CFA Level 1 study hours with finance background?

Hi Monkeys,

Since I'm in the last semester of b-school, and secured a ft ibd job, I have a lot of time on my hands and thus I'm thinking of studying for CFA 1.

I see people suggesting 250h of study, which seems a bit much. So I was wondering, what would a good estimate be in hours for someone that has taken various finance/corporate finance/derivate courses in school?

Cheers!

Comments (72)

Feb 25, 2015

I've taken numerous finance classes beyond the ones that you list, hold a Finance degree, and will be putting in at least 300 hours for my first level in December. I know way too many people that either didn't study enough because of their financial "acumen" or didn't study the right way and did not pass level one. With something like this where there is both a time restraint (June and December only testing times for L1, June only testing time for L2 & L3), and a significant cost involved, I would err on the side of caution. The last thing I, personally, want to have happen with the CFA is to spend all that time preparing, and then realizing that it wasn't enough, putting me back to square one.

Feb 25, 2015

Beside geekfast wareagle4230's comment above. If you put 100 to 150 hours of active studying and are managing 70 to 80% on the schwesser practice by the end you will be alright. The 1 is the easy one, questing you need to ask yourself is will you be bothered to take the 2 and 3? Because why the fuck start if you are going to not finish the curriculum.
disclaimer - i have all 3 levels

Feb 25, 2015
Disjoint:

Beside geekfast wareagle4230's comment above. If you put 100 to 150 hours of active studying and are managing 70 to 80% on the schwesser practice by the end you will be alright. The 1 is the easy one, questing you need to ask yourself is will you be bothered to take the 2 and 3? Because why the fuck start if you are going to not finish the curriculum.

disclaimer - i have all 3 levels

Any potential test result can obviously be gauged from the practice results. I was just implying that if I have any question about how I'm fairing on level 1, I'm going to study a shitload. Dropping over a grand on it isn't something I take lightly, but that's just me.

Feb 25, 2015

'agree with @"wareagle4230" above.. if you cannot put in the time, don't bother... 'financial acumen' does not really mean much.. Knowing what 'fed' means requires financial acumen but just knowing that information will not help you. CFA level 1 is very hands on, requires a lot of math (except for the ethics part - which you need to memorize)... you need to put in the hours so you can go for 6 hours on the day of the exam at a fast pace with reasonably high accuracy

Feb 25, 2015

I'm a charterholder and agree with @"wareagle4230". Gauge your progress using practice tests but it's always better to overstudy for these tests than understudy. Overstudying gets you through to L2, understudying puts you back at L1 in December. I went 3/3 but made sure I overstudied each time.

Feb 25, 2015
RagingClue:

I'm a charterholder and agree with @wareagle4230. Gauge your progress using practice tests but it's always better to overstudy for these tests than understudy. Overstudying gets you through to L2, understudying puts you back at L1 in December. I went 3/3 but made sure I overstudied each time.

The other thing is that overstudying should be viewed as beneficial if you are actually wanting to learn the most you can about finance. I actually enjoy finance, and I don't see a disadvantage to honing and expanding my knowledge if that is the career path I will be taking.

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Feb 25, 2015

I put in roughly 250 hours for the L1 exam, including doing 4 practice exams. I didn't know much at the time so I think you can study for less than that with prior knowledge.

Feb 25, 2015

I put in 200h for L1 and passed. My biggest regret is not having done more exercices. Scheweser QBank is beyond awesome.
I wish someone told me that. Oh wait... I am a charterholder. Who cares.

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Feb 26, 2015

what are you guys using for study guides? Scweser or Elan?

Feb 26, 2015

two weeks of schweser would do the trick.

Feb 26, 2015

I passed 1 and 2 first try. Just get through the readings ASAP and do the entire Schweser Q bank until you understand every topic + make flash cards for formulas + read ethics 1-2 times and you should pass. Q bank is 100% key for L1. That should take you probably 200-250 hours. Like other people have said, it's probably worth it to overstudy when in doubt given the binary outcome. PM me if you have more questions - happy to help.

