CFA level 1 preparation advice please :)

Hi everyone! I'd love to hear your advice. Thanks for it in advance.

I have read that it usually takes around 300 hours on average for a person to prepare well for the CFA level 1 exam. I was curious and wondering, how much time might it take for a person with no finance background, or very low basics level of knowledge in finance? How many hours of studying might it take? Should that person start studying from the Official Cfa prep guide, or use external sources to learn first? I am not sure how complex the material is as I havent started studying myself yet, but as for now I'm trying to help my ambitious friend. Thanks for any responses.

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Comments (40)

Funniest
Dec 26, 2020 - 7:53pm

You're trying to help your ambitious friend?

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 4
Dec 26, 2020 - 8:08pm

https://www.reddit.com/r/CFA/comments/kbz3lo/cfa_level_1_advice/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

Example of a thread on the CFA subreddit. Have a look there and all of your questions will be answered. This is a very regular question.

made new unrelated account - dont reply or message as i never use it. 

  • 2
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Dec 27, 2020 - 12:46am

i suppose its more for marketing nowadays, in a big 5 canadian firm and many ib analysts are highly encouraged to take cfa exams (true for other big 5ย banks as well)

Most Helpful
Dec 27, 2020 - 12:53am

Yes lets listen to what an investment banker has to say about an investment management qualification. Very insightful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

made new unrelated account - dont reply or message as i never use it. 

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Dec 27, 2020 - 7:33am

Here in AM it is basically de rigueur to either have it or be working towards it if you are in any sort of investment related position. Sales can get away with something lesser like the CIMA, and marketing can get away with having nothing.

Lvl 1 is basically the background check. While I put in 300 hours I'd say that someone with a finance background could get away with 200. Someone with minimal knowledge like your 'friend' will likely need closer to 400 though.ย  I normally stump for the CFA Institute materials as being more thorough and better written despite being longer, but I'll do so doubly here. They set you up much better for the following level. Remember, there is no partial designation. You have to pass the whole d*mn thing to use the letters, which is why it's a beast. I've got a friend who spent six years getting it, and at the end swore that he'd never take another set of exams in his life. Personally, I'm a glutton for punishment so I've kept on piling on the letters. I'm waffling between going forย the FRM orย the CAIA next.

I generally see somebody I know on TV on Bloomberg/CNBC etc. once or twice a week. This sounds cool, until I remind myself that I see somebody I know on ESPN five days a week.
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Dec 27, 2020 - 8:44am

To the Person in the comment above:

Thank you sincerely! Your response is absolutely the most useful and helpful one here amongst all. I appreciate it. 400 hours is very reasonable, probably even more he will need but that approximation surely helps to attempt schedule the study plan effectively. That's also super true, the journey for the certificate is long as heck. The certificate itself aint even an outstanding achievement anymore, it's just a basic professional requirement. Thank you once again for your effort to answer my question.

Dec 27, 2020 - 11:41am

It's the CFA charter not certificate.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 1
Dec 27, 2020 - 9:23am

If you have the time - take an entire year to finish each level. That sounds counterintuitive but it will give you enough time to immerse yourself in the official curriculum and still finish it. You will also get enough time to understand and revise each concept in detail.ย 

If you have lesser time, say 4-5 months, there's no way you can effectively work with just the official curriculum. Get the Schweser notes and run through each reading, and finish up all the official questions.ย If you have never worked in finance, a benchmark of around 500 hours with the curriculum will be more reasonable.ย 

Ideally, focus more on application - if you can take up each reading and directly see where it applies in the investment decision-making process, you will get where it all makes sense. Obviously, this sounds too superfluous at the moment, but if you pair your L1 studies with Damodaran's YouTube valuation class or start building DCF models in the very near future, you will see how it all comes together.

CFA prepares you for portfolio management much more than it prepares you for security selection. I think, if you just want to become a good analyst, you should be much better at accounting and have a general sense of forecasting principles.

Take everything written here with a grain (or plateful) of salt. Cheers!ย 

Dec 27, 2020 - 9:58am

Incoming Summer Missile

If you have the time - take an entire year to finish each level. That sounds counterintuitive but it will give you enough time to immerse yourself in the official curriculum and still finish it. You will also get enough time to understand and revise each concept in detail.ย 

If you have lesser time, say 4-5 months, there's no way you can effectively work with just the official curriculum. Get the Schweser notes and run through each reading, and finish up all the official questions.ย If you have never worked in finance, you a benchmark of around 500 hours with the curriculum will be more reasonable.ย 

Ideally, focus more on application - if you can take up each reading and directly see where it applies in the investment decision-making process, you will get where it all makes sense. Obviously, this sounds too superfluous at the moment, but if you pair your L1 studies with Damodaran's YouTube valuation class or start building DCF models in the very near future, you will see how it all comes together.

CFA prepares you for portfolio management much more than it prepares you for security selection. I think, if you just want to become a good analyst, you should be much better at accounting and have a general sense of forecasting principles.

Take everything written here with a grain (or plateful) of salt. Cheers!ย 

Thank you! I can see where you are going with your point. That's actually a brilliant advice for beginners; it's good to connect the learning outcomes right away with the practice. I believe my friend would like to take the exam in 2021, probably august. That makes it around 7-8 months of studying, 4-5h a day. He's worried that without having the proper basics in finance, as he will be following the schweser or og guide, he might miss some significant concepts necessary for the exam due to not knowing how โ€ždeep" into the concept he shall dive. In simplier words, he kind of doesnt know what he doesnt know, and the beginning is that's why the hardest - to arrange the study plan most efficiently. I know it's an unusual case! I myself know too little about CFAs curriculum yet to advise him well. Thank you for your very precious advice. Best!

