Planning Your CFA Exam Journey: Timelines and Study Strategies

Introduction

Below you can see all the exam months of Level 1 and the subsequent Level 2 and Level 3 exams you are allowed to take, considering you start taking the Level 1 exam on the first available date.
Many individuals dream of having a well-paying, fresher job with ample opportunity for career growth in finance without spending many years pursuing a degree at once. But with the help of a popular professional certification course that can be pursued online in distance mode, your dream comes true, all thanks to CFA. Chartered Financial Analyst or CFA is a professional certification offered by the CFA Institute with its core financial and investment management competency. As an internationally recognized qualification, it is widely accepted and highly sought after by finance enthusiasts. But students are confused about how to proceed with the exam preparation, especially due to repeated changes in the exam schedule twice in a row in the last two years post-pandemic.
In this blog, we have tried to address the problems faced by many CFA aspirants and have provided important CFA exam tips and strategies so that you can proceed with your preparation with a tension-free mind.

Overview - CFA

The CFA certification is conferred to candidates who successfully clear all three exam levels Levels 1, 2, & 3. Before giving any CFA exam tips and strategies, it is important to have a complete understanding of the CFA course syllabus so that you can make a mental roadmap about how to proceed in your preparation for the exam. The CFA exam structure and the varying weightage of the different exam levels are given below.

CFA Course Details - Weightage of Subjects/Topics Asked

SubjectsLevel 1 WeightageLevel 2 WeightageLevel 3 Weightage
Quantitative Methods8-12%5-10%0%
Economics8-12%5-10%5-10%
Financial Statement Analysis13-17%10-15%0%
Corporate Finance8-12%5-10%0%
Equity Investments10-12%10-15%10-15%
Fixed Income10-12%10-15%15-20%
Derivatives5-8%5-10%5-10%
Alternative Investments5-8%5-10%5-10%
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning5-8%
10-15%35-40%
Ethical and Professional Standards15-20%10-15%10-15%
The average CFA course duration is two years; however, it can take anywhere between 1.5 years to 4 years to complete all three levels based on the effectiveness of CFA exam tips and strategies you employ. The CFA Institute has a restriction of 6 months gap between any two attempts of the same or different levels. However, completing the exam process in one year with the right guidance and ample preparation is possible.

CFA Exam Schedule

The CFA exam can be taken at different times during the allotted slots for different levels. You can take any exam (first attempt or reattempt) after a gap of 6 months as mandated by the CFA Institute, a crucial point to be considered. 
YearMonthLevel 1Level 2Level 3
2023FebruaryAvailableNot AvailableNot Available
MayAvailableAvailableNot AvailableNot Available
AugustAvailableAvailableAvailableAvailable
NovemberAvailableAvailableNot AvailableNot Available
2024FebruaryAvailableNot AvailableAvailable
MayAvailableAvailableNot AvailableNot Available
AugustAvailableAvailableAvailableAvailable
NovemberAvailableAvailableNot AvailableNot Available
Now it is time to help you plan your CFA exam schedule with some important CFA exam tips and strategies so that you can breeze through the exam without any tension about the schedule!