Feb 26, 2015

Agree with the posters above - 200 hours plus. I put in 300 plus for L1 and L2, and a bit less on L3 (because I had exhausted the question banks).

Read, then spend a ton of time doing practice questions. L1 Schweser Q Bank is money.

I went 3/3 as well, so can corroborate the above worked for me, and similar approaches worked for others I know.

Mar 2, 2015

All you need is a pass.. I studied around 200 hours for level I and passed, I think I would have made it with 150 hours. However, It's also very important to think about how you allocate your hours! I was working with the following cycle: watch video on non-quant content, read the schweser, do the official exercices. Once done all chapter, go through the schweser, do 20-50 bank question per chapter, then 2-4 practice exam. I could not achieve this cycle faster than 200 hours, so to to do less, I would have to focus on some chapter more than others, which is easy to say which one since i passed, but at that time, I was feeling like everything is important. So it's more about the rhythm/cycle you choose than the hours. Than complete it faster on chapter you feel more confortable with...

Mar 3, 2015

I'd say that for someone with a finance background, 150-200 is probably enough, but the test is expensive so why leave it to chance?

Mar 9, 2015

Would anyone who has passed level one comment on just using the Q bank and not reading the material? Does reading the material provide value outside of pure learning?

Mar 9, 2015
WorkHorse:

Would anyone who has passed level one comment on just using the Q bank and not reading the material? Does reading the material provide value outside of pure learning?

If I knew what I know now, I would strongly consider this strategy as it provides for more focused study (less wasted time). Drill the QBank like crazy and then refer to the books for topics that you are consistently struggling with. I think it's a pretty good idea. Kind of like recommended GMAT studying - take a practice CAT as a diagnostic and then focus on those areas in which you are weakest.

Mar 9, 2015

I did this, and it worked well enough for me. Did a bunch of the CFA practice tests, and ended up passing every section on the Level 1. Though I have a Finance masters, so that changes the calculus a bit.

Mar 9, 2015

it's better the Schweser or Wiley?

Mar 9, 2015

I'm Finance Undergrad and Master's (current) - passed L1 easily with about 150 hours + overlapping coursework. Anything that's relevant to your coursework won't be more complex on the L1 exam, so focus (read: do not ignore topics entirely) on the gap between CFA Curriculum and coursework. Just drill the Q-Bank and you'll be fine. L1 is not challenging for that background IMO.

Mar 9, 2015

Why are you thinking of embarking on this? It is less relevant in ibanking and you won't really have enough time to take L2/L3. Why not just do drugs and get laid

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Mar 17, 2015

maybe OP isn't a scumbag?

Mar 9, 2015

I know a finance grad who studied 300h, I studied around 2-250 for L1, and I know a guy who did it with 100 hours of study. different strokes, but this will be harder than any of your college level finance courses so don't think you can cram for 2 weeks and make it work.

Mar 9, 2015

No reason to undercut it. Study 200-250 hours because you might not remember a lot of the material, even if you've seen it before.

-L2 Candidate

Mar 9, 2015

It really depends on how strong of a test taker you are. I crammed hard for a week and was fine (I also had just wrapped up my MSF).

Mar 9, 2015

As everyone above has said, depends on the person and you know yourself better than we do, but here was my experience..

I logged 180 hours for L1 (including time spent taking practice exams - approx. 4.5 - 5.5 hours per, 6 in total). I was pretty strict on keeping time - only counting actual time studying by subtracting breaks, etc. I was a little bit worried as the test approached because I had seen 250-300+ hours mentioned by many other CFA candidates, but I did what I needed to feel comfortable going into the exam. Also, my hours were pretty concentrated, as almost all 180 were in the 3.5 months prior to the exam.

Now I'm studying for L2 and I think I may have underestimated how much time I will need... going to be a fun 3 months

Mar 9, 2015

Haven't read all the responses so sorry for any redundancies...

My advice would be to plan to get through the topics with 3+ weeks left for review & practice exams. I began studying for December's Level 1 in mid-September and got through it by second week of November. You definitely have enough time for the June test, but I'd recommend starting soon.

