How Much Time is Needed to Study for CFA Level 1 Exam?

ananalyst's picture
Rank: Chimp | 5

Sorry for this rushed question but the deadline is tomorrow so I gotta make up my mind now. I have essentially 2 months to study for the CFA Level 1 exam and I'm prepared to devote 3 hours to it everyday.

Just wondering if it's doable or am I wasting my time & money. Thanks so much!

Preparation Time for CFA Exam

User @kblade pointed out that the amount of time needed to prepare varies a great amount based on your educational background:

kblade:

It really depends on your educational background. A significant portion of level 1 material is similar to what you would study in undergrad finance/economics/stats courses. All of my friends with an undergrad in finance passed level 1 with relative ease and definitely spent less than the "recommended study time" by CFAI.

marine13910:

At 3 hours per day 7 days a week, thats 250 hours. More than enough to pass. Especially if you have a strong finance/accounting backround academically or professionally, you should be able to pass with less than 250 hours, I think 150 to 200 hours is reasonable. It's a multiple choice exam with only 3 possible answers per question, it's really not that hard. If you're a strong test taker, you should be fine. Now if you majored in basket weaving and know nothing about finance and scored 1000 on your SAT's, you might be screwed.

@Frieds explained that 2 months would not have been enough time:

Frieds:

Having taken the CFA Level 1, 2 months is not enough to prep for it. I spent 3 months preparing for it in the middle of [the financial crisis] (I took it in December and had to enjoy watching everything go down between September and November, which made for a lot of stress on top of studying) and wasn't successful. That's 30 hrs a week you'll be studying minimum. There is potential burnout that you must consider as well. Mind you, this doesn't include your day to day workload and whatever may come up. You need more than 2 months. Good luck if you gun it, but if you ask me, take your time and do it in December.

Read More About the CFA Exams Here on WSO

Comments (60)

Mar 15, 2009

For Level 1, absolutely.

Mar 15, 2009

I passed level one, and am taking level 2 in June, but unless you are are willing to study the whole day on Saturday and Sunday (which is impossible if you work) two months is not enough. Good luck anyway.

Mar 15, 2009

I disagree, 2 months is more than enough. Though I would agree that a few weekend CFA fests closer to the date (in the final month) will definitely help.

    • 1
Mar 15, 2009

Having taken the CFA Level 1, 2 months is not enough to prep for it. I spent 3 months preparing for it in the middle of all this shit going down (I took it in December and had to enjoy watching everything go down between September and November, which made for a lot of stress on top of studying) and wasn't successful. That's 30 hrs a week you'll be studying minimum. There is potential burnout that you must consider as well. Mind you, this doesn't include your day to day workload and whatever may come up. You need more than 2 months. Good luck if you gun it, but if you ask me, take your time and do it in December.

Mar 15, 2009
Frieds:

Having taken the CFA Level 1, 2 months is not enough to prep for it. I spent 3 months preparing for it in the middle of all this shit going down (I took it in December and had to enjoy watching everything go down between September and November, which made for a lot of stress on top of studying) and wasn't successful. That's 30 hrs a week you'll be studying minimum. There is potential burnout that you must consider as well. Mind you, this doesn't include your day to day workload and whatever may come up. You need more than 2 months. Good luck if you gun it, but if you ask me, take your time and do it in December.

Wow I am really surprised at how many people said "yes plenty of time" and "easy test". Unless you totally devote much of your time to it, you will undoubtably fail.

    • 1
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Mar 15, 2009

I comfortably passed LI with 150 hours of prep - at a max.

You have 75 days to log 150-240. That is not hard.

The kid said that he can devote 3 hours a day.

    • 1
Mar 15, 2009

You have 12 weeks from yesterday until exam day, not 2 months. At 3 hours per day 7 days a week, thats 250 hours. More than enough to pass. Especially if you have a strong finance/accounting backround academically or professionally, you should be able to pass with less than 250 hours, I think 150 to 200 hours is reasonable It's a multiple choice exam with only 3 possible answers per question, it's really not that hard. If your a strong test taker, you should be fine. Now if you majored in basket weaving and know nothing about finance and scored 1000 on your SAT's, you might be screwed.

Mar 15, 2009

Why not wait til Dec?

Mar 16, 2009
darkxfriend:

Why not wait til Dec?

Maybe preparing for FT recruiting season? If not for high price ($1,800 = $1,300 initial fee/test + $500 prep. material) I'd take it too. I guess I'll have to wait till December, but I hope by that time I will have FT offer.

Mar 16, 2009

well the passing rate is 30% shouldn't be taken lightly

    • 1
Mar 16, 2009

It really depends on your educational background.
A significant portion of level 1 material is similar to what you would study in undergrad finance/economics/stats courses.
All of my friends with an undergrad in finance passed level 1 with relative ease and definitely spent less than the "recommended study time" by CFAI.

