The Best Way to Prepare for the CFA Level I Exam (2023)

Preparation for all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams requires a serious commitment to following a structured study plan. According to the CFA Institute, the average annual pass rate over the last 10 years for the CFA Level I exam has been 44%. For the May 2022 exam, the pass rate was just 38%.

This statistic indicates that onlydedicated candidatesare likelyto pass the exam, so be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices andput in the required effort. And remember, passing Level I is only the first step to receiving a CFA Charter—there are two more rigorous exams to go.

Your biggest investment in the CFA Charter is your time, so spend it efficiently.According to the CFA Institute, successful candidates report that they spent on average about 323 hoursin total preparing for the CFA exam. The CFA Institute, which administers the exam, suggests no less than 300 hours of study.

The required preparation time can be greater for those with a poor background in the subject matter and less for those who have a strong background in the subjects that the CFA curriculum covers. As a guide for a study plan, let’suse thisestimate of323 hours of reading and practice hours as a benchmark.

Key Takeaways

  • Passing the CFA Level I exam, which has around a 40% pass rate over the past years, requires following a solid study plan.
  • Successful Level I candidates spend more than 300 hours preparing for the exam on average.
  • The best strategy is to leave at least four months (approximately 17 weeks) to finish all the reading material.
  • Don’t neglect end-of-chapter questions. They will help reveal weak points.
  • Allow four weeks prior to the exam date to review questions and have practice sessions, while also setting aside at least one dayto simulate exam conditions at home.


Pass Your CFA Exams on the First Try

Reading Material

The CFA Level I exam covers 10 topics, 19 study sessions, and about 60 readings.Each subject carries a different weight in the exam. A good way to manage your study time is by allocating study time based on each topic’s weight.

The Best Way to Prepare for the CFA Level I Exam (1)

(Video) How I Passed the CFA Level 1 Exam [+95th Percentile Scorer?]

The table below summarizes the distribution of 323 hours of reading on the different exam topic areas. It’s often best to leave at least four months for readings and the last month for revision and practicing. If you read two hours per day on weekdays and eight hours on the weekends, then it will take about 17 weeks (four months) to complete all of the readings.

Weekends and nonworking days are the best time to study for the CFA exam. During the week, you likely will not have time for practice questions, in addition to end-of-chapter questions. Therefore, plan to spend an additional two to four hours during the weekend on practice questions. Do not forget that the more you practice, the higher your chancesof being successful on the exam.

The letters “CFA” cannot be added after your name until you have passed all three exams and earned CFA Charterholder status.

End-of-Chapter Questions

Do not forget end-of-chapter questions, and always write down your results to track your progress. End-of-chapter questions will give you an overview of what areas are tested on the exam, so you can be more focused on these areas. Additionally, these questions will reveal the weaker areas that you must focus on to improve.

The following table summarizes how to best allocate your study time for the various CFA exam topics, if you were to give yourself about 323 hours and four months (120 days) to study. Use this table as a benchmark and customize your study routine to suit your circumstances.

CFA Level I Exam Topic Areas
Topic AreaWeightHours based on 323-hour scheduleDays to allocate
Ethical and Professional Standards15%–20%5420 days
Quantitative Methods8%–12%3112 days
Economics8%–12%3112 days
Financial Reporting and Analysis13%–17%4617 days
Corporate Finance8%–12%3111 days
Portfolio Management5%–8%208 days
Equity Investments10%–12%3512 days
Fixed Income10%–12%3512 days
Derivatives5%–8%208 days
Alternative Investments5%–8%208 days
Total100%323120 days

The Last Four Weeks

After decades of paper-based exams, the CFA exams have changed to computer-based testing. As of 2022, the Level I exam is now offered in February, May, August, and November, the Level II exam in February and August, and the Level III exam in May and November.

Taking these dates into account, allow yourself four weeks prior to the exam date to review questions and have practice sessions. During this period, you should practice more intensively than inprevious periods. The CFA Institute will give you mock exams.

It’s recommended that you set aside at least one dayto simulate exam conditions at home with the mock test. Two 2.25-hour sessions with an optional break in between are advised, to reflect the conditions of the new computer exam. The mock exam will help you to be well prepared physiologically for the exam.

It can also be worthwhile to take a two- to four-week study leave from work during the final phase of your preparation.

(Video) How to Pass CFA Level 1 in 2023 With 2 Months of Studying | 90th Percentile Score

How much do I have to study to pass the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level I exam?

The CFA Institute recommends studying more than 300 hours for the CFA Level I exam, and successful test takers report devoting around 323 hours.

