CFA Exam Preparation Survey

Keeping true to our commitment to nourish CFA exam candidates with relevant career information, we, at AnalystPrep, are proud to present to you a detailed analysis of the CFA Institute Candidate Survey that was conducted before and immediately after the June 2015 exam session. A total of 41,219 candidates participated in the survey, representing about half the number of candidates that were writing exams during the session. The study revealed interesting facts that will prove very helpful to both current and prospective candidates.

Exam preparation

Candidates spent 308 hours on average to prepare for the exams. The average time spent for each exam level is as follows:

– Level I- 287 hours

– Level II- 315 hours

– Level III- 327 hours

These figures clearly echo our recommendation to candidates, urging them to spend a minimum of 300 hours preparing for each exam. If you are preparing for an exam, our advice still stands! Putting in 300 hours of study will not only ensure you’re in tandem with fellow candidates, but it will increase your chances of passing. It’s also important to note that the number of hours spent studying increases marginally as you progress through the exams. The trend suggests increasing levels of curriculum complexity and as such, you should brace yourself for even more commitment to studies. Remember, you can’t argue with stats!

Study materials

78% of candidates reported using curriculum assigned readings to prepare for the exams. About 61% of candidates revealed that they used third party preparation materials, in addition to the assigned materials. Again, this is very much in line with the results of a similar study, in which most candidates expressed the opinion that study material provided by the CFA Institute is not enough. These statistics seem to suggest that candidates should use a combination of the Institute’s material and additional content. Luckily, AnalystPrep is here for just that. However, here’s a worrying stat:

Only 50% of candidates reported using the end-of-chapter practice tests, which lead us to the question, “What means did the remaining candidates use to test their retention ability?” The only way to ensure you have read and understood a chapter is by taking practice tests. It helps you to identify any gaps in knowledge that you might have. We always advise candidates to take quizzes after every topic. In fact, that’s why we have the question bank. The questions will familiarize you with the exam structure and help you develop techniques for handling different questions.

The survey also revealed that about 72% of candidates included at least one mock exam in their preparation. This further emphasizes the need to write a mock exam as you prepare for the actual exam. At AnalystPrep, our mock exams mimic the real exam regarding curriculum, topic weights, and difficulty level.

What you give is what you get!

In the same survey, an astonishing 91% were of the opinion that the exam fairly represented the CFA curriculum. This should pump extra motivation and confidence into you as you dig deeper into the coursework. The message is clear: Intensive reading pays. In addition, the importance to adhere to Learning Outcome Statements came out very clearly- 93% agreed that the exam was based on the objectives. In short, candidates should read widely and also ensure that they cover the entire CFA curriculum.

Difficult topics

Candidates were asked to pick three most difficult topics per exam, and these were the results:

– Level I exam; Financial reporting, Ethical & Professional Standards, and Fixed Income

– Level II exam; Derivatives, Alternative investments, and Fixed Income

– Level III exam; Derivatives, Portfolio Management, Ethical & Professional Standards.

We suggest that you spend more time on these topics. It would also be crucial to use all available materials including end-of-chapter quizzes and the question bank. It’s also worth noting that some topics, Derivatives, for instance, present problems across the board. As such, you should take these topics very seriously right from the start, as concepts introduced at the level I will serve as the foundation for everything else. With a really good foundation, it should be easier for any candidate to understand more complex concepts.

The future is bright

The institute asked candidates about their expectations with regard to the number of job opportunities for financial analysts in the next 12 months. A majority were of the opinion that opportunities would increase. It means there’s general optimism regarding the future of the profession. This is good news to prospective candidates – jobs are waiting for you out there. All you need to do is navigate through the exams successfully.

Overall, the survey highlighted several issues that should guide all future exam candidates. There is a need to combine the profession’s assigned study materials with quality additional study packs. It’s also critical for candidates to write at least one mock exam so as to enhance overall exam preparedness. The topics that have been highlighted as being relatively more challenging than others should be handled with a little bit more vigor and intensity.


Related Posts

Derivatives – CFA Level 1 Essential Review Summary

Reading 56 – Derivative Markets and Instruments Derivative securities are an asset class...

Fixed Income – CFA Level 1 Essential Review Summary

Reading 50 – Fixed-Income Securities: Defining Elements A bond is a debt instrument...