CFA I - How to study?

Coondorf's picture
Rank: Chimp | 9

What should be square one if I'm taking it 8 months from now in December?

Also, am I going to need to be using excel a lot, or I am fine with using my personal MAC?

Any and all other suggestions would be greatly appreciated

Comments (109)

Best Response
Mar 16, 2014

I think 8 months is a little early to be starting for the December 2014 level 1 exam. I'm pretty sure there are people taking on of the CFA tests in June who haven't even started. That is unless you remain diligent on studying for the next 8 months. If I were you I wouldn't start until at least July just so that same level of intensity doesn't wane and instead divert that time to focus on your job/school or finding a job, social life or whatever.

In terms of studying ethics and accounting should be your main focus. Then probably fixed income and quant. Least important are alternative investments, quant and portfolio management.

You won't need to use any excel. All the calculations you can do on your CFAI approved calculators which is fairly basic but you should know how to do bond calculations like the back of your hand before the exam.

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Mar 16, 2014

I was planning on ramping up my studying. I'm working a basic 9-5 accounting job right out of school that bores the shit out of me, so i figure I will build 2 hours 4 nights a week until 6 months prior. Then escalate things. Eventually take over the world.

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Mar 17, 2014

You are waaaaaay overthinking it. L1 is cake. 2 hr / day for 3 months is what I did and I felt like I could have done a lot less and been fine. A coworker of mine passed L1 last December with 3 weeks of study (not an exaggeration, I watched her do it).

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Mar 16, 2014

I'm taking the CFA L1 in December too and have already started going through the Schweser-Kaplan notes. Not super rigorously such as writing down formulas and making notes, but still reading through it to familiarize myself with the material and make it feel like second nature to me. When I'm paying 1200 $ to sit these, I don't want to be taking chances.

Once I've gone through all the material once, I want to get more into it and start making notes of the key concepts as well as trying my hand at the practice exams. Already booked 3 days holiday before the exam (its Dec 6th, right?) but might extend that to a whole week depending on how I feel about the material.

I know its a bit early but between now and then I'm also sitting 4 chartered accountancy exams so that will take up a fair bit of my time (though on the other hand the accounting parts of the paper should be a walk in the park for me).

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Mar 16, 2014

If you go through all the blue box questions and questions at the end of the chapter of the REAL CFA material at least twice I think you will be fine.

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Mar 17, 2014
sharpie19:

If you go through all the blue box questions and questions at the end of the chapter of the REAL CFA material at least twice I think you will be fine.

What do you mean "REAL"? Are the end of chapter Qs at the end of the Schweser notes insufficient?

Mar 17, 2014

Real, as in the books from CFAI. The readings tend to be a bit superfluous, but end of chapter questions are perhaps more comparable to true CFA test questions (which should be self evident, given they are created by CFAI).

One thing I read regarding CFAI material is that you should definitely use it for Ethics. I'm sure you could pass it without, but being that Ethics is pretty much material based solely off of CFAI judgements/discretion, it's better to use their material (so I've read).

Mar 16, 2014

Check out past exam subject % breakdowns and focus on the areas that are a bigger part of the test. I would study ethics every time you study. For level 1, regardless of how well you do on other sections, if you fail the ethics section you fail the entire exam.

It's important to realize the amount of material that is being covered as well. I wasn't getting much out of just reading the books so I ordered the Schweser online study materials. They had their own study guides as well as online quizzes. The quizzes were what helped me the most. You can design the tests to include whatever you want and vary the amount of questions you are given. If you get a question wrong, they explain the correct answer to you as well.

If you consistently get passing scores on the exams you take you should be in good shape for the actual exam. I would also suggest taking multiple full length practice exams.

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Mar 16, 2014

That is absolutely false. You can fail the ethics section and still pass the exam. The CFAI is very clear with respect to how the "ethics adjustment" works (i.e. if you are border-line pass/fail candidate but get >70% in ethics you will generally get bumped to a pass). With that said, definitely take the time to study ethics in L1 as a lot of it will repeat in L2/L3.

Mar 16, 2014

additionally, once you sign up you will see the list of what you are allowed to have with you in the testing room. In short they really only allow you to have pencils, calculators, passport, watch, and water (if you're lucky) You definitely dont need to worry about excel because you are not allowed to have a computer in the room.

Make sure you are familiar with using one of the calculators they have approved for use. I used the BA II Plus.