What is the CFA Level I exam pass rate?

The overall pass rate since the CFA Level I exam began in 1963 through May 2022 is 45%, and over the past 10 years (through May 2022), just 44% of test takers have passed. The May 2022 exam saw only 38% pass.

What is the minimum passing score (MPS) for the CFA Level I exam?

Each year, the CFA Institute computes a minimum passing score (MPS) for its exams, which changes each time the exam is given. The CFA Institute does not make this score available to the public, but test prep providers believe that scores above 70% should usually constitute a pass. They also estimate that the passing score could be as low as 56% in some years and as high as 74% in others.

What happens if I fail the CFA Level I exam?

If you fail the CFA exam, you have the opportunity to retake it, but candidates who do not pass their exam will have to wait for a minimum of six months to take it again. You can only attempt an exam twice per calendar year and have a total of six maximum attempts per exam level to succeed. You will also have to pay the registration fee each time you sit for the exam.

How much does the CFA Level I exam cost?

To sit for the CFA Level I exam, you will first have to pay a one-time $350 enrollment fee into the program. Each exam then costs $1,200 (or $900 for early-bird registration).

The Bottom Line

The key to preparing for the CFA Level I exam is to study in a structured way over a period of at least 323 hours.Hopefully, after studying in a structured way for the exam, you won’t have any issues with passing it.

Completing the CFA Level I exam is only a piece of receiving a CFA Charter. You’ll need to sit for two additional exams—CFA Level II and CFA Level III—before being eligible for this prestigious industry credential.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in oureditorial policy.

  1. CFA Institute. “1963–2022 Candidate Examination Results.”

  2. CFA Institute. “CFA® Exam Results and Pass Rates.”

  3. CFA Institute. “June 2019 CFA Program Candidate Survey.”

  4. CFA Institute. “CFA® Program Study Sessions Page.”

  5. CFA Institute. “Information on Exam Registration, Scheduling and Deferrals.”

  6. CFA Institute. “CFA®Program Mock Exam and Practice Questions.”

  7. CFA Institute. “Computer-Based Exam Information.”

    (Video) How I Passed the CFA Level 1 Exam [Top 10% Scorer]

  8. 300Hours. “CFA Passing Score: Here’s the Latest MPS Estimates.”

  9. CFA Institute. “CFA Exam Eligibility Policy.”

  10. CFA Institute. “Exam Dates, Cost, and Registration Fees.”

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(Video) How to Study for CFA Level 1 Exam



(Video) The BEST Ways to Study for the CFA Exams (Based on Data)


The Best Way to Prepare for the CFA Level I Exam? ›

For the majority of candidates, we recommend a 6-month study plan. This would break down to about 12 hours per week or two hours per day for 6 days per week.

How many months to study for level 1 CFA? ›

For the majority of candidates, we recommend a 6-month study plan. This would break down to about 12 hours per week or two hours per day for 6 days per week.

How to pass CFA Level 1 in first attempt? ›

How to Pass CFA Exam in the First Attempt?
  1. How to pass CFA Exam in the first Attempt?
  2. Attend all classes.
  3. To attend a free demo at FPA; CFA classes in Mumbai, please connect us. Self Study is Important.
  4. Don't just read the curriculum, understand it.
  5. Practice Questions.
Jan 16, 2023

How hard is the level 1 CFA exam? ›

Just How Hard Is The CFA Exam? The Chartered Financial Analyst credential is one of the most demanding exams when it comes to preparation and study time required. The average pass rate for the CFA Level 1 is only 41%.

What is the hardest part of the CFA Level 1 exam? ›

Fixed Income, Derivatives, and Financial Reporting Analysis have always been considered one of the hardest topics for the Level 1 exam. The reason is that these topics demand a lot of reading time and extensive calculations.

How many hours does the average person study for CFA Level 1? ›

Studying for the CFA Level I exam is crucial, and it takes a substantial effort. There are no shortcuts. The one thing standing between you and success on the Level I CFA® Program exam is hard work. CFA Institute recommends you aim to spend at least 300 hours preparing for the Level I exam.

Is 3 months enough for CFA Level 1? ›

According to CFA Institute, it takes a typical candidate an average of: 4+ years to complete the CFA program; 300+ hours of studying per Level. 6 months of preparation for each exam (i.e. about 11.5 hours study per week assuming 300 hours)

How many people fail CFA Level 1? ›

Falling Pass Rates

The Level I pass rate fell to as low as 22% in July of that year, down from 49% in 2020. Level II and Level III pass rates fell to 40% and 42%, respectively, from 55% and 56% the previous year.