    • 3
Mar 19, 2012

.

Jul 17, 2009

I realize this is a little late, but yes two months is totally possible. I actually had a little bit less time than that when I did lvl 1. Granted it was stressful and I don't recommend it to everyone.

But,,, if you're a good learner/test taker and have some finance background then lvl 1 is a bit of a cakewalk IMO. Level two on the other hand...

Now all of the bluster here aside, remember that the majority will fail, and most will have considerably more time that 2 mo to prepare.

    • 1
Jan 17, 2011

I found AnalystExams.com to be helpful regarding the number of hours required to pass the different levels. It provides a quick overview of study hours from other candidates and charterholders.

Jan 2, 2013

I know this ones pretty outdated but im surprised to see people say its an easy test. Everyone I know was an honors student in econ, finance or accounting and they all devoted many months. However...MAYBE 2 months with no work / school to interrupt you and itd be doable. But if you have any other time obligations I really don't think most people could do it with 2 months of studying

Jan 2, 2013

I know this ones pretty outdated but im surprised to see people say its an easy test. Everyone I know was an honors student in econ, finance or accounting and they all devoted many months. However...MAYBE 2 months with no work / school to interrupt you and itd be doable. But if you have any other time obligations I really don't think most people could do it with 2 months of studying

Jan 2, 2013
ananalyst:

Is 2 months enough to study for CFA?

Yes, in fact more than enough

ananalyst:

....and I'm prepared to devote 3 hours to it everyday.

Aaaaaaaannnnndd there's the kicker. For most people, 3 hours a day 5 days a week will not be enough (only 120hours of studying). You'd need at least double that time. The test is a mile wide and an inch deep. Its not hard, it's just a lot. Unless you have a business-undergrad background there's no way you've even seen half these topics before, too. Again, not hard, but MOST people need more than 120hours.

As an example, I've only heard of one person (that I personally know) who's passed with less than 120hours of studying, and even now he's shocked he made it through. Check analystforum for a lot more discussions about timing. Some guy posted a spreadsheet about a year ago that mapped out for you how much time you'd spend per day based on weekends (y/n), total time willing to dedicate (y/n), how many weeks desired for just practice questions, etc. Might help inform your decision.

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Jan 21, 2013

I am researching if I want to do the CFA Level 1, I studied Buisiness management (under grad), and will have nothing but a side job... How many months do I need to prepare? Im just wondering, not too sure if I want to do the CFA...

Feb 5, 2013

I remembered it was suggested to devote at least 240 hours to prepare the level 2. Yet my friend spent more than that amont of time to go through every detail of the notes, and later found himself over-prepared.

Feb 5, 2013

You can get a lot of mileage out of study on the ethics section if you haven't covered it yet. 20 hours on ethics is an easy ~10% boost to your exam score if you haven't covered it yet.

You can also get a lot of mileage out of Equity Investments and perhaps Financial Reporting and Analysis.

Remember, there are only three answers per question, and you need a 70%. So if you know 55% of the answers, you can pick randomly on the other 45% and pick up another 15% to get to 70%.

GLTA.

    • 1
Feb 5, 2013

analystforum discusses this. they will prob recommend schweser and tell you that youre hacksaw

Mar 16, 2009

Hey check out analystforum.com you'll find more than enough info

Mar 15, 2009

Good call on analystforum.

Haven't tried Stalla, but Schweser is more frequently used. I used Schweser for CFA I and I thought it was pretty good. I wouldn't suggest getting the most expensive 'best' package though, it's really not necessary for Level I. Standard books and practice exams is fine.

Feb 5, 2013

I recommend Schweser. Their study notes are concise and drill down into each LOS. Make sure to get Qbank.... you need to answer as many practice questions as possible and this is a terrific resource. Repetition is the key to truly learning the material.

Personally, I have been doing the following: First, I read a study session of notes taking the concept checker at the end of each reading. I then watch the videos for each SS and follow that up with Qbank. Give yourself plenty of time for review because the material is broad and no matter how comfortable you think you feel you are guaranteed to find an area that you need to spend some time on before the exam.

And yes, head over to analystforum.com. I have found it to be a terrific resource during my studies. If you have any questions feel free to hit me up... my handle over there is brianr and my email is [email protected].

Feb 5, 2013

Just get the study guides, they are sufficient for L1 since most questions are pretty straightforward.

Feb 5, 2013

and yea, Schweser is pretty good, I used it for my L1 last Dec and they were pretty useful

Mar 15, 2009

Passed all three using SChweser. Hands down better than the text.

Mar 15, 2009

I got their PassMaster software. Really helpful.

Feb 5, 2013

Thanks guys! I browsed through analystforum.com and the site seems great. I appreciate everyone's input and I think it's safe to say the general consensus leans towards "Schweser." Given that I will be taking the exam this December, I am going to order the material ASAP.

