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The Best Tips to Study for the CFA Level 1 Exam

You are probably reading this article because you must have signed up for the CFA level 1 exam.

In August 2021, the CFA level 1 exam pass rate was only 25%, the lowest rate in the history of the CFA program. There are many theories behind the reasoning of such a low rate. Regardless of how low the rate is, I will be sharing some tips for you to succeed in the level 1 exam.

To begin with, the purpose of the CFA level 1 is to test you on the basic knowledge of finance such as stats, accounting, corporate finance, and more. Although CFA level 1 may not be as thorough as level 2, it still requires a lot of practice and work.

Here are my 8 tips.

  1. Start early- Many people underestimate the difficulty of the CFA level 1 exam leaving all the studies to the last minute. Although studying at the last minute for the CFA level 1 may be feasible, it is not something that I would suggest especially given the terrible pass rate from this year. Give yourself 6 to 8 months to study, create a schedule and stick to it.

  2. Practice- The CFA level 1 exam is really about practicing and solving problems whether they are theoretical or mathematical. The only way of really succeeding in this exam is through a lot of constant practice from different sources.

  3. Go over your mistakes - The best way of learning is through mistakes. Pay attention to the mistakes you make. Find out what went wrong and re-do the problems until you finally understand them.

  4. Focus on the Mocks and the CFA problems - The CFA problems within the curriculum (white and blue boxes) or those on the website are a good representation of the difficulties you will be facing during the exam. Do them, understand them, and repeat them all until you master everything.

  5. Be comfortable with all the topics- Some topics are heavily weighted while some others are not. Regardless of the weights, do not neglect any topics.

  6. Be familiar with your financial calculator - Get into the habit of using your financial calculator regularly. It will be your best friend during your study period and on the exam. Knowing how to use it will save you a lot of time. Make sure to double-check on the CFA website which approved calculators you can bring.

  7. Use third-party providers to study- There are many third-party providers. Some good ones that I used for level 1 are Schweizer and Mark Meldrum. For video lectures, Mark Meldrum or IFT is highly recommended.

  8. Do not neglect ethics - Ethics is the most difficult topic within the CFA program. It is very subjective and open to interpretation. Some people leave the ethics portion towards the end of their studies. I suggest starting with ethics and reviewing it again towards the end.

To conclude, my key takeaway message for you is to revise, repeat and retain everything you study for level 1, especially when it comes to practice problems. Make sure to stay on top of your schedule and study everything in and out in order to succeed.


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