How To Study For The CFA Exam: Easy Tips for Passing the First Time

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The CFA exam is notorious for its difficulty. Even so, thousands of candidates attempt it every year and pass. How? Because these candidates planned their study sessions and passed the test the first time they took it. You see, there’t a reason why most people fail the exam time after time again; it’t that challenging. The real problem is that most people aren’t willing to put in the work required to pass it. If you are serious about becoming a CFA charterholder, investing your time and energy into studying is essential. Fortunately, we have outlined some helpful tips to help you succeed on this difficult test.

Create a study calendar and stick to it

It is easy for candidates to lose focus and get distracted with something else during their studying process. Without a study calendar, you can easily get off track and lose a lot of study time by getting sidetracked. For this reason, a calendar is essential to help you keep track of your progress and focus on your test date. The best way to use a calendar is to create a daily schedule of study sessions. This will help you stay focused and organized while studying, which will help you to pass the exam on your first try. When forming a study schedule, be sure to include breaks. You don’t want to go at your studying all day every day, or you’ll end up over-extending yourself and burning yourself out. Breaks are important for your mental health, as well as for your long-term studying.

Don’t forget the importance of math in your study sessions

Many candidates forget to spend time reviewing math concepts and end up spending too much time reviewing concepts that they already understand and are proficient in, such as valuation and risk. The most important thing to remember is that you need to focus your study sessions on the topics that you struggle with. For example, if the Modified Sharpe Ratio (MSR) is giving you trouble, then don’t waste your study time reviewing the Modified Foster-Williams Price-to-Book ratio (MFWR); instead, spend time studying the MSR. Math concepts on the CFA exam can be challenging, which is why you need to spend time reviewing and practicing math to help you become familiar and confident with the different topics.

Utilize online flashcards to reinforce your learning

Flashcards are another effective way to reinforce your learning and study for the CFA exam. Not only will flashcards help you better understand topics, but they can also be used as a study tool to help you improve your timing. When studying for the CFA exam, you want to be able to answer questions and go through topics quickly and efficiently. Flashcards can help you get more done in less time and improve your overall study process. Flashcards can be beneficial in a number of ways and can be used to help you remember specific topics, formulas, and more. Another helpful tip is to create a group on a website like Quizlet where you and your buddies can share flashcards and help each other learn and review topics.

Get comfortable with Excel and Research Tools

There are a number of Excel tools that you will be using during your studies. You can practice using these tools and become comfortable with them before the exam. Likewise, there are a number of data and research tools that you’ll use during your study sessions. Becoming familiar and comfortable with these tools will help you save time when preparing for the exam. When studying for the CFA exam, you will have to conduct a lot of research, so you’ll want to become familiar with the tools that you will be using to help you save time and energy.

Don’t forget to review the most important topics

The most important topics on the CFA exam are the ones that you are unfamiliar with or struggle with. The topics that come naturally to you should be reviewed, but not as often. The best approach to studying for the CFA exam is to focus on the topics that you struggle with and review the topics that come naturally to you more lightly. Doing so will help you save time and energy, which you need in order to pass the exam.


With proper planning and preparation, you can easily pass the CFA exam on your first attempt. However, this can only happen if you are willing to dedicate enough time and energy to studying. With the help of the tips outlined above, you will be well on your way to becoming a CFA charterholder. The CFA exam is challenging, but it is also very doable if you are willing to put in the work. With the tips outlined above, you can be sure that you are well on your way to passing the exam.


Best Study Material to use for CFA Level 1 Exam

While everybody finds out about the difficulty of the CFA Level 1 exam, not many believe it until they experience the difficulty for themselves. If you want to pass the exam, you should accomplish the minimum passing score set by the Board of Governors of CFA Institute after every exam. In February 2021, they slightly increased the passing rate from 43% to 44%. People who are preparing for the CFA exam are driven, smart, and want to pass the exam as much as you do. That implies it is significant that you have a great study plan and stick to it.

The CFA Level 1 exam is an introduction to ten broad subjects or topics of ethics and investment analysis that builds a strong foundation for Level 2 and 3 exams. In 2021, CFA Level 1 exam would be a computer-based test held six times per year in February, March, May, July, August, and November. From 2022 onwards, it will return to a standard four times per year plan for February, May, August, and November.

Exam Duration and Format

Besides the change to a computer-based exam, they have also reduced the length of the exam for each level by 25 percent. For example, two hours and fifteen minutes for each exam (rather than three hours), with two sessions for every level as before.

Exam Frequency

Rather than the single-day exam throughout the world, CBT tests can be planned in multi-day windows globally at more test centers. Students need at least six months gap between test attempts, given the increased exam frequency for each level.


How to prepare for the CFA level 1 exam?

If you want to beat the CFA Level 1 exam, you need to understand what it is all about and how can you pass it. So, here are some pieces of advice that every candidate should consider if they want to pass the exam.

Get Right into the Study Plan Early

This is one of the most important steps if you want to pass the CFA exam. In addition to the fact that you need to study the exam material, yet you additionally should have to apply what you figured out to be scenarios on the exam. This level of practical application and understanding takes time and effort to develop. Hence, it is significant that you get into a study plan or routine early and adhere to it.