Thanks again.

Mar 16, 2009

good luck with your studies im not using any supplemental notes Its to expensive and im actually getting by alright with the CFAI texts.

Jul 17, 2009

how did that work out for you dipset?

Schweser notes is the way to go. Just the saved hours are worth the $$$

Feb 5, 2013

For those of you who used Schweser, did you get the Premium or Essential Solution? (http://www.schweser.com/cfa/products/solutions.php)

Feb 5, 2013

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Feb 5, 2013

bhahaha

Yeah, but it would look lame. If you pass LI, then you can write LII candidate.

Of course, you can talk about your candidacy/studies during an interview. Simply registering for a test is meaningless.

Feb 5, 2013

Unfortunately I think you're probably toast. 'Studied this at university' isn't the same thing as studying for the CFA. Paraphrasing Pulp Fiction, it's not the same ballpark, it's not even the same sport. You can't cheat the CFA, it will take its pound of flesh in the form of at least several hundred hours of study or you will not pass.

My main question would be why, if you're a 'student of finance' you waited this long to actually start studying for an important - and fairly expensive (esp. for a student) test.

    • 2
Feb 5, 2013

I meant that it is the same material.
I was always busy with exams at uni, assignment and work as well.
So I don`t stand a chance at all ?

Best Response
Feb 5, 2013

No chance at all? Of course not - there's always a chance the questions just happen to align up perfectly with your current body of knowledge. So there is a small, but non-zero, chance you could pass.

But it's unlikely. As I noted above, saying it's 'the same material' is like saying you should be able to hold your own in an F1 grand prix because you already know how to drive. The CFA is just a different animal from most academic study. You (and/or your university) may be the exception. But people already in finance using this stuff every day, that studied finance at school, still need to study extensively to pass. I was at a 60hr/week job - in finance - when I did my CFA. (I wish I had only been working 20 hours a week with school work!). Perhaps it's because you haven't studied for it yet, but I don't think you realize just how extensive the body of knowledge required is.

It is true that Level 1 is 'basic', and if everything you studied in university is still very fresh in your mind (may or may not be the case) I'd imagine there are parts of the LV 1 curriculum you wouldn't need to spend much time on. But how familiar are you with Econ? Fixed income? Ethics? Alternative investments and derivatives?

Obviously you've already paid for the test, so you should of course take it, there's no reason to not sit for the exam - hey, maybe you'll get lucky.

As a plan of attack: take a practice exam to get an idea of areas you think you might be OK. Focus your study time on areas that a) you're unfamiliar with and b) account for a major proportion of the exam. In your case that probably means Ethics, Econ, Fixed income for sure - 35% of the exam right there) then FRA (20%), Equity (10%) and corporate finance (I think 10%). That gets you to 70-75% of the core topics.

Worst case scenario, you're getting a head-start on studying for the December test!

    • 4
Feb 5, 2013

so when I applied for the CFA exam, I also took a one day per week course to prepare for the CFA since january, so each monday I had a 3 hrs CFA like a review material. That is why I said that the material is not that different. I know it is extensive a lot to take. and they gave us summarised material. but yea you are right I should had started long time ago.

Feb 5, 2013

It's not really an exam you can just know the material and be fine. A lot of the exam is knowing how they ask questions, only about 30-40% of the questions actually require you to do any calculations. You can brute force calculate through a lot, but keep it mind 90 seconds per question. Like the other posters have said, and this is from someone who passed Level 1 but certainly not easily (also studied finance in ugrad) CFA is an animal in of itself.

Feb 5, 2013

If you can put in 3 hours a day, you should be okay over three months time. Where did you find all this time??

Are you good at standardized tests?

Feb 5, 2013

Go for it, you will thank yourself. Seems like you have the dedication and interest. Just make sure to create a study plan before hand and stick to it (seems common sense but sometimes difficult to do). A lot of CFA I will be parallel material to what you already have covered in school.

Chance favors only the prepared mind.

Feb 5, 2013

Make sure you read ethics three times. If you don't get at least a 70% there, you will automatically fail.

Feb 5, 2013
Victor252:

Make sure you read ethics three times. If you don't get at least a 70% there, you will automatically fail.

completely false

Feb 5, 2013

Ethics, shmethics!

Chance favors only the prepared mind.

Feb 5, 2013

150 hrs is minimum study time, cfa says 200-300 thats overkill though for people who are familiar with things like TVM, NPV, basic port mgmt, different securities

Feb 5, 2013

I would have to agree that ~250 hours of study time could be overkill and just fry your brain. Concentrate on what you feel you need help with.

Chance favors only the prepared mind.

Feb 5, 2013

You'll be fine. When you register and get the books in the mail, you'll probably see that a lot of the material is familiar.

Feb 5, 2013
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