Preparing for the CFA Chartered Financial Analyst Exam
Before you begin to study the Chartered Financial Analyst curriculum, think honestly and carefully about your past education and experience in Corporate Finance, Economics, Financial Reporting and Analysis, Statistics, Calculus, Portfolio Management, Investments (Equity, Fixed Income, Derivatives and Alternative Investments) and Financial Statements. Be BRUTALLY honest with yourself. It is better to underestimate your abilities now than to have to re-do Level 1 later. The CFA® is widely considered to be a graduate level course, therefore it assumes you have at least an introductory college level knowledge of each of the above subject areas. Students enroll in the CFA program for a variety of reasons; perhaps you are hoping for a salary increase or feel that the content of the program will complement your MBA. Whatever the case, be prepared to invest substantial time and effort in your studies. Remember, the CFA Institute estimates that students should spend at least 300 hours studying for level 1, though many candidates spend closer to 500 hours studying CFA material and preparing for the first exam.
Master Your Calculator NOW!
There are only two approved calculators for the CFA® exams. The Texas Instruments BA II Plus (and BA II Plus Professional) and the Hewlett Packard 12C (and 12C Premium). If you don't have one of these, get one. Now. Become an expert at using it. You will not be able to take the instruction manual into the exam with you, and you don't want to use precious minutes trying to remember the keying sequence for the Internal Rate of Return calculation in the middle of the exam.
CFA Approved Calculators
Start Studying for the Chartered Financial Analyst Exam NOW
- Once your books arrive, look through each volume and payattention to the length of each section. Using a calendar, block off any prior commitments- ie. booked vacations or religious holidays.
- Total the remaining days and make your schedule. Allow at least 4 weeks for a final exam review, extra study of weak areas and time to run through practice exams.
- When can you study? On the subway or bus, coffee breaks, lunch hours, before work, after work, weekends....think about the time of day that you are most effective. Keep earplugs in your purse or pocket to study in noisy environments.
- Use the Learning Outcome Statements at the beginning of each chapter in the CFA Candidate Book Of Knowledge Curriculum and the end-of-chapter summaries to guide your studies.
- Even if you are using a CFA study curriculum such as Schweser-Kaplan, Elan, or Stalla, complete the questions at the end of each chapter in the CFA text books. They are often taken from previous exams (these questions will have a little logo indicating this) and will give you an idea as to the phrasing and level of difficulty of the questions on your exam.
- Purchase the sample exams from the CFA as soon as they become available (check the CFA website periodically). These are timed online exams and will give you a good indication of the subjects you should spend your last few weeks studying.
- Consider buying one or two study aids if you are not planning to buy an entire supplementary CFA study program. Schweser's Secret Sauce and qBank (CFA level 1 question bank) are both popular options. Secret Sauce is a summary booklet and qBank is a question bank of hundreds of multiple-choice questions.
- Visit the CFA website for the updates on CFA material and "Errata", or errors in the text book.
Join a CFA Study Group Online
It helps to communicate and study with others who are as focused, determined and hard-working as you are. If you don't have any co-workers or acquaintances who are also studying for the same Level Exam of the CFA, find a study group or at least a study buddy online through the CFA forums. Twitter, Facebook, Meetup, and AnalystForum are all good sources of potential CFA student contacts in your area.
Sample Lecture from AllenResources on CFA Level 1: Ethical and Professional Standards
Get Involved with your Local CFA Society
The Chartered Financial Analyst Institute has chapters in major cities all over the world. Get involved early in your career by applying for candidate membership once you have passed the Level 1 CFA exam. You will need two sponsors, a recognized college undergraduate degree and 48 months of relevant experience. For more details visit the CFA website. Another benefit to joining your local CFA Society is the possibility of a discount on one of the CFA supplemental study programs. Ask about any available CFA offer codes.
What Every CFA Level 1 Exam Candidate Must Know
CFA Supplemental Study Notes and Programs
To pass Level 1 of the Chartered Financial Analyst program you will need to master an enormous amount of material as described in the Candidate Body of Knowledge. As most CFA students are working full time in demanding careers and many also have families, one of the biggest challenges of completing the CFA designation is time management. If you already have an undergraduate degree or solid academic foundation in business, finance, and investments, consider purchasing one of the many CFA Supplemental Study Programs. Be warned - they are expensive, though it is more expensive to re-write Level 1 if you fail. Schweser-Kaplan, Stalla, and Analyst Notes are just some of the organizations that provide online, in-class or text-book study notes, summaries, mock exams and supplemental materials to help you pass your exam. Once again, check with your local Chartered Financial Analyst Society for discounts on the above. Also check with your employer. If they won't pay for the material up front, perhaps they are willing to reimburse you once you pass your exam.