【CFA Exam Tips】How to pass CFA Level 1 in 3 months in first attempt -  A Guide with Key Facts, Free Resources, Exam Tips

How to pass CFA level 1 in 3 months? CFA Level 1 Exam Tips, Free Resources - Recommended free tutorials on curriculum and financial calculator, free online question bank, free mock exams, quick sheets



3/18/20236 min read

Here are some key facts of the CFA Level 1 Exam:

  • Exam Format: CFA Level 1 exam consists of 2 sessions with 90 MCQs in 2.15 hours each, separated by an optional 30-min break. Time is limited. Only 1.5 min per question, especially when some questions involve a longer Ethics case scenario or complex calculations.

  • Topics: CFA Level 1 exam has 10 topics tested in 2 sessions. Ethics (15–20%) and Accounting (13–17%) carry the heaviest exam weights, followed by Equities and Fixed Income (10–12% each), and then Quantitative Methods, Economics, and Corporate Issuers(8–12% each).

  • Pass rate: CFA Level 1 exam has a passing rate of only 36%-37%, one of the most difficult financial professional qualification exams!

  • Equipment allowed: You are only allowed to bring your financial calculator and your passport into the exam venue. Security checks are stricter than airports’ ones. They'll even check all your pockets. Anything else (e.g. stationery, tissue paper, water bottle) has to be stored in a locker.

Is it possible to pass CFA level 1 in a month?
  • Well, if you have only 1 month left for CFA Level 1 exam but you have only started your revision at this stage, I presume you are a finance/accounting major graduate with solid knowledge and trainings in relevant topics.

  • Or else, please go back and check the pass rate of CFA Level 1 exam again… I guess you may pay to postpone the exam date if possible.

  • So, I assume you have already understood concepts and forumlae in more than half of the curriculum. So you only need to study Ethics (Never underestimate Ethics! Common sense alone won't help you pass!), revisit these good old friends you studied before, and learn some new but relevant concepts, and then familiarise yourself with the CFA exam question styles.

  • In this case, if you follow my exam tips and shortcuts below, you stand a chance to pass the CFA level 1 exam.

So… how to pass CFA level 1 in 3 months?
  • If you don’t have a solid accounting/ finance background, it’s still not easy at all to pass the CFA level 1 in only 3 month

  • You must follow my exam tips and shortcuts, and work very very hard!

CFA Level 1 Exam tips, Shortcuts, Free Resources:

1. Youtube tutorials on financial calculator (Recommended ★★★★★)

  • You must familiar yourself with using an approved financial calculator, like this BA II Plus Pro.

  • It’s not like any ordinary calculator. You can quickly compute the answers at ease for questions on Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate of Return (IRR), annuity, future value, etc. by inputting the required numbers correctly (I mean, don’t forget to adjust the numbers for frequency like ‘quarterly’!).

  • The last thing you want is to calculate these by hand, as you only got 1.5 min per question. If you have mastered the use of financial calculator, you should be able solve such an easy calculation question in 30 seconds, and spare time for the difficult ones.

  • There are plenty of online tutorials on how to use your BA II Plus in a CFA context, and here is just one example. I bet you can learn all the basics that you need for your CFA Level 1 exam within half an hour.

2. CFA Question Bank (Recommended ★★★★☆)

  • After payment and registration for the CFA Level 1 Exam, you will gain access to the resource-rich CFA official portal which contains official curriculum, practice question bank, and mock exams.

  • The CFA Level 1 exam official practice question bank consists of over 3,300 MCQs, which has a similar style and difficulty level as the real exam. Most importantly, each question contains a solution and detailed explanation so you can learn a lot by doing questions.

  • I recommend completing at least half of the question bank and taking notes on those you made mistakes.

  • I mean, if you only have time for just one of (1) reading the Official Curriculum, (2) reading the Schweser’s Notes, or (3) doing all the practice question bank, I would suggest (3) > (2) > (1) for CFA Level 1.

  • As each question in the CFA Level 1 exam is independent and relatively straight forward, ‘learning by doing’ still works well for CFA Level 1 exam. In contrast, it may not be the same case for CFA Level 2 exam consisting of case study vignettes, and CFA Level 3 with essay type questions.

3. Free CFA Mock Exam (Recommended ★★★★★)
  • The official mock exams are definitely a must-do!

  • In your CFA online portal, there are 2 full sets of mock exams, each of 2 sessions of 135-min just like the actual exams.

  • If you don’t have enough time for the whole question bank, I suggest you at least directly jump into the mock exam to have a taste of the exam.

  • A large proportion (if not all ?) questions in the mock exams are directly extracted from the practice question bank. So, if you have completed all questions in the question bank, then you’ll see the old questions again.

  • In your final week before the exam, I strongly suggest you set a timer and try at least one full set of mock exam. You have to test your speed.

4. CFA Level 1 Quicksheet (Recommended ★★★★☆)
  • Of course, a 6-page quicksheet is impossible to summarise a full curriculum of a few thousand pages. You’ll definitely fail the CFA exam if you only rely on the quicksheet.

  • But, this quicksheet serves as a very good formula sheet, cheat sheet, table of content, or a material for a final 30-minute rush to boost your short-term memory before going into the exam venue.

  • You may buy it from Schweser, or you’ll find your own way to download it somewhere else.

5. CFA Level 1 Schweser’s Secret Sauce (Recommended ★★★★☆)

  • Schweser’s Secret Sauce summarises thousands of pages of the official curriculum into a few hundred pages.

  • Similarly, I don’t think it is possible to pass the CFA exam with it alone, but it is highly suitable for your last 2–3 weeks before the exam as it helps you review all the formulae/concepts before doing the mock exams.

  • You can buy it from Schweser’s official website, or find your own way to download it somewhere else.

6. Free CFA tutorials (Recommended ★★★☆☆)
  • If you find some topics particularly difficult to understand, you may watch some Youtube tutorial videos for clarification.

  • I suggest this Youtube channel if you feel fine with some strong Indian English accent. I don’t know this tutor but he is a good teacher, straight to the point, and good at explaining concepts in an exam-oriented way. But he speaks quite slowly, so I suggest you to turn on 1.5x or 2x speed.

  • As far as I know, they made their CFA Level 1 videos free on Youtube as a promotion campaign, while they charge a rather expensive price for CFA Levels 2 and 3 videos.

7. Schweser’s Notes (Recommended ★★☆☆☆)
  • This seems the most talked-about resource for CFA Level 1 exam.

  • These Schweser’s notes are an easy and streamlined version of the official curriculum. These notes are a good read, explain concepts very well, and perfectly suitable for you if you are learning the CFA curriculum without any finance/accounting/economics background.

  • However, they are still 4 thick books of like almost 2000 pages? If you have only 3 months left, I guess you won’t have enough time to go through all parts.

  • So, I suggest you do the question bank first. If you still have difficulty understanding some difficult concepts in a topic, then read the Schweser’s Notes or watch tutorial videos for that particular topic.

8. Free CFA official curriculum (Recommended ★☆☆☆☆)

  • Just click ‘Lessons’ in your CFA online portal, and you will find the few thousand pages of official curriculum for free (it came as a pile of heavy thick textbooks in the past…)

  • If you are a perfectionist and have plenty of time, like more than half a year, to prepare for the CFA Level 1 Exam, you can go for the most orthodox route — study the whole official curriculum, complete the official question bank, and complete the official mock exam.

  • Or, if you want to clarify some difficult concepts, the official curriculum helps as it contains the most detailed explanation. In the real exam, you may still meet some questions where the question bank does not cover. But everything is surely covered in the official curriculum.

Good luck! Hope this article is helpful to you.