Revisited: How to Study for the CFA Level 1 Exam

Today I was looking back at some of my posts.  I started to read “How to Study for the CFA Level 1 Exam” and started to ask myself some questions.  Can everyone follow this schedule?  I was not working at the time, could a person working really follow this schedule?  How could I alter the plan to adjust for those of you who do not want to read 18 study sessions in a month, or simply do not have the time?

So I went back to my Excel file and started to tinker with the busy person in mind.

Now to achieve this, I decided I would offer two possible solutions: 1) An altered 4 month plan, and 2) A new 5 month plan.  I know I said in the previous post that 4 months is the perfect amount of time to study for the CFA, but in reality things are different.  Some people read faster/slower, some people don’t have the time for all that reading, or some people can’t retain all that information in that little of time.  With this in mind, here are my two ALTERNATE study plans for the CFA Level 1 exam.

Alternate Plan #1

This plan still uses the 5 resources:

  • CFA Body of Knowledge Books
  • Schweser Notes
  • Schweser LOS Summaries
  • Schweser 30 Question Quizzes
  • Schweser Practice Exams

Go back and read more about these in the post “How to Study for the CFA Level 1 Exam”.

The big difference with this plan is the readings.  I have spread out the readings a little more.  In this plan you are reading 9 study sessions a month, that’s half of the reading in the previous plan.  But, in this plan, you are still reading in the last month, whereas the last plan had you mainly focused on quizzes.  Here is an outline of the Alternate Plan #1:

This may be a little more manageable for some of you.  This is a good plan for someone who isn’t as strong in reading.  It gives you a little more time to go through the texts at a reasonable speed.

Now there are some downfalls to this alternate plan, and some of you may have already noticed it.  The biggest thing is that you will be doing quizzes for study sessions 10 through 15 without reading the text first.  You could move the quizzes down, but I wouldn’t sacrifice free time for touch-up studying at the end just before your test.  So I would keep the quizzes as is.  The quizzes would now be a sort of pre-test.  You’ll find out what you know and what you really don’t know.  This may be advantageous while reading because you might pay attention more to something you recognized from the quiz.

The other problem is that you are still reading near the end of your studies.  I like to focus primarily on questions when I get closer to the exam.  I would have hoped I would know most of the theory and now test my knowledge of that theory.  But, that is a sacrifice to take when spreading out your reading.  It may work better for some though, especially if you need time to retain all the information.

Alternate Plan #2

So what if you’re working?  Don’t have enough time to cram all of your studying in 4 months?  Well that is what Alternate Plan #2 tackles.  This plan adds an extra month for you busy professionals.

The 5 resources are also used here. This plan takes reading at a slower pace the first two months at 9 study sessions per month, and then it really slows down the next 3 months at 6 study sessions per month.  I did this because if you are working, there will be nights where you are just too tired to study.  You will have deadlines, work overtime, or have meetings that must be attended to.

Also, this plan separates the quizzes out a little more.  With this plan, the only time you will be doing double quizzes is in the last month before your exam.  And as for the practice exams, you actually have some extra time, so I suggested going back and trying Exam 1 and 2 again in month 5.

Here is an outline of Alternate Plan #2:

The downfalls of this plan are very similar to Alternate Plan #1: Doing quizzes before readings and less time at the end right before your exam.  This plan also adds in the factor of the possibility that you might forget some things.  It’s doubtful that you will because you still have the Summaries and Quizzes reminding you, but this plan is more spread out so the chance is there.  But, all in all, I think this plan would be very effective and help you pass the CFA Level 1 Exam.

So there you have it.  Now you have 3 study plans to choose from: An aggressive plan, a moderate plan, and an easy going plan.  Hope this helps!

Thanks for reading and good luck out there!



  1. Hi, much appreciated information. I am working full time so I will try and follow plan #2.

    1. Excellent! I hope it works out great for you. Remember that being consistent with studying will be your best friend. Good luck!

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