CFA charter holders are often the most sought-after professionals in financial services, and for good reason. CFA exams are notoriously difficult to pass, and the process is long—even for professionals who already hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in finance and accounting. On average, candidates study for over 300 hours for each level of the exam and will need about six months to prepare.
Whether you are preparing to take level one or level three, you will need to find the discipline required for passing the exam. With a hectic schedule and personal responsibilities, making the time is not easy. However, it is an effort that is well worth it. As a gold standard, holding the CFA designation is a testament to your work ethic and a passion for your field. This can differentiate you from your non-certified peers and set you up for long-term career growth and competitive pay.
But before you can reap the benefits of becoming a CFA, you first have to pass each exam. Here are five CFA study tips for all levels!
Know the curriculum + the format
Once you register for the exam, you’ll gain access to your level’s curriculum. Review the exam prep materials and each study guide thoroughly, and try to stick with this outline as you create your study plan. At the same time, know the format of each session of your exam. Note: exam formats vary by level.
Get organized + stay on track
The best way to ensure you stay on track is to map out which sections you’ll be studying during which weeks, and how many hours you plan on dedicating to them. If you stray away from this schedule, the material will start to feel a lot more overwhelming—something that can prevent you from understanding the big picture as well as the finer points.
Take practice exams and review
Schedule routine review days and practice tests as checkpoints to make sure you understand all the material. A great way to do this is to have your notes readily available when you are unclear on any question. This will help you identify areas for improvement and retain vital information along the way. However, don’t focus on your scores when doing this. These practice tests are meant to boost your self-confidence, so worrying about your score can be counterproductive to your overall progress.
Resist the temptation to increase your study hours as the CFA exam approaches. While you may be feeling frustrated or stressed, not taking the time to rest and recharge can make matters even worse. The last thing you want to be when taking the exam is burnt out, so make the effort to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking well-deserved breaks.
Stay informed of official exam updates
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty, and this uncertainty extends to the CFA exam. In June 2020, the CFA institute made the unprecedented decision to postpone the exam until December 2020. And in December, the exam will not be administered in several locations due to concerns over the pandemic.
As a result, the CFA institute has plans to modernize the exam and make it more convenient and accessible for candidates around the globe. This includes plans to administer a computer-based exam in 2021. As a candidate, you should stay abreast of these updates as they may impact when you plan to start preparing, as well as how and what you study.