How to Pass the CFA Exam on the First Try

If you are on the career path to becoming a financial advisor, then you have no doubt heard about the perils of the CFA exam. Showing that you have passed the CFA exam and have become a Certified Financial Analyst shows commitment and is an essential part of the path to becoming a financial advisor. To pass the CFA, you must dedicate hundreds of hours to study. The knowledge you gain in and out of class and in CFA internships is vital to your understanding of the subject material.

It will take physical and mental discipline; a process that can take months to develop and maintain, and all of this is only for people who hope to pass the exam in two or three attempts. Many people fail to pass the exam on their first try, and yet there are still people who do. There are still many common financial advisors who have achieved the task. So, how do you pass the CFA exam on the first try?


The CFA examinations are very comprehensive, difficult, time-pressured and exhausting. The key to successfully passing the examinations is preparation mainly by practicing a CFA mock exam every week.

The course of study is organized into three levels and each level requires passing a six-hour exam. The program curriculum increases in complexity as you move through the three levels:

* Level I: Focuses on a basic knowledge of the ten topic areas and simple analysis using investment tools

* Level II: Emphasizes the application of investment tools and concepts with a focus on the valuation of all types of assets

* Level III: Focuses on synthesizing all of the concepts and analytical methods in a variety of applications for effective portfolio management and wealth planning

Since most candidates do not pass their CFA the first time, it is critical to know how to prepare; where to focus and that you have the support you need to succeed. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Engage in Long Study Sessions

The essence of long study sessions has often been stressed by the CFA Institute. According to them, students are expected to prepare for six months prior to their exams. They are also expected to conduct 300 to 400 hours of studying for each exam. The period of preparation goes a long way in determining the level of success a CFA candidate will attain. For instance, one should start preparations for the June exam in January and also start preparations for the December exam in June. Therefore, the longer the length of your studying, the better your success rate will ultimately become.

  1. Create your Plans carefully

Studying early alone cannot guarantee success in your CFA exams. There are special cases when individuals plan carefully for study but are interrupted by circumstances. For instance, one may plan to study 5 hours daily, but during these hours, friends may create some sorts of distraction. This problem can easily be solved by careful planning.

Create a to-do list and try as much as possible to block distractions from mobile phones. Also, create a reading timetable for 12 hours daily and ensure you cover lost hours whenever emergencies occur during reading periods. Also, create periods of play that will help relax your mind. It is advised that free two or three weeks should be included in your study periods for optimum activities.

  1. Select a Suitable Study Pattern for You

Humans are known for studying at different times and at different paces. This creates the need for you to know yourself and to structure a reading pattern that will suit you. Some people prefer reading early at mornings, while others prefer reading throughout the day. Most people are uncomfortable reading with sunlight, so they prefer reading at night.

The trick here is to know what works best for you. How do you read for previous exams with full concentration? It is advised that you follow the trend and also try to maximize the benefits you get during your peak hours.

  1. Utilize Available Materials

The relevance of study materials to exam success cannot be overemphasized. Most of these materials are provided by the CFA Institute, they will also provide you with a CFA mock exam. With your password and your username, you can easily access resource materials that can guide your study and help you reach your goal. Students are also advised to acquire additional resource materials to complement what the CFA Institute offers. This helps to provide an all-round understanding and gain an edge over other candidates.

  1. Practice Continuously

A popular proverb says practice makes perfect. The only way to fully grasp the assertions in your research materials is by continuous practice. Endeavor to attempt past questions (CFA mock exam), ask questions and strive to maintain excellence. Continuous practice will undoubtedly open doors to your success in CFA exam situation.

Once you have cemented all these points sorted in your brain through rigorous study, it is time to take the CFA mock exam. Taking a CFA mock exam will give you a glimpse as to how the test works. Understanding the structure and mechanics of the test will give you a better idea about how to answer the questions. Getting firsthand experience before sitting down for the real thing will give you a huge advantage because it will psychologically prepare you for the day of the test. Doing so will make the actual test day seem much less stressful and allow you to relax a bit more.


Regardless of the situation you find yourself in, note that the prestige of passing the CFA exam on the first time is miniscule compared to all of the other skills you must have to succeed. Boasting about your genius may not be attractive to your potential employer in an interview, but they will appreciate seeing both your technical skills and soft skills in action. Passing the CFA exam is just one step in a life long journey, so be kind to yourself. If you do not succeed the first time, try and try.

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