How many times can you fail CFA Level 1? ›

Candidates will have a total of six maximum attempts per exam level. Partially completed exams (e.g., completion of only one session) count towards the maximum attempts.

Is CFA Level 1 easy to crack? ›

The CFA exam is no Cake-Walk

You may have heard some rumours regarding the Chartered Financial Analyst course being a comparatively easier course because the level 1 exams are easier. But the truth is, CFA exams are difficult to crack right from the start.

Is it worth doing CFA Level 1 only? ›

CFA candidates who passed Level 3 or Charterholders earned 53% more than those who had yet to pass CFA Level 1 exams. There's only significant 28% increase in total compensation for CFA candidates who just pass Level 1 in 2022, a big jump from 2021's data of just 16%.

Which CFA level is hardest? ›

Many CFA charterholders consider the Level 3 CFA Exam the most difficult because of the time and thought needed to answer the constructed responses successfully. While the typical Level 3 CFA Exam pass rates are the highest of the CFA Exams, only around 56% of CFA candidates pass the exam.

Does CFA Level 1 expire? ›

CFA Program exam results do not expire, and you are not required to enroll each year. There is no limit to the amount of time you have to complete the CFA Program.

Can you pass CFA 1 by guessing? ›

If you need to correctly answer 135 questions to pass the exam, you don't have to know the answer to 135 questions. That should give you confidence. It's OK to guess on some questions. A passing score is within your grasp!

What is the lowest score to pass CFA Level 1? ›

Passing Scores

Candidates must get a minimum passing score (MPS) of 70% on the multiple-choice questions on the CFA Level I exam, a minimum score of 65% to 70% on the multiple-choice questions on the CFA Level II exam, and a minimum passing score (MPS) of 60% on the multiple-choice questions on the CFA Level III exam.

What is the easiest topic in CFA? ›

Corporate Finance is one of the easiest topics of the Level one exam this is because this subject is very logical and intuitive and the formulas are easy. The scope is also quite limited and includes concepts related to NPV, IRR, corporate governance and capital management.

What is the shortest time to study for CFA? ›

We recommend 6 months of studying per level to minimize fail chances, which is the biggest setback you can risk. Therefore, the quickest (practical) way to a CFA charter is about 12-18 months, from starting Level 1 to finishing Level 3.

How long does it take the average person to complete the CFA? ›

How long does the CFA® Program take to complete? With Level I exams in June and December and Level II and III exams in June, it is possible to complete the CFA Program in two years. However, with a recommended study time of 300 hours per exam level, it takes most people three to four years to complete the full program.

How many people pass CFA Level 1 300 hours? ›

The latest estimated MPS for CFA Level 1 (i.e. Feb 2023 exams) is estimated to be around 69%. The latest estimated MPS for recent CFA Level 1 exams are: Feb 2023: 69% Nov 2022: 67%

What is the pass rate for CFA Level 3 first time? ›

Recent CFA Level III Exam Pass Rates
CFA Level III Exam AdministrationCFA Level III Exam Pass Rate
November 2021 Level III Exam43% pass rate
May 2022 Level III Exam49% pass rate
August 2022 Level III Exam48% pass rate
February 2023 Level III Exam48% pass rate
4 more rows
May 2, 2023

What happens when you pass CFA Level 1? ›

Based on these numbers, if you've passed Level I, the job roles most likely available to you are intern, accountant or assistant accounting manager, investment administrator, fund analyst, investment product analyst, and junior equity research analyst (which is often the first step toward getting into asset management ...

Which calculator is allowed in CFA exam? ›

The CFA exam calculator policy allows only two calculator models for the exam: Texas Instruments (TI) BA II Plus (including BA II Plus Professional) Hewlett Packard (HP) 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum, 12C Platinum 25th anniversary edition, 12C 30th-anniversary edition, and HP 12C Prestige)

Is the CFA harder than the CPA? ›

The pass rates for the CFA and CPA exams are similar, but the CFA certification typically takes candidates several years longer to obtain than the CPA certification. In that respect, the CFA certification is typically viewed as harder than the CPA because of the greater time commitment and work experience requirements.

How much does CFA earn in USA? ›

On average the base CFA Salary In US is $126,000 USD and total compensation of about $177,000 USD. CFA Professionals have a wide range of scope to hold different positions in the finance industry in various streams such as trading, asset management, investment portfolio management, and the like.

Who is the oldest person to get a CFA? ›

At 106, Irving Kahn is the oldest living, active investment professional.