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Mar 16, 2014

wow guys chill out. I'm taking it in June and haven't even started studying

Mar 17, 2014

Make sure to get the CFA excel plugin, really helpful come exam time

    • 2
Mar 17, 2014

What does the CFA excel plugin do?

Mar 18, 2014
Coondorf:

What does the CFA excel plugin do?

yeah, and is it sent by CFAI?

Snootchie Bootchies

Mar 19, 2014

I graduated last May, studied engineering but took a few finance classes in undergrad (corp fin, investments, fixed income securities). She did a MSF so that definitely helped.

Apr 3, 2014
Sling Shot:

I graduated last May, studied engineering but took a few finance classes in undergrad (corp fin, investments, fixed income securities). She did a MSF so that definitely helped.

Yea, because a masters generally covers the same stuff as CFA I, just a different name.

Apr 3, 2014

A bit of a resurrection of an old thread but here goes:
- Booked off 10 days (with weekend) before CFA L1 so at 10-12h a day that should get me to at least 100h of study. Add in some 10h a week for the three weeks before that gets me to about 130h (before that I got a bit of a break due to 2 chartered accountancy exams) and then maybe 5h a week or so in late summer/early autumn for some 10 weeks gets me to around 180h or so. Hope this will be enough.

Apr 3, 2014

If you've got a background in accounting and finance, and have taken basic classes on the bits like econ, you shouldn't really be worrying so much. You can pass just skimming your way through the official CFA textbooks.

Apr 3, 2014

is it more important to know the theory or calculaitons, where do people go wrong? surely there is a smart way of studying for this - what are some good strategies/ key areas (not weightings) as in most important things to take notice of when studying?

Apr 3, 2014

I felt the same way you did when I started and the one thing I'll tell you is what someone told me, take a deep breath and just grind it out. Really Schweser is the way to go, it condenses the information to where you can get through it in a reasonable time and touches on the things you need to know. I passed Level I and II first time only looking at Schweser books and Qbank. Your plan about Questions only in November is an excellent one. Try to have read through all the Schweser material at least once by November then hit the QBank hard.

Everyone has their own personal best way to study. Mine was notecards, I made a notecard for every questions I missed, every important topic I struggled with, every Qbank question I got wrong (yeah had a few hudred by the time I was done, no lie). But other people might benefit in other ways. Level I really isn't too bad, once you get into the material you'll discover that if you have a finance background it's pretty much review. If you put in the time you'll probably pass it, but this is also the level to find out what study methods work for you. Because as daunting as Level I is.............Level II is the widow maker my friend.

GL, and in those times when your ready to quit just remember why you signed up for it in the first place and the feeling of accomplishment that will come when you get that e-mail saying you passed!

Give me a kid whose smart, poor, and hungry...............

Apr 3, 2014

You will be amazed how much you take in after 300 hours. There is also an enormous amout of duplication in level 1 across the books.

Apr 3, 2014

You've probably been told all this before, but what worked for me was to get through the material as quickly as possible. You won't remember EVERYTHING when you finish the material no matter how long you take. You want to leave plenty of time to do end of chapter questions, sample exams, and mock exams - as many as you can get your hands on. The example questions buried in each chapter of the CFA material are great too. Review any questions you missed (don't memorize answers - work through WHY you missed them). I left about a month prior to the exam to focus on mocks and review.

Also, make sure you focus on weights and what material will actually be on the exam. Make sure you have Ethics, FRA, Corp Fin, etc. (heavy weights) down pat and focus on being able to answer the questions at the beginning of chapters.

You should be good to go from there.

Apr 3, 2014

Absolutely put some/majority of your focus on the Qbank questions. You can design your own quizzes based on what you need to focus on more. Also, they give an explantion and show the correct answer if you get any wrong. This is what helped me the most. For myself at least, reading hundreds of pages of CFA material each day wasnt helping my cause. It wasnt until I started hitting the Qbank questions hard that I began remembering key topics/formulas/calc's etc. Good luck

Apr 3, 2014

tthanks for all the feedback, makes me feel a little better!

Apr 3, 2014

Passed Level 1.

My swag set me apart.

Apr 3, 2014

No seriously,

I just did the Qbank questions every day. Went over all my weak areas and put a lot of emphasis on ethics (I scored >70% on ethics cause of this).

There's really no correct way to study, just gotta do what you've done in the past to be successful, everyone has their own strategies.

Apr 3, 2014

Passed Level 1 as well. I knew the heavily weighted topics and made sure I had all the material down in those sections. If you crush those parts than you can get away with a few more mistakes.

