecutive years?
  50. remy Says:

    Hello Anna, It is indeed possible to take break during levels. From what I remember there is no time limit for this break but this should be checked again in case anything changed.
  51. Mihir Says:

    dats an appropriate guidance which is not available every where. A genuine piece midst all fairy tails
  52. Raja Says:

    Hello Remy: For Level 1, did you practice any 3rd party (Schweser or Elan) questions ?
  53. remy Says:

    For all levels I did not use any 3rd party content. Having spoken with some friends, I believe they can bring extra value and greatly reduce the amount of work by focusing on the most important stuff. But it is just a feeling because I did not use it. Good luck
  54. Jeffrey Ong Says:

    Just to ask, do we need to pay for the study sessions?
  55. remy Says:

    no idea
  56. tintin Says:

    Hey Remy..! thanks for the information. I am preparing for Level 1 in Dec. I am going thorugh study matrial make notes, solve the end of chapter questions and schweser Qbank. My query is that i am planning for Level II in June 2013 and will be joining weekend tutorials for the same. Based on your experience of Level II what should be the strategy?
  57. Chasing Alpha Says:

    Hi All, I think the key is to do as much practice exam questions as you can. Make sure you allow enough time for that. I also found having a study group discuss what each other doesn't know helps as well. Schweser study guides are quite good.
  58. Neha Says:

    Hi Remy, Last week i got my results and i cleared Level2. I will be taking up Level3 next year. I just wanted to ask you if you have any special strategies to follow for L3 candidates. Especially the essay writing part. How should we go about it? Thanks for your really useful blog.
  59. remy Says:

    Well congratulations! My advice for L3 is to go as fast as you can on the essay questions. For the multichoice ones, nothing new compare to L1 and L2. For essay questions, I did not find any sample so I did not know what to expect. In fact, this is not a single question that you need to answer during the entire session, but rather a collection of questions, similar to multichoice ones, except that there is no choice to make and the full result with some explanations to write down. Personally I detailed far too much the questions at first and ended up having answered only 1/3 of them using 2/3 of the time => I had to go at full speed (and detail less) the remaining ones, which is not a good strategy. So try to go as fast as you can without entering into too much details right from the start. Time is of the essence in this part of the exam. Good luck
  60. Tarek Says:

    Thank youu veryy helpful
  61. Irfan Says:

    Thank you, very useful info. I am planning for June 2013 and currently working. Its good planner for all wannabe CFA's
  62. Manuel Dambrine Says:

    I've done finished CFA level one and created an app for IPhone to help out. Might help other people out as well
  63. olivier Says:

    Hi remy, I just cleared level 1 and I am starting an internship with lots of hours for the next semester. Do you think I should wait for 2014, or try June 2012 so that even if I fail I will have already studied the curriculum deeply. Thank you,
  64. remy Says:

    Hi Olivier, My advice would be to try June, definitely. As you mentionned, "even if I fail I will have already studied the curriculum deeply" and next year you will have also new more pressing matters to deal with as well => the sooner the better. Good luck
  65. Deb Says:

    Remy, thanks for the tips -- much appreciated. Quick question for you about the sections in the Level I books labeled "Optional." Did you end up reading these and, if so, did you find them helpful on exam day? Would you reading recommend them? Thanks again.
  66. CFA Tutor Says:

    Thank you Remy for explaining not to underestimate the difficulty of the CFA exams. The CFA institute wants candidate to absorb the material not only being to able to answer questions. That's why it takes time to assimilate the CFA curriculum. If you fail one exam, it is much easier the second time
  67. Dave Says:

    Remy, when reviewing already read books did you use notes that you took, re-read highlighting or did you just read chapter summaries. When re-doing exercises did you just go through end of chapter exercises or did you also go through blue boxed sample questions?

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