CFA Level 1 and GMAT during same year?

I currently work in the life science/pharmaceutical field and am trying to break into ER and thus will be taking the CFA level 1 this coming June. I was also planning on taking the GMAT this year to apply for MBA admission the following year. Since it would take a few months to study for the GMAT that would limit me to the second cycle only correct?

The alternative would be to study and take the GMAT as soon as possible and as long as I don't have to retake, I would then study for the CFA but would not be able to take that until December.

Thus, if I go CFA --> GMAT then that would potentially allow me to break into the field earlier but if the GMAT takes longer to study then anticipated or I need to retake then I push my admission back a year.

Or if I got GMAT --> CFA then although I may line up admission earlier and apply to both first and second cycles I would not get the CFA until December and thus hold up (potentially) breaking into the field?

There is also the factor of taking both these tests back to back causing burnout for whichever I take later. I am leaning towards the CFA first in that I am anxious to break into the field and I think will also help my MBA admission or perhaps I will see that a CFA alone will be enough to move up the ranks without committing to an MBA.

I appreciate any advice.

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Comments (13)

Nov 27, 2011 - 10:11pm

This would be easier to answer if you listed target schools as well as your desired GMAT score. If you want to go to an Ivy you ideally need to get a 700+, so that would take a considerable amount of preparation. You can gauge your current ability by downloading a free practice test from mba.com. If you score ~550 then you should get to the 640 level with some intensive refreshing (two months max). I recommend: http://www.amazon.com/Manhattan-GMAT-Strategy-Guides-Fourth/dp/098417804X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322450470&sr=1-1.

The CFA Level I is a difficult test because of the sheer amount of material that it covers. Regardless of your background you have to devote several months to review the material... the program recommends 250 hours.

You need to clarify when you want to start the MBA. I'm guessing you want to apply next winter so you can start classes in fall of 2014? In that case you should devote all your attention to the CFA. Then in July you can start studying you for the GMAT leaving you plenty of time to take it more than once. It helps to know what programs and target score you are aiming for. Deadlines for better schools also obviously tend to be earlier.

Nov 27, 2011 - 10:54pm

Having taken both tests, I would say that the amount of prep time for the CFA exams is much greater than the GMAT. The GMAT is primarily an IQ test - it's helpful to spend 1-2 months getting familiar with the question structures and brushing up on some geometry rules, grammar rules, etc., but you can only do so much to study for it. For CFA Level 1, most people need to spend 200 hours or more (can vary based on your undergrad experience, training at current job, etc. but it's going to be a significant amount no matter what).

So based on that I would say that if you take the Level 1 exam in June, and take a couple weeks off after that to relax, you could easily get the GMAT in before you have to start submitting MBA applications for round 1.

Nov 28, 2011 - 12:43pm
GutShot:
Very doable. Spent 10 days prepping for GMAT, did fine. A solid month for CFA L1. It's really not that bad.

He is coming from a life sciences background so I would say 1 month is insufficient.

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Nov 28, 2011 - 7:46am

I would like to start as soon as possible which would be fall 2014 correct? As for programs I would shoot for the top 20 but then again I have a 3.0 GPA but am hoping to offset that with a stellar GMAT score.

I am five years removed from undergrad (I am 27) but again by background/experience is in the life science and from what I read the CFA Level 1 is is rather intense and I do not want to underestimate it.

Thus I want to position myself for the earliest MBA admission while obtaining the CFA Level 1 so see if I can break into the field and see if it indeed something I would like.

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Nov 28, 2011 - 1:49pm

I did CFA Level I, and I'm now doing GMAT (writing in January), followed by Level II in June (I know my life sucks).

If I were you I would sign up to write the GMAT in mid February, and right after writing it move straight to CFA. However you wont have much of a life until June.

Nov 28, 2011 - 5:51pm

I did the same thing as Unforseen. Took Level I June 2010 (prepped from Jan - June, was WAY overprepared), took GMAT December 2010 (prepped from Sept - Dec, scored >700), took Level II June 2011 (same amount of prep, was sufficiently prepared) while job hunting/landing a role in equity research. Next I'm taking Level III in June 2012 and then applying for grad schools Fall 2012.

Dec 1, 2011 - 9:34pm
DCFwacc:
I did the same thing as Unforseen. Took Level I June 2010 (prepped from Jan - June, was WAY overprepared), took GMAT December 2010 (prepped from Sept - Dec, scored >700), took Level II June 2011 (same amount of prep, was sufficiently prepared) while job hunting/landing a role in equity research. Next I'm taking Level III in June 2012 and then applying for grad schools Fall 2012.

Thanks for the response, glad to know it can be done.

By the way, did you feel the level I CFA was pivotal in landing your job in ER?

Dec 2, 2011 - 7:24am
TOB2020:

Thanks for the response, glad to know it can be done.

By the way, did you feel the level I CFA was pivotal in landing your job in ER?

It helped in that I was taken a little more seriously as a candidate, because otherwise I was coming from a non-target UG and an arguably non-target entry-level job. Still, the thing that helped me most was aggressive networking (to get the interviews) and lots of technical prep (for the questions asked during the interviews) to prove I knew what I was talking about. I think it was my persistance more than my CFA candidacy that got me most of my interviews in the first place though.

It'll help more the further you progress. Saying "Level I candidate" on your resume won't blow anyone away, but "level II" or "level III" will help incrementally. But don't expect it to be easy ANY step of the way, regardless.

Dec 6, 2011 - 8:28am
TOB2020:
Any recommendations for your technical prep?

This is studying on top of/different then the CFA material?

CFA studying will help with the "walk me through the CF statement" and other accounting type questions that might be asked if the interviewer isn't convinced of your finance knowledge given a non-finance background. The prep work that I did on top of that kind of stuff was being able to talk intelligently about a company/industry and the macro environment using data and learning more about specific valuation approaches. Basically if you're interviewing for ER, they're going to expect you to prove that you can do an analyst's job by making an effective stock pitch. It's not enough to just say that you're studying for the CFA so you're covered in terms of knowledge; you have to demonstrate how you apply what you're learning, and also that you're interested enough in the work to have done some resesarch and valuation on a stock that interests you on your own time.

Unforseen - good luck with finding a job and the GMAT. If I'm the future you I feel bad for you.

Dec 6, 2011 - 5:33am

dcfwacc is like a future me its so weird. I write the gmat on jan 7 and then i'm moving straight to level II. I have a job right now but i'm looking to move into ER.

Hopefully I can also land a job in ER

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