From my experience, I need to get through the material a lot faster and focus on practice questions for L2. The practice questions were the most effective tool in preparing for the exam. I spent 4 months reading the schweser notes and 1 month on mock exams and will probably try more of a 50/50 split.

Apr 3, 2014

Congrats to those who passed and keep trying to those who were close!

Here to learn and hopefully pass on some knowledge as well. SB if I helped.

Apr 3, 2014

Passed level 2.

Only used CFAI books and EOC questions and CFAI mocks.

Apr 3, 2014
Unforseen:

Only used CFAI books and EOC questions and CFAI mocks.

That's impressive. And rare. And the right way to do it.

Apr 3, 2014

i've seen that test take a lot of good men down (smart guys too).

Apr 3, 2014

I made it this time bros!!

Apr 3, 2014

Just passed level 2 and have to agree with Unforseen above, if you want to nail level 2 on your first try its best to use the CFAI books and plough through the EOC questions. Not fun but well worth it in the end....

Apr 3, 2014

Passed Level 1. I found that a lot of the material was stuff I had seen already in finance, stats, accounting and macro courses. I was finishing up my undergrad finance degree at the same time and spent 12-15 hrs a week studying starting in January. I only used CFAI material, EOC questions, CFAI mock exam and 2011 Schweser practice tests that I bummed off a friend. I'm expecting L2 to be significantly more difficult.

Apr 3, 2014

Congratulations to all those of you that passed, those that did not pass can learn from those that did pass.

Apr 3, 2014

Passed...didn't get the email until 11:45est, that was a lot of refreshing.

Apr 3, 2014

For fellow L2 passers, anyone for early study group for CFA L3 in NJ/NY area?

Apr 3, 2014

500 hours seems like overkill.

Apr 3, 2014

Just passed level 1.
Logged 240 hours.
Spent majority of the time working on problems and grading my practice tests.
There is a ton of info you just have to remember so make flash cards.

Apr 3, 2014

Passed L2, highly recommend Schweser. Studied frequently after work and weekends Jan - June.

Apr 3, 2014

Passed level 2 first time. All 70+ besides ethics and econ.

I had a slightly different study plan than most people. I studied for 12 days straight doing nothing but ~16-18 hours a day of my head buried in the CFAI books or the Schweser practice test book. Just make sure you have a ton of coffee nearby.

Apr 3, 2014

Doubtful. Unless you have a very sound understanding of all the concepts prior, you will have a tough time with just that amount of studying.

There aren't shortcuts.

Apr 3, 2014

to elaborateon R5A7B comment, unless you work daily in the capital markets, this strategy will not work. Hell, even if you do, it probably wont work.

Apr 3, 2014

The "mountain of reading" is designed to weed out lazy dicks like you.

... so yeah, just read the Key Concepts and you'll be fine.

Apr 3, 2014

hey man, I just gave it a shot with 2.5 wks of study two days ago... not sure if I passed, it's definitely going to be borderline. Did you write it? Cheers.

Apr 3, 2014

Yup, studied 10 hrs/day for 2 weeks and used the schweser notes. also had a finance background so was comfortable with a reasonable part of it prior to prep (~40%)

Apr 3, 2014

delete

Apr 3, 2014

delete

Apr 3, 2014

Lol at this type of question. Hey OP, I know some who've passed L1 with 0 hour of study. You should give it a try.

Apr 3, 2014

That's plenty of time for a no lifer and finance major. Take as many practice exams as you can and focus on ethics as that is were most people screw up. If you use schweser aim for 2 chapters a day.

Apr 3, 2014

Yes, if you are not retarded that should be plenty of time. If you are retarded it becomes more difficult to answer and no one here is really qualified to give you sound advice.

Suggestion: Use Schweser and drill Q-bank. Kills the easy points like ethics. Focus on any large weighted sections and make sure you know those cold.

Apr 3, 2014

Heck, 1 month is enough time if your cram it up (it's only level I and your major should already have prepared you for 70% of the CFA material)

Baby you're the perfect shape, baby you're the perfect weight. Treat me like my birthday, I want it this way and I want it that way. It makes a man feel good baby.

Apr 3, 2014

Delete

Apr 3, 2014

I didn't use any live instruction. It depends on your learning style. My style is to cram questions which works especially well for level one and not that well for two and three IMO.

