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Top 5 CFA studying tips and tricks

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Pass your CFA exam with ease. Check out our top studying tips and tricks to excel in your finance career.

Top 5 CFA studying tips and tricks

Preparing for the CFA exam can be a daunting task, but with the right strategies and techniques, success is achievable. In this article, we will discuss the top CFA studying tips and tricks to help you pass the exam on your first attempt. Whether you're a seasoned finance professional or a recent graduate, these tips will provide valuable insights into effective CFA prep.

Everything you need to know about the CFA exam

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program, offered by the CFA Institute, is a globally recognized professional designation for investment professionals. The CFA curriculum covers a wide range of topics related to finance, including ethics, economics, portfolio management, and financial analysis.

The CFA exam consists of a series of three levels that test candidates' knowledge and understanding of investment management, financial analysis, and portfolio management. To become a CFA charter holder, candidates must pass all three levels of the exam and meet other requirements, such as work experience and professional standards.

Benefits of taking the CFA exam

The Chartered Financial Analyst program is designed for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in the finance industry, particularly in the fields of investment management, research, and analysis. The CFA program is also well-suited for professionals who are already working in the finance industry, those who wish to advance their careers or deepen their knowledge, or full-time finance students preparing to enter the field.

There are several reasons why one might choose to pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. Firstly, the CFA is a globally recognized professional designation that demonstrates a high level of knowledge and expertise in the field of finance. It is highly valued by employers in the investment management industry and can open doors to career opportunities and advancement.

Additionally, the CFA program covers a broad range of topics related to finance, including ethics, economics, portfolio management, and financial analysis, providing a comprehensive understanding of the industry. This knowledge can be applied to various roles within the finance industry, including asset management, investment banking, and research.

Finally, the CFA designation signifies a commitment to ethical standards and professional excellence, as candidates are required to adhere to a strict code of ethics and continue their education throughout their careers. Overall, taking the CFA is a significant investment in one's professional development and can lead to career advancement and increased earning potential.

When you should start studying for the CFA exam

It is recommended that candidates start studying for the CFA exam at least six months before the exam date. The exam is divided into three levels, and each level requires a minimum of 300 hours of study. Therefore, candidates should plan their study schedule accordingly and allocate enough time to cover all the material thoroughly.

What to expect from the CFA exam: format and content

The CFA exam is composed of three levels, with each level being administered separately. Each level of the exam is a computer-based test (CBT) that consists of multiple-choice questions and constructed response (essay) questions. The exam format is as follows:

  • Level I — The CFA Level I exam consists of 240 multiple-choice questions, which are divided into two 3-hour sessions, with a one-hour break in between. The exam covers 10 topics, including ethics and professional standards, quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity investments, fixed income, derivatives, alternative investments, and portfolio management.
  • Level II — The Level II exam consists of 120 multiple-choice questions, which are divided into two 3-hour sessions, with a one-hour break in between. The exam covers 20 topics that build upon the topics covered in Level I.
  • Level III — The Level III exam is split into two parts. The first part consists of 10-15 constructed response (essay) questions, which are grouped into three sets, and candidates are given three hours to complete them. The second part of the exam consists of 10 multiple-choice questions, which are related to the constructed response questions, and candidates are given 1.5 hours to complete them.

The exam is designed to test a candidate's knowledge and comprehension of a wide range of topics related to investment management and financial analysis. Each level of the exam is challenging and requires significant preparation and study time to pass.

The pass rate for the CFA exam

The pass rate for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam varies depending on the level of the exam and the year it is administered. Historically, the pass rates have been relatively low, particularly for Level II and III exams.

According to data provided by the CFA Institute, the passing scores for the June 2021 exams were as follows:

  • Level I: 45%
  • Level II: 39%
  • Level III: 54%

It is important to note that the CFA exams are known for their difficulty and require a significant amount of preparation and dedication to pass. However, with the right study tips and strategies and a strong understanding of the exam material, passing the CFA exam is achievable.

Top CFA studying hacks

The Chartered Financial Analyst exam is a rigorous and challenging test that requires a significant amount of preparation. To pass the CFA exam, it is essential to study hard and smart, so let’s explore the top exam tips and tricks to make a plan for effective exam prep and ace the test.

1. Make a study plan

To effectively prepare for the CFA exam, candidates should create a study plan that covers all the material and allows them to allocate time efficiently. When creating a study plan, it is important for candidates to allocate enough time to cover all the material thoroughly. The amount of time required will vary depending on the candidate's existing knowledge and familiarity with the exam material.

However, regardless of current knowledge, it is important for candidates to avoid last-minute cramming and instead spread out their study sessions over a longer period of time, dedicating certain days to certain topics and sticking to the schedule.

2. Practice with mock exams

Mock exams are an excellent way to test your knowledge and identify areas that need improvement. They also provide candidates with a simulated exam experience, which helps them manage their time better on the actual exam.

One popular option for CFA test prep is to use study packages offered by providers such as Wiley and Kaplan Schweser. These packages typically include practice tests, question banks, study guides, practice questions, and other resources designed to help candidates master the concepts and skills required for the exam.

3. Use text to speech technology

Using text to speech technology to study for the CFA can be a helpful tool for candidates who prefer audio-based learning. TTS software, such as Speechify, allows candidates to listen to study materials while on-the-go, making it easier to fit study time into a busy schedule.

Additionally, by listening to study materials such as practice questions or key concepts in audio format, candidates can reinforce their understanding of the material and retain information more effectively

4. Use flashcards

CFA exams require a thorough understanding of complex financial concepts and formulas, and flashcards can be a convenient and effective way to memorize these key concepts.

Candidates can use flashcards to test their knowledge regularly and reinforce the material they have learned. Additionally, the portability of flashcards can help you get study time in anytime, anywhere.

5. Join a study group or prep course

Studying with a CFA study group can be a beneficial way for candidates to prepare for the exams as well as stay motivated and focused. When studying with a group, candidates can set goals and hold each other accountable for completing assignments and staying on track.

In addition, studying with a group or prep course study sessions provides an opportunity for candidates to discuss and clarify any difficult concepts with other candidates.

Boost your CFA studying with Speechify

Speechify is an excellent tool that can help candidates prepare for the CFA exam and turn any digital or written text into audio files for a great listening experience. Speechify can help test-takers cover more material in less time, improve their reading speed and comprehension, and reduce stress and fatigue. By using Speechify to listen to study materials, candidates can free up time to focus on other aspects of their preparation, such as practice exams and mock tests.

Moreover, Speechify can be particularly beneficial for candidates who are visual learners or who struggle with traditional study methods. By listening to study materials, candidates can engage with the material in a different way, which can help them to retain the information better.

Take your studying to the next level and achieve your goals with confidence by signing up for a free trial of Speechify today.


Will CFA designation look good on my LinkedIn?

Yes, earning the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation is an impressive accomplishment that can certainly enhance your professional profile and look great on your LinkedIn profile. The CFA is widely recognized as a rigorous and respected credential in the finance industry, and it demonstrates a high level of knowledge and expertise in investment analysis and portfolio management.

What should I expect on the CFA exam day?

You should plan to arrive at the exam venue well before the scheduled start time. Check-in and registration can take some time, so it is essential to arrive early to avoid any unnecessary stress. The exam venue will have strict security measures in place. You will be required to provide identification, and your belongings will be checked before you are allowed to enter the exam room. The CFA exam is a computer-based exam that consists of multiple-choice questions (MCQs). You will have a set amount of time to complete each section, and there will be a break between the morning and afternoon sessions.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.