Go with Schweser and buy the package with the weekly online classes - they helped me tremendously and I'd often just watch the videos on my own time and only reference the Schweser notes for clarification (topics like accounting can be incredibly boring to read). Do all EOC chapter questions in both CFA and Schweser books, and utilize the online Qbank (the more questions, the better).

Again, priority is to finish with time left to review and practice. You will retain everything much better even with a quick second time look. I suggest doing 3+ practice exams.

"We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns." - Tom Waits

Mar 9, 2015

I think the key for L1 is the practice exams. If you could score well consistently in more than 5 question sets within the given duration you're most probably good to go.

The catch is, to be able to do so you're going to need 200-300 hours of study, I believe.

Also, I think the consensus here doesn't really recommend CFA charter for IB due to lack of study time and also because the curriculum is not exactly designed for IB; it's more for Fund/Portfolio Managers. But if you could make some time to study, then good for you and good luck!

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Mar 9, 2015

Good luck if you think you can pass putting 100 hours with a finance background.

"It is our fate to be tormented with large and small dilemmas as we daily wind our way through the risky, fractious world that gave us birth" Edward O. Wilson.

Mar 9, 2015

I studied econ and took one introductory finance course and a couple of accounting courses. I probably studied around 130 to 150 hours for CFA Level I and passed. I personally can't imagine the topics / coursework being more difficult than the respective college courses.

That being said, I think 200 hours is a good target IF you are a fast test taker. If you aren't, I would shoot for more. I think I took a big risk studying as little as I did. I am studying for Level II right now and following Schweser's recommended study schedule exactly. Overall, I agree with the above comments re: overstudying.

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Mar 10, 2015

I'm currently a Level III CFA Candidate ...Like ramadjaffri said, the idea is that you want to practice as much as you can..Mocks and exercices are the key. I started studying for my level 1 in mid April..but I had just finished my Master in Finance, therefore the theory was fresh and I covered stuff way deeper that the CFA Curriculum..

I think a good mix of Schweser's and Mocks will easily do the trick ..
But remember level1 is really easy you can't do that for the 2nd exam..(Studying less than 150 hours)

IB,Hedge Fund,Ptf management, Private Eqty, R-Estate..I believe everybody will benefit from obtaining this charter...I started getting way more attention from headhunter and firms once I got my level 2..

I hope this helps..
DC

Mar 10, 2015

To the OP: based on your background and with limited time till June 6, I'd place a huge priority on ethics, know every question and that should give you a huge boost.

I'm writing level 2 in June, should finish the material in early April. How have others found QBank for L2? A lot of the questions I've looked at seem too straightforward and not testable. I'm trying to come up with a strategy for the final 7-8 weeks, any advice?

Mar 20, 2015
JT.Marlin:

To the OP: based on your background and with limited time till June 6, I'd place a huge priority on ethics, know every question and that should give you a huge boost.

I'm writing level 2 in June, should finish the material in early April. How have others found QBank for L2? A lot of the questions I've looked at seem too straightforward and not testable. I'm trying to come up with a strategy for the final 7-8 weeks, any advice?

Q bank for L2 isn't going to help you a ton because as I recall its just single questions, isn't it? I would do all the EOCs from the official curriculum until you know how to do the vast majority. Do that and make a formula sheet / flash cards and drill those too.

Mar 20, 2015

A caveat to consider is that the CFA exams are only offered in English, and a good portion of people taking the exams do not speak English as their first language. You can imagine how much more difficult that makes the exam process.

Mar 22, 2015

The key to Level 1 is doing as many practice problems as you can between now and the exam. Much of Level 1 is really about grinding stuff out. Also pay particular attention to the examples provided in the Ethics section, understanding the scenarios presented will help you spot the right answer on the exam.

If I may ask, where are you going to school and where are you headed post-graduation?