Dec 27, 2020 - 11:45am

Are you going to take the exams as well or just your 'friend'?

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Dec 27, 2020 - 9:54am

I over studied for level 1 and probably put in about 400-500 hours.ย  At my buyside firm, it was a friendly competition but I did not want to be the guy who said he failed.ย ย ย I did not need toย  study so much because I already had a couple of degrees in finance + 7 years of investment experience.ย  I did not study nearly as much for levels 2 and 3.ย  Youย should probably do the opposite of how I prepared for the exams.ย ย 

http://www.series65examtutor.com
Dec 27, 2020 - 10:31am

financeabc

I over studied for level 1 and probably put in about 400-500 hours.ย  At my buyside firm, it was a friendly competition but I did not want to be the guy who said he failed.ย ย ย I did not need toย  study so much because I already had a couple of degrees in finance + 7 years of investment experience.ย  I did not study nearly as much for levels 2 and 3.ย  Youย should probably do the opposite of how I prepared for the exams.ย ย 

While I agree that less hours are likely necessary for someone like you orย I, I'm going to disagree in this particular situation.

The original poster's "friend" is apparently a complete n00b, and needs to learn everything we already learned in school or knew from work going in and as such I'm both going to push both over-studying and using the CFAI materials here. Schweser is essentially a 'cliffs notes' version of the curriculum, and really isn't good if you don't have a solid background. CFAI may be a bit basic for level 1 if you have a background, but is really needed here.

I generally see somebody I know on TV on Bloomberg/CNBC etc. once or twice a week. This sounds cool, until I remind myself that I see somebody I know on ESPN five days a week.
Dec 27, 2020 - 10:50am

Whatever1984

financeabc

I over studied for level 1 and probably put in about 400-500 hours.ย  At my buyside firm, it was a friendly competition but I did not want to be the guy who said he failed.ย ย ย I did not need toย  study so much because I already had a couple of degrees in finance + 7 years of investment experience.ย  I did not study nearly as much for levels 2 and 3.ย  Youย should probably do the opposite of how I prepared for the exams.ย ย 

While I agree that less hours are likely necessary for someone like you orย I, I'm going to disagree in this particular situation.

The original poster's "friend" is apparently a complete n00b, and needs to learn everything we already learned in school or knew from work going in and as such I'm both going to push both over-studying and using the CFAI materials here. Schweser is essentially a 'cliffs notes' version of the curriculum, and really isn't good if you don't have a solid background. CFAI may be a bit basic for level 1 if you have a background, but is really needed here.

I agree that a noob should study a lot.ย  I guess my point was not to let up on levels 2 and 3.ย  I think a noob will probably have to work super hard on these levels.

http://www.series65examtutor.com
Dec 27, 2020 - 1:13pm

Whatever1984

financeabc

I over studied for level 1 and probably put in about 400-500 hours.ย  At my buyside firm, it was a friendly competition but I did not want to be the guy who said he failed.ย ย ย I did not need toย  study so much because I already had a couple of degrees in finance + 7 years of investment experience.ย  I did not study nearly as much for levels 2 and 3.ย  Youย should probably do the opposite of how I prepared for the exams.ย ย 

While I agree that less hours are likely necessary for someone like you orย I, I'm going to disagree in this particular situation.

The original poster's "friend" is apparently a complete n00b, and needs to learn everything we already learned in school or knew from work going in and as such I'm both going to push both over-studying and using the CFAI materials here. Schweser is essentially a 'cliffs notes' version of the curriculum, and really isn't good if you don't have a solid background. CFAI may be a bit basic for level 1 if you have a background, but is really needed here.

Thank you! I appreciate your effort in understanding my friend's problem and his position. He will most likely need that 500 hours at least. What cought my interest is your insight regarding the study material. You are completely right, and that's what I thought as well. This isnt a good idea to start with the cfa materials, kinda even no matter which, if one does not have a solid basics in finance. I was wondering whether do you know, or could you please be so kind and tell if only you have any recommendations on mind, what and where would be the best start/way/source to get the basics? Thanks for anything. Im grateful x

Dec 27, 2020 - 7:15pm

Do lots of problems. Make sure you do the CFAI problems and the Schweser problems. Schweser has QBank, which is good at drilling lots of problems on various subjects.ย 

Make sure you do mock exams leading up to the test. The CFAI usually releases some free ones and you can do the Schweser ones. Identifying weak areas and going over the problems you missed is essential. Study Ethics every week.ย 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Dec 27, 2020 - 7:50pm

Mark Meldrum was great for L1 as well, I wrote the exam last month (gratefully) and obviously have not heard back yet but I feel like it prepared me VERY well and cleared up some of theย sections thatย CFAI likes to make confusing. Comes with great cheat sheets and resources. Best of luck!

Dec 28, 2020 - 9:03am

How did you use MM to prepare with other material? And how long did it take to get through all the videos?

Array

Dec 28, 2020 - 9:06am

I did all of the readings from CFAI books, and then did review questions from the sections I would do readings on, and then when I started doing full mocks after learning all of the material I would supplement what I was weak on with the MM for the explanations etc. Basically a good support for what I get wrong in mocks or what I am generally weak on. Hope this helps.ย 

Dec 28, 2020 - 12:04am

beejay2izzay

Wing it. The best shortcut to studying... is not studying at all

You've apparently not ever taken a CFA exam.ย 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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