We recommend you to prepare, practice, and perform the basic method of studying for the exam. In the first stage, you absorb data through listening and reading the lectures. In the second stage, you begin working by practicing the problems. In the final stage, you imitate test conditions to check your level of preparation.

When you develop your study routine, we advise you to spend:

  • 35% to 40% time on preparing
  • 40% to 50% time on practicing
  • 20% to 25% on performing

Focus on CFA Level 1 Study Material and their Weights

Students must have a great understanding of the CFA Level 1 program curriculum and how every topic or subject is weighted for the exam. The curriculum is upgraded each exam cycle, and all the levels of CFA exams focus on similar core topic areas. In CFA Level 1 exam, some areas have high weightage like ethics, Financial Reporting & Analysis, Equity Investments, and Fixed income have a total weightage of 50 to 60%.

Because of COVID-19, CFA Institute declared that the 2020 curriculum or educational plan will be applicable in 2021 without any changes, hence allowing postponed students to continue utilizing the same curriculum in the year 2021. So, the topic weight of 2020 would be the same in 2021.

Focus on Exam Format and its Structure

  • CFA Level 1 exam is a computer-based exam comprised of a total of 180 MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions), divided into two parts of two hours and fifteen minutes session with 90 MCQs each.
  • On average, you will have 90 seconds (1.5 minutes) for each question.
  • There are three options for each question.
  • The first exam session covers four topics: Economics, Ethics, Financial Reporting & Analysis, and Quant Methods.
  • The second session covers the remaining six topics: Fixed Income, Corporate Finance, Derivatives, Portfolio Management, Equity, and Alternative Investments.

All the questions have the same marks and there is no negative marking for the wrong ones.

Make a Customized Study Plan

Based on your life or work commitments, make a study plan that helps you to prepare for exams. Try to focus on your weak areas, track your study progress, offers practice test score benchmarks, and predict your test scores. Try to avoid social outings, and dinners for a while, especially the 3 to 4 months before the CFA exam.

Apply Your Concepts to Real-Life Situations

Just learning the material isn’t sufficient to beat the CFA test. You should be able to take the concept and apply them to real situations. Most of the questions are not asking to check your memory skills. But they are asking you to check the problem-solving skills that you can apply to situations you may experience at work.

Numerous CFA charter holders encourage you to consistently tie back the thing you are learning to this real world. So, while preparing for your CFA exam, continue to ask yourself questions as to how you can use this in your job. The more you can make the exam material real to you, the simpler it will be to remember it.

Learn How to Take the CFA level 1 Exam

There’s a difference between learning the study material and figuring out how to take the test. Be certain about your practice of taking the test in realistic simulated test conditions in the last 3 to 4 weeks of studying. CFA Institute will provide you an option to give a mock exam and you can buy others with test prep providers like FinQuiz. Their mock exams not only test your concepts and knowledge about CFA Level 1 study material but also test your ability to answer other random questions from various topic areas according to the new CFA exam format.


Tips to Prepare for the CFA level 1 Exam

Here are some incredible tips to assist you in preparing for your CFA Level 1 exam.

Solve End of the Chapter Questions

At the end of chapters, the CFA curriculum has few questions for students to try out. These are normally simpler than test questions, however extremely useful to check your basic concepts of the material. You should do them all, and more significantly record your marks as a percentage, and write that down in your study plan. So, they can help you to know which topic areas you’re relatively strong or weak in.

Manage Your Exam Time is Key

Time management of exams is key to beat the CSF Level 1 exam and you should be merciless in time management. Before you slip into this slope and not have the option to recover ground. Give yourself some time to think about questions. However, once times up, pick an answer and proceed onward! There is no negative marking for wrong ones, so guessing is a better option than leaving it.

Practice Makes You Perfect

Absorbing the concepts or information is one thing, but at the same time, you will need to put that information into practice. So you can solve them on quick recall and guarantee that you’re understanding the problems. The CFA Institute will give you a ton of mock tests and practice questions at the end of books, so start from there. Then, find the topics you need to focus on. Start doing the mock tests at least 2 to 3 months before exams.

If You Feel Overburden, Take Short Breaks

You should never give up, however, allow yourself to take a pause. While absorbing a large amount of knowledge and information as with the exceptionally overpowering CFA test materials, sometimes our brain needs a break. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break of 30 to 60 minutes between your study sessions. Keep in mind, the individual subjects on the CFA tend not to be very challenging —what many students find difficult is how much there is. That’s why it is crucial to begin a half year before the exam.

Take a Prep Course

Are you able to put your mobile down and block out interruptions for quite a long time?

The amount of preparation required for the CFA level 1 exams can be hard to handle without help from anyone else, the consequences of which can be overlooked details, missed deadlines, under learned material, and misspent time. The prep course ensures that you don’t need to go at it alone, stays up with the latest topics that are significant for the tests, and helps you to manage your time effectively. Here are some of the best prep courses that you can choose to prepare for your CFA Level 1 exam


If you want to determine which prep course is best for you, you should compare their services and check which services stood out in terms of packages, prices, and options for in-person or online courses, etc., and then choose the best prep course to prepare for your CFA Level 1 exam.