Before deciding whether or not to become a licensed CFA®, you must be willing to put in the hundreds of hours of work. Many of the benefits associated with becoming a CFA® charterholder are financial. But, remember: people in the field know that passing the three levels of the CFA® exam is an unparalleled achievement, so your dedicated efforts do not go unnoticed.
But, how long will it take you?
CFA® Exam Structure Affects Timing
There are three levels to the CFA® exam. Level I is given in the late fall and late spring and Levels II and III are given only once a year in the late spring. You must pass each level before moving on to the next, and the passing statistics are daunting. So, if you fail one exam, you’re going to have to wait a significant amount of time before trying again.
It’s about a 50/50 chance of passing for each level of the exam. This means that even with the most optimistic scenarios, less than 30% of those who began at Level I go on to pass Level III. If that isn’t enough to scare some people off, the amount of time and hard work required can be intimidating.
How Long Does It Actually Take?
Studying for the CFA® exam requires sacrifices and hundreds of hours of work. On average, it takes about 300 hours of studying to pass each level, a total of 900 hours for the whole test. That comes down to about 15 hours per week, especially since you’re likely working full time while studying.
The CFA® Institute says that it takes the average candidate four years to finally become a licensed CFA®. However, some people have said it took them up to seven years to finally pass all three levels. On the other hand, the most accomplished CFA ®candidates have passed all three exams in 18 months. So the amount of time it takes to complete the process varies on how well you stick to your study schedule.
Given the low pass rate, CFA® exam takers have to be prepared for the possibility of failure. This can be discouraging, especially since failing makes the process longer. That is why it is important to stick to the same rigorous study schedule for all three levels—if you power through, you’ll be rewarded!
CFA® Exam Study Schedule
Making a study plan and sticking to it is the most important part of studying for the CFA® exam. This also will help keep the whole process shorter. Experiment with different studying styles and schedules until you find one that works best with your lifestyle and needs.
For example, if you’re working full time, do the majority of your studying on the weekends with shorter study periods during the week. It’s also a good idea to finish all the reading material a good month before the exam so you have plenty of time for the practice exams. Many people who have passed the CFA® exam say that the practice exams were a crucial part to their success since they were able to see the places on which they need to improve.
Tips to Get Your CFA® Faster
There are a couple things you can do to shorten the amount of time it takes earn that CFA® charter. It can be difficult to stay on the same weekly study schedule for 4+ months for each exam, but you will not be able pass unless you put in the study time. Discipline is an obvious requirement, but a lot of people try and skimp on their studying schedules and end up failing (see CFA® pass rates).
There is a lot of reading material that each CFA® exam covers, so make sure you do not skim. You might think some sections are unimportant or won’t be heavily weighted on the exams. You will realize that skimming was a mistake once you get your practice tests back. Again, make sure you begin studying at an earlier start date in order to have more time to complete your practice exams. Practice exams are the most beneficial part of the study process, in my opinion, so it is a good idea to ensure you have plenty of time to spend on these.
One of the biggest challenges to the whole process is the fact that you are doing it alone. There is no classroom or professor for you to ask questions to directly, which can make it difficult to stay motivated. That is why it is helpful to reach out to others who know what it’s like to study for the CFA® exam for support and help on certain topics. Heck, just shoot me a message and I’ll send along some words of inspiration!
If you can stay on track with your study schedule and give it your all, you’ll be able to pass all three levels of the CFA® and improve your career path. Your commitment and willingness to achieve something as difficult as the CFA exam will be greatly rewarded. If you’re ready to take that first step to success, take a look at the best CFA review courses today and find the perfect test prep for you!