Apr 3, 2014

4 months is plenty of time. Focus on taking practice tests, ethics, and financial reporting sections.

Apr 3, 2014

4 months with a finance background is more than enough. I am similar to your background and did it in ~3months (knew a lot of smart guys who started studying only 2 months before). I needed all 6 months for Level II, though. Good luck.

Apr 3, 2014

Graduated in May- Too late to take december now, working full-time 8:30-5:30 (in office) ? Same background, would like at least one weekend night a week for social purposes.. I'm leaning toward just waiting for June

Apr 3, 2014

With no school or work requirements, I passed level 1 with 1 month of studying. Probably ~30 hrs/wk, probably less.

Apr 3, 2014

damn son 2012?

Apr 3, 2014

Definitely feasible. A lot of the L1 material will be stuff you already know, plus you have an adequate amount of free time to study with your schedule, and you have 4 months until the exam. Go for it.

Apr 3, 2014

I haven't taken it, nor am I employed yet, but it sounds like a fairly reasonable plan. From what I gather your schedule is pretty lax, and you have more than enough time to prepare for the exam. Knock em dead.

I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards, and broken things

Apr 3, 2014

What did you study in undergrad? I didnt start studying for L1 until mid September and found the content to be very manageable but it really requires a strict adherence to a study schedule and sacrificing some of your weekends. I would definitely recommend Schweser for L1 as the content is very concise and well-organized.

Apr 3, 2014

2nd this. had a buddy at Lehman and he somehow managed to study for L1 and do the grind of being a new analyst. I will say I think he waited until the June exam so he had a few months to get settled in NY before studying. he used schweser and at the time, Lehman had help for CFA candidates, see if your bank has this too

Apr 3, 2014

I would occasionally use youtube for topic I was confused on, there are Kaplan videos as well as others that I thought were good and a change of pace from reading

Apr 3, 2014

1) Use the search function on this forum.

2) Because I'm feeling generous, do every single QBank question between now and the exam. Given your short timeframe, you need to practice problems more so than continuing to read material. Only go back to the curriculum if you're really struggling with certain areas.

Apr 3, 2014

blink4288,

I did exactly what you are planning to do, in the end it worked out well and I passed the Level 1 in December 1st semester senior year. Its quite a workload managing classes and the CFA but its doable since you will find synergies and common grounds between you college classes and the CFA curriculum.

For level one I would recommend Schweser, I personally used it and did great. But all in all you will need to study a lot due to the breadth of the material, if you put effort into it and dedicate yourself it is a doable task.

Best of luck on your endeavor, you'll do fine.

D.R.

Apr 3, 2014

I would recommend waiting for June 2011 CFA. Banks look at last semester's GPA so you don't want to put too much on your plate.

Apr 3, 2014

Get Elan guides.Much more comprehensive, cheaper than schweser. Better bang for your buck!

Apr 3, 2014

If you think you can do both go ahead. If not wait till your done with school. I'm done with school and trying to find a job and plan on taking it as well in december. Good luck if you take it.

Apr 3, 2014

Start studying? You have plenty of time to start going through the books at a calmer pace. In my opinion, the earlier you get to doing practice exams/qbank questions, the better (but that is less valuable without a read through of the material first).

Apr 3, 2014

Go through the Schweser books, then start doing qbank questions, practice exams, revising the material, etc. The materials for 2015 exams is already available online, so there isn't much to say aside from what has already been covered in the countless CFA exam prep threads.

Apr 3, 2014

Have a semblance of a social life now because chances are that you're not going to have one by November.

Also, consider using two useful resources: first is the Schweser books because it cuts out the fluff (and there is a fair bit in the CFAI books), something that can be extremely helpful if you're time poor; the second is the AnalystForums website - there'll be lots of people in the same position as yourself.

As pointed out, doing a lot of questions is the key to passing the exam.

Apr 3, 2014

You have plenty of time. The key factor to passing the CFA exams is not your intellectual horsepower. The key is to remain disciplined. The average candidate spends ~300 hours on each exam - and keep in mind that the average candidate fails. It's important to plan out a schedule that you can stick to and ideally study (at least do flash cards) for a little bit each day. If you are working in a job that requires 70+ hours a week, kiss your weekends goodbye.

Besides the Ethics section, Level I should not have a whole lot that you haven't scene before if you have/are currently pursuing an undergrad degree in finance or economics. If you have a finance degree, you could probably pass with 200-250 hours, but I would much rather put in 300 and pass than put in 200 hours and possibly have to retake it.

