Becoming a CFA Charter-holder is a full-time job, which requires a significant investment of time and energy, and often is accompanied by angst and tears. On the other hand, if it were easy, everyone would do it. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Thus, with enough study and practice, you can definitely pass the exam (whichever level you attempt) and earn the Charter (eventually).
We were curious about what helped our candidates most during their CFA preparation, so we asked several of them who have already passed one or more levels. While the answers varied, some common themes emerged that illustrate their adopted habits to maximize their chances of success. Well then, without further ado, here are the ten most important things you can do for yourself to succeed on the CFA exam.
1. Having A Plan
"Failing to plan is planning to fail," says Benjamin Franklin and he couldn't have been more right.
We found out that successful candidates used top-quality resources such as our comprehensive online learning platform ( ;) ) to prepare for the CFA exam. It was also important for them to factor in time for breaks and unplanned events so they wouldn't fall behind.
2. Being Consistent
It’s important to create a plan, but it’s even more important to follow it. In order to succeed, successful candidates understood the importance of being consistent in their studies each and every day. This habit conditioned their minds and bodies to get into an automatic study routine and retain the information they were learning.
3. Getting Up Early
Successful CFA candidates found that waking up between 4:00 and 6:00 am represented the ideal time to study. Having a routine of getting up early and getting the most important things done before distractions hit is a powerful habit that helps people maximize their time. They used this time to review and practice the material they learned earlier. By using digital flashcards, they were able to reinforce their knowledge throughout the rest of their day. Moreover, it also prevented fatigue for those that are balancing work responsibilities as they didn't have to learn new information after a long day at work.
4. Prioritising Responsibilities
To be successful in the CFA exam, candidates need to prioritize it as one of their top priorities. That's why they know what should (temporarily) take a back-seat in their lives and know how to manage their responsibilities to positively impact and maximize their study efforts.
5. Knowing That Failure = Opportunities
If they failed a CFA exam level, they had a chance to review and reflect on what went wrong. They could then improve their test taking skills in order to get the results that they want next time. Few CFA candidates pass each level on their first try. The average CFA charterholder takes four to five years to complete all levels of the CFA exam. That means that most CFA candidates have failed, learned from it, and gone on to succeed.
Successful candidates don’t let the occasional failure define who they are or what they can accomplish. Instead of getting stuck in their rut, they step outside it, examine their strengths and weaknesses, and leverage their experience positively.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to studying for the CFA exam. Everyone learns and retains information differently. To pass the exam, you'll need to find the study techniques that work for you and stick to them. And that may require a lot of trial and error—you may have to try a variety of different approaches to find the one that works best for you.
7. Studying Smarter, Not Harder
Successful candidates must spend their time doing quality work, not just trying to do as much as they can to get their score up. Your time and money are limited. You should only spend time and money on studying the right material. Anything else is a waste of time.
That's why at MasterCFA, each question has undergone a painstaking review process to ensure that the content goes beyond the basics and covers all learning outcomes of the CFA exam. Every single question goes through rigorous vetting before it can be approved for inclusion in the QBank. For every year, our team collects user feedback to make our QBank more valuable to you.
8. Having A Strong Support System
If you want to succeed at anything, it’s important to have a supportive network of people to help you through tough times and frustrations. It’s essential for candidates to know that they need time to study, but it’s also important to get encouragement from family and friends when you get stuck, or when things aren’t going as smoothly
9. Focusing On Application
Understanding the concepts behind the process is essential to learning the material. There are lots of things that you simply can't and shouldn't memorize. Successful candidates usually try to figure out the "why" behind the process, and think about how the process is designed to work and why it should work, rather than memorizing facts and crunching numbers. In order for learners to be able to use the material, they should apply their knowledge rather than just learning the information.
10. Keeping Your Eye On The Prize
It's hard to be positive 24/7 when studying for the CFA exam. In order for you to be successful, you have to work hard and put in the hours. Successful candidates always have the end goal in sight - they want to achieve their CFA Charter and they make all sorts of sacrifices now in order to pass the exam. They recognise that if they do their best and focus on their studies, it'll yield a huge payoff down the road!