The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is one of the most difficult of all financial designations to achieve. Of all the people that attempt to quality for a CPA designation every year, less than 20 percent manage to achieve their goals.
This doesn’t mean that successfully navigating the CFA study program is impossible – quite the opposite, in fact. The 20% of CFA applicants that pass demonstrate that it is very possible to succeed with the right combination of hard work and strategy.
In this guide, we’ll look at how you can use CFA study material and simple planning skills to pass some of the hardest exams in finance. Ready to start? Enroll in our CFA Level 1 Accounting Course and get ready to begin.
What is the CFA Qualification?
Before we begin, let’s look at the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. The CFA is considered one of the hardest credentials to achieve in business; it’s also known as the ‘Gold Standard’ of professional designations.
Students interested in acquiring the CFA designation are told that doing so requires upwards of 800 hours of graduate level study. In addition, three examinations need to be passed, each requiring a significant amount of preparation and hard work.
Although the exams are a non-negotiable part of the CFA process, the study can be shortened and optimized by applying some simple principles and study materials to your process of preparing for the CFA.
Breaking down the CFA exams
All three of the CFA program exams are designed for independent study. Due to the immense difficulty of the examinations, however, most students choose to prepare with the assistance of a tutor or study course.
The three sequential exams each cover different aspects of financial analysis and decision making. From Level I to Level III, the exams focus on:
- Testing your basic knowledge of investment tools and analysis
- Testing your knowledge of advanced analysis and asset valuation
- Synthesizing all of the analytical methods that make up the CFA program in a wide variety of different applications targeted around portfolio management and wealth planning
As part of the exam curriculum, CFA students need to answer questions related to ethics and professional behavior. The ethics tested in all exams are the same, with the format and type of questions changing from one exam to the next:
- In Level I, students are tested on their knowledge of the ethics curriculum
- In Level II, students are tested on how well they can apply these ethics to a diverse range of situations an analyst might face
- In Level III, students are tested on how they would apply these standards to a portfolio management or compliance situation
CFA Study Material: Level I Exams
Theoretically, it’s possible to pass the entire CFA program in 18 months. The exams are given on the first Saturday in June at all three levels; an extra exam for Level I is also held in December.
Despite this being possible, it’s extremely uncommon. Most CFA candidates spend at least four years to complete the CFA program, including at least six months of study time prior to each exam. This equates to 10 hours of study per week for the entirety of the program – not a small commitment, by any measure.
One of the best ways to prepare for the CFA exam is by using online study materials and coaching courses. Many of these courses are prepared by global training firms that specialize in the financial services industry.
Prepare for the CFA Level I exams by enrolling in our course, Complete CFA Level I – 2014 Curriculum. In over 196 lectures, this in-depth course covers all aspects of the Level I curriculum, from asset classes to ethics and professional standards.
It’s also essential to prepare for the CFA Level I Ethical and Professional Standards exam. This is one of the most important modules of the CFA Level I, with a weight-age of 15% in the exam itself.
Prepare for the CFA Level I Ethics Module with our course, CFA – CFA Level I Ethics Module. This in-depth preparation course contains over seven hours of content and 52 lectures showing you how to prepare for the important Level I Ethics module.
You may also want to prepare for the separate modules that make up the CFA Level I program using focused workshops and guides. Fitch Learning, a leading finance and economics training company, offers several in-depth CFA preparation courses:
- A free introduction to the CFA program, which covers whether or not the CFA Program and its demanding study and exam schedule is right for you.
- An exam preparation workshop for the CFA Level I Ethics and Quantitative Methods module.
- A learning workshop for the CFA Level I Financial Reporting and Analysis module.
- Another learning workshop, which continues on the lessons in Workshop 2 to help you prepare for the CFA Level I Financial Reporting and Analysis module.
- A detailed workshop and question practice course for the CFA Level I Fixed Income and Equity module.
- An expert workshop for the CFA Level I Corporate Finance, Quantitative Methods II, and Derivatives module.
- A final workshop for the CFA Level I Alternative Investments, Portfolio Management, and Economics module.
Whether you like to study for the entire CFA Level I exam as a whole or break it into separate sections for independent study, these workshops and courses give you the study materials to successfully enter one of the finance world’s toughest exams.
Improving your finance and economics skills
Passing the CFA exams requires absorbing an incredible amount of information. As a result, many of the most successful candidates apply themselves to studying finance as a whole before narrowing their focus in order to pass each separate CFA exam.
Do you feel that you need to brush up on the basics of finance and economics before taking the CFA exam of starting your study? Training firm EduCorporateBridge has a wide range of excellent finance courses available for CFA candidates, including:
- A detailed overview of the investment banking industry, from bank structure to underwriting and mergers and acquisitions. Enroll in Investment Banking: Industry Overview to cover the fundamentals of the finance industry.
- An in-depth guide to using your business calculator to prepare for and take the CFA exam. Enroll in CFA Calculator today to learn how to set up and use your business calculator for success in the CFA curriculum and exams.
Developing a study plan for success
The CFA qualification is one of the most difficult in the finance world to achieve, and it’s easy to see why. With an estimated 800 hours of study required, the three exams challenge even the most dedicated students.
Because of this, it’s essential to have a dedicated study plan to help you stick to your schedule and master the content of the CFA Level I, II, and III exams well in advance of your exam dates.
Our course, Productivity Mastery & Time Management, is an excellent tool for CFA candidates seeking a simple, powerful, and effective framework for managing their time and making sure they absorb all of the information required for CFA success.
Finally, another important element of preparing for the CFA exams is to sit down and talk to existing CFA charterholders. They’ve been through the process before, and they may be able to give you actionable advice and studying strategies.
The CFA exams are extremely challenging, and there’s a reason for the notoriously low pass rates. However, with the right combination of focus, strategy, and CFA study material, you can pass the CFA exams and become a Chartered Financial Analyst.