As noted above, Schweser is the way to go. They will cut down on a thousand or so pages of CFAI reading and get you to the nuts and bolts. I would recommend that you still read the entire Schweser series and it really shouldn't take that long. Be sure to do every Schweser and CFAI end-of-chapter question and do hundreds and hundreds of Schweser Q-Bank questions. It's important to know how the questions could be phrased and how they can trick you, especially with Ethics. Then in the last month start going through practice exams and ideally get through five or six. In between exams, keep hitting the Q-bank on trouble spots. Flash cards also helped me with Level I to nail down some sections that you just have to mindlessly memorize.

Apr 3, 2014

Study...

Apr 3, 2014

Then study harder.

Apr 3, 2014

Study a lot during winter and spring break. Study non stop from graduation to the test day in early June. That plus some light prep during the spring semester will allow you to pass the exam and still enjoy your last semester of college.

CFA would be way easier in college then when you are working full time.

Apr 3, 2014

I was planning on the december test... still possible? I can probably get in 60 hrs this summer before school starts...

Apr 3, 2014

You can do it, just put a lot of time in, more towards the last month or so, but make sure youve covered all the books and done some questions before the last month, and then cram and do practice exams the last month.
I put well over 300 hours, dont worry about how many you're putting in though, i felt it to be a waste of time, as you need to make sure you know the stuff, and reaching a milestone of time doesnt mean shit at the end of the day.

Apr 3, 2014

There's something to be said for studying for lvl 1 whilst still in school - you're studying finance already and in a 'study mode', and work hours are rough.

But I'm against it, and here's why:

1) Most employers will pay for it
2) It's just more time studying - you should enjoy sr year,
3) You need 4 yrs work experience to earn the charter. This means that even if you take the sequence as fast as possible, (Dec-June-June), you could still need 2.5 more years of work experience. You're better off taking a break.
4) If you're a business/finance major, the only really new material on lvl 1 is ethics. I don't think biz majors need spend as much time studying - people who work in finance tend to underestimate the difficulty, but they weren't necessarily business majors and have a very narrow focus at their job. Majoring in finance provides a wider knowledge base.

Caveat is that I don't work in IBD, but if you prepare enough in advance, Level 1 should be doable with ~1 hr/day, and weekends.

Apr 3, 2014

1) Most employers will pay for it - IF YOU PASS, THEY REIMBURSE YOU.

2) It's just more time studying - you should enjoy sr year - YOU CAN DO BOTH.
3) You need 4 yrs work experience to earn the charter. This means that even if you take the sequence as fast as possible, (Dec-June-June), you could still need 2.5 more years of work experience. You're better off taking a break - AVERAGE CANDIDATE TAKES 4 YEARS TO PASS ALL THREE EXAMS.

4) If you're a business/finance major, the only really new material on lvl 1 is ethics. I don't think biz majors need spend as much time studying - people who work in finance tend to underestimate the difficulty, but they weren't necessarily business majors and have a very narrow focus at their job. Majoring in finance provides a wider knowledge base. - NOT TRUE AT ALL. I WOULD ESTIMATE 30% THE MATERIAL YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE, UNLESS YOU HAVE TAKEN EVERY ACCOUNTING/FINA/ECON CLASS YOUR SCHOOL HAS TO OFFER.

MY TAKE: Stop being a pussy and study for it. Don't half-ass it though, bc you will not pass if you do.

Apr 3, 2014

I agree with yesman. I'm a finance major and just took level 1. There definitely wasn't anything I hadn't seen in school before besides ethics, which isn't all that hard to grasp once you study.

Apr 3, 2014

Everyone uses Schweser dude...

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Apr 3, 2014

Just do it. The material's not that hard for the most part, just a lot of it and dry, as you said. Make sure you get your money's worth by nailing ethics & compliance.

Apr 3, 2014
Kenny_Powers_CFA:

Just do it. The material's not that hard for the most part, just a lot of it and dry, as you said. Make sure you get your money's worth by nailing ethics & compliance.

the materials not bad at all, just so much bloody reading!

Apr 3, 2014

Ditch the books and use Schweser, Stalla, etc...Use CFAI texts for L2 & L3

Apr 3, 2014

Schweser eh.... what package did you guys go with?

Apr 3, 2014

i'm using the actual books for level 1 because i had lots of time. haven't touched schw; might do the exams before Sunday though... 2 days left...

Apr 3, 2014
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