The CFA is undoubtedly a difficult exam, but with effort comes great reward. If you have decided to pursue a career in the finance industry, the CFA gives you a competitive advantage. The syllabus covers many different topics, and CFA Institute recommends that the student spend at least 250 hours preparing for the Level 1 exam.
Common questions that students ask are "How many hours a week do I need study?"; "Am I falling behind in my preparations?"; "Which topics should I spend more time on?" etc. The study plans try to answer these questions. Do note that every student is different (due to different abilities and prior exposure to the material), and the study plans are for the average student. So at best the study plans offer suggestions for how you should spend your prep hours, and you should combine these suggestions with your own evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses to formulate your own plan for success. The following plan is for a student starting out with 26 weeks remaining for the exam.
26 Week Plan
A. The First 9 weeks:
You are in a good situation and should aim for around 10 to 12 hours a week. Rather than trying to do an entire topic at one go (which may get boring), do the readings in the order suggested below.
- Ethics: Readings 1 to 4. Spend around 2 hours every week on Ethics rather than trying to do it all at one go. Ethics reads like a novel and is a nice break from the more analytical topics. The key to Ethics (rather like the other topics) is doing lots of practice questions.
- Quantitative 1 to 1.5 weeks: Readings 5 to 10. This assumes you have some background in finance and statistics, if not you should plan to spend more. If you spend more time on one topic, you will have to find another topic to spend less time on. Watch the videos or read the textbooks a couple of times, and then do the practice problems. This also applies to the remaining topics.
- Economics 1 to 1.5 weeks: Readings 13 to 16. This may be new to students with non finance background. You will be comfortable with it once you go through the entire material.
- Financial Reporting and Analysis 1.5 to 2 weeks: Readings 22 to 27, and 29.
- Corporate Finance 1 to 1.5 weeks: Readings 36 and 40.
- Equity 0.5 to 1 weeks: Readings 47 to 49.
- Fixed Income 1.5 to 2 weeks: Readings 53 to 57.
B. The Last 17 Weekss
At this point you have covered about 35% of the curriculum and have about 17 weeks left. The exam is still about 4 months away, but this is not the time to relax, but rather to remember all the good things a CFA designation brings and push harder! Try to increase the hours you spend a week to about 15 to 18. You may wonder how it is possible to find so many hours after work (most CFA candidates are employed full time)? Quite simply the CFA exam owns your weekends, and in return you will have career opportunities. Schedule at least 10 hours of work during the weekends. Videos are usually the fastest way to learn new material, leaving you more time for practice problems.
- Quantitative 1 to 1.5 weeks: Readings 11 and 12.
- Economics 1 to 1.5 weeks: Readings 16 to 21.
- Financial Reporting and Analysis 2 to 2.5 weeks: Readings 28, 30 to 35.
- Corporate Finance 0.5 to 1 week: Readings 41 & 42.
- Portfolio Management 1 to 1.5 weeks: Readings 43 to 49.
- Equity 0.5 to 1 week: Readings 50 to 52.
- Fixed Income 0.5 to 1 week: Reading 58 & 59.
- Derivatives 1 to 1.5 weeks Readings 60 to 65.
- Alternative Investments 1 to 1.5 weeks: Readings 66 to 67.
After the above, you should have about 5 weeks left. Good job on making it this far, now is the time for the final push. Revise the material and start doing all the practice problems you can get your hands on. Every weekend take at least one full length (120 questions) practice exam.
Good luck with the exam!