What is the hardest financial exam? ›

According to the Wall Street Journal, the CFA exam is the most difficult exam in the world, with less than 1/5th of candidates clearing it, after repeated attempts, on a yearly basis.

What is the CFA retake discount? ›

Candidates who fail the exam and re-register will receive the benefit of a reduced registration fee of USD595 for each subsequent examination. If you fail the exam twice within a six month period, you will not be permitted to register again until six months after the date of your first failed appointment.

What are the odds of passing CFA? ›

The CFA Institute reports that historical pass rates for Level I and Level II of the exams are typically between 40% and 50% with Level III having a slightly higher pass rate.

Can you pass the CFA without finance background? ›

Are you required to have a finance background to obtain a charter? The short answer is, again, no. The CFA Institute simply requires you to have a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) or be in the final year of your bachelor's degree program.

How much does CFA cost? ›

You'll pay multiple fees to take the CFA exam. The one-time enrollment fee is $350. The standard registration fee for each level of the exam is $1,200.

Why is the CFA so hard? ›

One key reason for the high CFA exam difficulty level is the time commitment. Many people don't make it through all three levels primarily due to the time it takes to study. Most people lack the necessary study time and/or don't put in the time. It's admittedly a hard exam, but not THAT hard.

Is 5 months enough to study for CFA Level 1? ›

Successful Level I candidates spend more than 300 hours preparing for the exam on average. The best strategy is to leave at least four months (approximately 17 weeks) to finish all the reading material.

Is 6 months enough to study for CFA Level 1? ›

Are 6 Months Sufficient to Prepare for Level 1 CFA Exam? 6 months are definitely sufficient to prepare for your level 1 CFA exam. With 6 months, you can easily plan for roughly 400 hours of studying during your exam prep.

Can you do CFA Level 1 in a month? ›

Generally speaking it is doable to study for the Level 1 exam with only a month of preparation time but this will depend on your background / education and the amount of time you have to prepare.

Can you study for CFA Level 1 in 2 weeks? ›

At the end of the day, yes, I did pass with just two weeks of study. But I think I was INCREDIBLY lucky to have managed. I'm glad I studied hard and tried to pass it instead of waiting for the next exam.

Can you get a job with CFA Level 1? ›

If you are a CFA Candidate with a finance background and are working on passing the CFA Level 1 Exam, some job opportunities available to you include: Investment Banking Analyst. Junior Financial Analyst. Personal Financial Advisor.

What is the pass rate for CFA Level 1? ›

Level I, II and III pass rates equaled 36%, 44%, and 48%, respectively. Since the CFA began administering the program in 1963, Level I, II, and III pass rates have averaged 41%, 46%, and 56%, respectively, with a total of 2.1 million, 963,594, and 543,322 separate exams taken at those respective levels.

How many hours a day should I study for CFA? ›

Study ​10-20 hours a week, or 2-3 hours a day. Sophie recommends starting 6 months before the CFA exams, which we wholeheartedly support. Starting 4-6 months before the CFA exams gives you dollops of time to adequately go through the syllabus, take practice exams, iron out weak spots and tune yourself to be exam-fit.

How much does a CFA cost? ›

You'll pay multiple fees to take the CFA exam. The one-time enrollment fee is $350. The standard registration fee for each level of the exam is $1,200.

How many times can you take CFA Level 1? ›

Candidates will have a total of six maximum attempts per exam level. Partially completed exams (e.g., completion of only one session) count towards the maximum attempts.

How many hours a week is CFA Level 1? ›

With a 300-hour goal, you'll need to allot around 13 hours per week studying for the CFA Level I exam.

How to crack CFA Level 1 in 30 days? ›

CFA level 1 examination tips
  1. Create a study plan. ...
  2. Take notes. ...
  3. Concentrate on test papers. ...
  4. Get up-to-date with testing methodologies. ...
  5. CFA topics to pay attention to: ...
  6. Devise your own exam strategy. ...
  7. Practice to up your speed levels. ...
  8. Make use of online resources.
Apr 22, 2020

Where can I get CFA study material? ›

Constantly updated, here are all the latest free yet awesome resources we've identified for you!
  • 300Hours.
  • Kaplan Schweser.
  • IFT.
  • UWorld.
  • Salt Solutions.
  • Bloomberg Exam Prep.
  • CFA Institute.
May 4, 2023

Is 2 months enough for CFA Level 1 reddit? ›

Yes, clearing CFA in 2 months with your background is possible. Take printout of all formulae sheet and stick it on wall/cupboard look at it and memorize. Make a study plan for next 2 months and keep last 20 days for mocks and revision.


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