Mar 22, 2015

im studying for ti right now .. im a senior in undergrad so some is review
i guess it all depends on you... how much you remember, test taking abilities, etc. 250 should be plenty but you hear of people doing more and less and passing

if you did business undergrad definitely buy the Schweser notes.. essentially an abridged version of the CFA books

check out analystforum.com its a good CFA resource

Mar 22, 2015

I spent three months reviewing for the exam (I am unsure of the actual hours I put into studying). However, I can tell you that I was also a full-time law student at the time. Prior to studying for the CFA I had taken corporate finance and accounting. I think that if you study 250 hours you will be well prepared (although it all depends on your level of knowledge and exam taking/memorization ability). I think that if you were an undergrad finance major at a good university you will be fine (otherwise you should ask for your money back).

Mar 22, 2015

accounting major helped me a lot. CFA level 1 felt like a review for my accounting major and i know finance pretty well.

Mar 22, 2015

hodeez is right on the money, an accounting major will definitely put you at a huge advantage for the CFA level I. 250 hours might be a bit extreme. THey say 150 hours should be enough. I don't know how much I studied, but I had a finance major. I first read all the schwesser notes and summarized them, that did NOT help. Doing the exercises all the time did though.

Remember, you will always be a salesman, no matter how fancy your title is.
- My ex girlfriend

Mar 22, 2015

I got through Level I w/ sub 150 hrs of study time. Was also an undergrad accounting / finance major. Get through the material as quickly as possible and spend the rest of the time rolling through as many practice questions as possible. Get schweser notes and do not use the CFAI books.

Mar 22, 2015

I took the CFA 1 exam in june and passed. Studied for abt a month and a half (dedicated approx. 180hrs). I was an eng. major and hadn't taken any acct. or finance class. Using the Schweser notes and taking the 6wks sharp review course in NY ($500) was key to my success with the exam. Also, dump your CFAI books!!

Mar 22, 2015

I sat for the December exam and did it in 2 months while working but I majored in Finance. Don't bother with the CFA books, just get the Schweser notes. The tougher part is being sufficiently prepared for L2 the following June...

Mar 22, 2015

Thanks for that. Yea I am confident with the maths involved, its just a big curriculum. I'll take a look at the Schweser notes though. Is that all you used? Did you look at any of the online courses?

Mar 22, 2015

What was your plan for this? I am trying to get an idea of what my gameplan should be (given I pass L1, of course). Interested to hear how it went for you

Mar 22, 2015

Should be possible, in my opinion.

Schweser material is very useful. I only studied that, and then the actual CFA ethics section and was fine. Get a feel for the test, see how its weighted, and get the Schwester notes. I would say read through all of the notes to get a feel for the material. Then look at how the test is weighted, and put emphasis on the heavily weighted sections(Financial Reporting, Ethics, and Quant are nearly half the test).

You just have to look at the material you have and make a schedule/timeline. 4-6 mock exams should be solid.

I would probably read over CFA Ethics once, and then focus on everything else until a week or two before the test. Read through ethics 1-2 times when you're closer to test day and you should be good on that section.

It really comes down to how easy the concepts come to you, given your lack of a finance background.

Mar 22, 2015

If you have an engineering background most of the mathematical concepts shouldnt be too difficult for you. I think its definitely manageable. I passed it with essentially 2 weeks of cramming but I did have a finance background. Its honestly about picking your battles on certain subjects and just jamming the ethics section down your throat the 2 days or so before the exam.

Mar 22, 2015

Did the Level 1 some years ago and my strategy was reading a little night after work for a couple of months.

Mar 22, 2015

150 hours for me but I was also finishing my undergrad in finance so that helped

I passed BTW (Wrote June last year)

Mar 22, 2015

It took it a few years ago, but I believe I studied around 175 hours. If you majored in finance and it's still fairly fresh in you memory then you shouldn't need the suggested 300 hours. L2 & L3 are different stories.

Mar 22, 2015

Put in about 10 hours per week and started at the beginning of this year, so I'd estimate 220 hours. Feel pretty confident about the test. I majored in finance in undergrad, so a lot of the material I was already familiar with.

Mar 22, 2015

I'm not a finance major. I had my last exam on may 2nd + a report I had to type for the internship I did during my semester.