CFA Exam Tips and Strategies

Read ahead for important CFA level 1, 2, & 3 tips and strategies.
  1. CFA Level 1
As the first stepping stone towards success, CFA Level 1 requires hard work, dedication, and sincerity. Since the CFA syllabus is the same with different weightage in different levels, you are already halfway there when you study for Level 1! 
Follow these tips to get you started with confidence.
  • 300+ Hours of Studying - You should dedicate 300+ hours to Level 1 preparation. 2-3 hours a day is enough to keep you going steadily. You can comfortably split the entire syllabus in a six-month duration.
  • Make Your Calculator Your Best Study Partner - By this, we mean questions from the Quantitative Methods and Portfolio Management subjects that need to be solved quickly. So the more you practice, the more you'll be comfortable during the exam.
  • Devise a Roadmap - Everyone has their own pace and comfort zones while studying. Some topics may come easy to you, while others may seem a bit difficult to tackle. You shall be the best judge of your preparation requirements.
  • Take regular Mock tests - Mock tests, one of the essential parts of CFA Exam tips and strategies, help you prepare for the specific exam pattern so that you can comfortably take the exam and be your best self at time management. 
  1. CFA Level 2
Preparation for Level 2 is based on what you have done so far till Level 1.
  • Revision is Key- Revise what you have studied for the Level 1 exam. You need to focus on the areas of greater weightage.
  • Study with Vignettes- Vignettes are mini case studies from which questions are formed in Level 2. Studying such questions will help you get familiar with the exam pattern.
  • Mock Tests- You should take mock tests for Level 2 to practice time management and get familiar with the changed exam pattern from Level 1.
  1. CFA Level 3
In Level 3, you only need to prepare seven topics instead of 10, which gives you ample leverage from previous preparation. However, with a decreased syllabus, you'll face more difficult questions. Thus, you must alter the CFA exam tips and strategies as per the situation demands.
  • Get Familiar with 'Constructed Response'- In Level 3, a new section is present, known as 'Constructed Response,' making up about 50% of the exam paper. In the previous levels, MCQ-type questions were very easy to handle. In the previous levels, MCQ-type questions were very easy to handle. In this section, you need to write essay-type questions, which may be word-based or calculation-based.
  • Keep Practicing MCQs- While the number of MCQ-type questions gets reduced, they're still important to get you through the last phase of the exam.
  • Revision & Mock Tests- With the changed exam pattern in Level 3 again, you need to be acquainted with the exam pattern and be adept in time management in this section since essay-based questions will set a new difficulty level.
  • Skip Whenever Necessary- During the exam, if you face a question that you're unsure of if you'll be able to answer or don't know the answer to, or even may require more time than what you have at hand, you should skip and see which questions you're confident about and will be completed faster.
These CFA exam tips and strategies for the different levels can be altered as per your preparation requirements. However, the basics of the prep study plan must be the same, with a strong foundation created with dedication and continuous evaluation.

FAQs

1. How much time should be spent studying for the CFA exam?

Successful CFA students claim to have studied anywhere between 300-400 hours in total to clear the three levels of the CFA exam. Ideally, as per the most effective CFA exam tips and strategies, you should spend 3-5 hours daily studying.

2. What is the average salary of CFA students in India?

Salaries of CFA candidates in India vary based on their prior experience and the exam level cleared. As a fresher in India, having cleared the Level 1 CFA exam, the average annual salary ranges between INR 4-5.5 lakhs. Level 2 pass candidates claim around INR 6-8 lakhs per annum on average, while candidates who have cleared all the levels successfully typically claim more than INR 8 lakhs per annum.

3. Is the CFA exam very difficult in India?

CFA can be a bit challenging, especially with the changing exam pattern in Levels 2 & 3. However, you can clear the exam well within two years with proper guidance and enough preparation.

4. Is CFA better than MBA?

MBA requires full-time enrollment in the course and is typically costlier than CFA. Along with BBA, MBA also takes more time to be completed, whereas CFA can be easily pursued alongside any full-time or distance course.

5. How can I prepare for CFA efficiently?

With the help of online study materials and study guides, and guidance from well-experienced teachers at NorthStar Academy, you can prepare for CFA exams in a well-planned manner.

6. Can I prepare for CFA from home?

You can prepare for CFA with the help of study guides provided by the CFA Institute. For better guidance and support, you can join a coaching institute like NorthStar Academy, where you get continuous expert guidance until you have successfully completed all three CFA exam levels.

Conclusion

Clearing the CFA exam is not just about preparation but also about the right strategy and mindset. Combined with able guidance from subject matter experts will help you get through the exam with ease.
NorthStar Academy provides comprehensive, complete exam guidance by providing CFA online and distance coaching modes. You get continuous support from well-experienced mentors like M. Irfat Sir at NSA, who provide video coaching and online CFA study materials. NSA helps you curate the best and most effective CFA exam tips and strategies to clear the exam in one attempt.
You can contact our career counselors if you have any doubts about CFA or CFA coaching.
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