Monday, January 14, 2013

How to Prepare for the CFA Level I Exam ?

With a historic average pass rate of 50 percent, the Chartered Financial Analyst, or CFA, Level 1 exam poses a challenge for most students. CFA charter-holders are sought-after by financial institutions globally, and must complete all the three levels of the CFA Program in order to attain charter-holder status. You can overcome the challenges that you experience in completing Level 1 of the CFA exam with a variety of preparation techniques, such as setting a study timetable, studying extensively, completing practice exams and gaining peer feedback.

Set a Study Timetable
According to the CFA Institute, you must devote at least 250 hours of dedicated study to properly prepare for the Level 1 exams. Since the Level 1 exams are held twice a year, you should start studying six months in advance of your exam. Assign approximately 20 hours each week for 18 weeks to cover the 18 study sessions included in the curriculum. In this way, you will be prepared to answer all the 240 questions presented in the six-hour long Level 1 exam.

Study Extensively
Ensure that you focus on the important Level 1 topics of investment valuation and portfolio management, as well as understand how these processes fit within the guidelines of the CFA Institute code of ethics and professional standards. While self-study is necessary, you should consider joining a reliable Level 1 training course that offers a choice of weekly classroom programs, online training and short-term immersion courses. You should also purchase third-party study material such as Schweser and Stella which are concise and easier to assimilate than the official CFA Level 1 textbook.

Practice Tests
You should complete practice tests every week, well in advance of your Level 1 exams. Answer the questions and mock exams that are available in the CFA textbooks, and also purchase Level 1 question banks. Use online resources to search for the previous year’s Level 1 exam questions and answer them. As most of the test questions are algorithmic, you can only master them by solving the algorithmic problems. Avoid making the mistake of memorizing the practice problem answers; instead work them out as diagnostic solutions.

Get Peer Feedback
Speak to your seniors for tips on how to clear the Level 1 exam. All CFA charter-holders are invited to be part of the grading process and can provide you with valuable tips on what areas you need to work on. Learn from the experiences of your peers by joining online forums that are focused on completing the CFA exams. Understand the learning strategies used by CFA charter-holders and your fellow candidates to help you successfully clear the CFA Level 1 exam.  Other feedback you may obtain online is how online Finance MBA degrees are also another option to advance your career, unlike CFA exams, obtaining an MBA is considered more broad-based and has a wider variety of opportunities.

By Esperance Barretto