So I basically had less than 4 weeks to study the whole material.

50/50 chance I pass/fail.

Mar 22, 2015

I had absolutely no finance experience when started (history major). I'm pretty confident I'm going to edge by passing or band 10. I put in 300+ hours in studying. I started in the end of September. We shall see how well I did in about a month and a half.

Mar 22, 2015

Thanks for this. Taking L1 in June, every bit of advice helps.

Mar 22, 2015

Depends a bit on your background. Any accounting or finance courses in college will reduce the time you need. I think your ER position will be useful. To be honest though, you should have plenty of time regardless of your background. Use Schweser (or whatever prep provider you prefer) instead of the CFA text for Level 1. Schedule a couple vaca days if you have any before the test so you can do a mock or two.

Why not start now?

Mar 22, 2015

It's plenty of time. The fact that you're in ER means that you know enough to where you shouldn't have that hard of a time if you actually study.

I agree with the above that you should get Schweser or Stalla or something for test prep instead of CFA books.

Mar 22, 2015

Definitely - Focus your efforts mostly on FSAnalysis and Ethics, as this is the bulk of question in level 1...also L1 is much heavier on qualitative questioning then the others - so try to "understand" the material more then memorizing formulas

You will probably have some knowledge on about 75% of the subject matter on the test - you will just need to get deep into details, and learn the other 25%

Agree with above - don't even bother opeing the CFA books
Its doable, just don't take it lightly

Mar 22, 2015

thanks guys. really helpful. yes i do have ER background and was biz major, but stuff like stats and other quant stuff isnt fresh in my mind. and ethics will obviously be completely new (and from what i hear tough). the reason i cant do now is because ive been studying for GMAT and want to make one last push for a goods core by end of july/early august. my worst case scenario is that i start studying for CFA on sept 1. so just wanted to gauge your opinion.

Mar 22, 2015
stockone50:

thanks guys. really helpful. yes i do have ER background and was biz major, but stuff like stats and other quant stuff isnt fresh in my mind. and ethics will obviously be completely new (and from what i hear tough). the reason i cant do now is because ive been studying for GMAT and want to make one last push for a goods core by end of july/early august. my worst case scenario is that i start studying for CFA on sept 1. so just wanted to gauge your opinion.

Quant stuff isn't too terrible for level 1 and it should come back to you pretty quickly if you took a stats course in college. Ethics is hard only because the questions are so subjective- not because the material is difficult. I don't think I started studying until the beginning of October and I passed the December test (I only work ~50hrs/week so studying was a bit more manageable for me than most people).

Good luck with the GMAT and CFA.

Mar 22, 2015

Plenty of time.

Mar 22, 2015

Dude, that's more than enough time. I started studying lightly in April for the December lvl 1. I feel like a dumbass for starting so early. I've already put in 60 hours and I can tell you its not that bad. My background is somewhat similiar to yours. I do a lot of financial statement analysis and was a finance major and accounting minor in college.

I think you have enough time. I think you should look into analystnotes.com though. I got the 2010 schweser books, but some of the 2011 material isn't covered so I use analystnotes for those sections. Plus, analystnotes is really condensed. If you know some material well because of your job or college background then it only makes sense to use analystnotes to cut down on the time. It's like 60 bucks so its well worth it, plus they got a shit load of questions to help you hammer stuff down.

Good luck...

Mar 22, 2015

cool thanks guys. ya i was planning on getting the schweser books to study from. i guess the key is just have a strict study sched and not to veer off track. im sure burn out is inevitable though...

Mar 22, 2015

Strict study schedule is good and I also would recommend trying to take as many practice exams as possible. Practice exams for two reasons: one, you can see where your weaknesses are, and two, you can get accustomed to the three choice format. Always remember that if you aren't 100% sure on a question that if you can eliminate a single answer you have a 50% chance of guessing the correct answer. Review the learning outcome statements and if you feel that you have all of it down you can either skip the section or reduce the amount of time you would have allocated towards it.

Mar 22, 2015
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May 24, 2017