CFA FAQ: 14 Popular Questions By CFA Candidates

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We receive a lot of questions from readers asking for advice for their own CFA preparations.

While we do try and reply to every one personally, it got me thinking about readers that may not have written in, but still have the same questions nonetheless.

So I thought I’d share 14 of the most popular CFA FAQs by our readers to us, as well as our answers.

Hope they’ll be of help to you, and if you have any further CFA questions, just pop them in the comments further below!

Does CFA Institute offer discounts?

sale shopping

“I’m currently in university, and the CFA registration fee is quite expensive for me. Does the program offer any discounts that I can take advantage of? Appreciate the help, thanks!”

Unfortunately, there are no discounts given by the CFA Institute for CFA exam fees.

That said, there are still a few ways you can reduce the costs of the CFA exams for yourself:

  • We also feature the latest discounts and offers by leading CFA providers on our Offers page, do check them out.

CFA, MBA or FRM? Which is the best finance qualification?


“Hi Zee, love 300Hours by the way, it’s been very helpful!

I’ve recently completed my degree and I’m looking at continuing my education while looking for a job. I’m considering the CFA charter, but I’m also looking at possibly an MBA or FRM. Basically looking to further boost my resume and upgrading myself! I’m currently still looking for a job – my ideal job would be in investment reporting, covering energy.

Which qualification would be the best fit for me?”

If you’re looking to focus on finance, the CFA program is a great option as you can continue on the program while you search for a job. Even after you’ve found one, you can still continue prepping and taking the exams – many candidates effectively balance their work and CFA studies.

The MBA is a different beast, really – although there are executive MBA programs which are part time, on the whole they require more time and money, but you get a more generalist boost to your CV and make more money overall.

Although the CFA can still help you outside of finance, the MBA would be helpful if you’re possibly looking outside of finance in the future. The career and networking focus of most MBA programs are also great plus points.

If you’re interested in MBA programs, these articles can help:

How can I get help from 300Hours?

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“I’ve just signed up for CFA Level 1, and I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment! There’s so much to get through. Where do I start at 300 Hours for help?”

If you’re new to 300 Hours, the best place to start would be at our Free Guides section. We also regularly publish articles suited to the CFA exam studying cycle, so signing up to be a member (it’s free) and checking back often is a good idea!

If you need more specialized help, remember that you can always post a question in our Forum.

How can I pass all 3 CFA exams as quickly as possible?

CFA Fast Track plan to pass CFA exams in the fastest way

“I’ve just signed up for CFA Level 1, and I really want to finish all 3 exams as soon as possible, with no failures.

How do I go about achieving this, and what are your recommendations?

There are no guarantees.

Everyone starts at a different level of knowledge, with different study plans, under different circumstances. There is no way we have a one-size-fits-all plan that will work for you to pass all 3 exams first time. 

However, we do have a few in our team that have done it before, and reading about their experiences might give you ideas on how to adapt their techniques for yourself.

Sophie completed all 3 CFA exams in the space of 18 months. She has detailed her experience and tips in her “How to Prepare and Pass CFA Exams in 18 Months” series for CFA Level 1, CFA Level 2, and CFA Level 3.

We have also written a CFA fast track guide on how to pass the exams quickly. Most candidates that have achieved this have a study plan, so get your free CFA study planner here!

Is CFA curriculum enough?

are third party cfa prep books necessary

This will vary depending on your circumstances, but we’ll try and give you a simple answer: it is unlikely, but possible.

The CFA Institute curriculum has improved a lot, and continues to do so, but we would advise to use extra study notes and practice exams at the very least.

The main issue here is that CFA curriculum is very extensive, and the common mistake new candidates make is taking too long to go through study materials and insufficient time for practice questions.

Our view is that third party prep providers do add value (here’s why), and here are some recommended CFA study material providers, and all the latest offers on CFA prep providers here.

Which CFA calculator is better? TI BA II Plus or HP12C?

ti ba ii plus vs hp 12c

If you don’t know what the Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) is, or how to use it, then we recommend that you use the Texas Instruments BA II Plus.

BA II Plus is the more popular choice, and most prep materials refer to it for calculations. If you forget your calculator on exam day, you’re more likely to be able to borrow a BA II Plus than a HP 12C.

We’ve written a full guide on how to choose the best CFA calculator for you here too.

Does the pass rate include CFA exam no shows?

No. The published CFA pass rates include only those candidates who actually took the exams. The numbers excludes no-show candidates or those who withdrew.

So let’s be clear, it’s not the no-show number that’s responsible for the low pass rate, although we think the recent CFA pass rate is low for several reasons.

If I have a low score in Ethics, will I fail?

3 cfa ethics don t skip it orig

You pass by scoring higher than the Minimum Passing Score (MPS).

It doesn’t matter what your scores in the individual topics are – if they add up to more than the MPS, you pass. So no, you won’t fail just because you scored poorly in Ethics, providing you did well enough in the other topics.

The reason why you may have heard rumours about Ethics being especially important is because of the Ethics adjustment.

The Board of Governors instituted a policy to place particular emphasis on ethics. 

Starting with the 1996 exams, the performance on the ethics section became a factor in the pass/fail decision for candidates whose total scores bordered the minimum passing score.

The ethics adjustment can have a positive or negative impact on these candidates’ final results.

CFA Institute

Check out this article for top 10 tips to nail CFA Ethics for all 3 levels.

If I score more than 70% in the exam, will I pass?

cfa mock exam target score

It used to be likely that you’ll pass with a target score of 70%, but in recent 2021 exams, our estimated minimum passing score has risen, for various reasons. CFA Institute has also maintained that the step change in trend is caused by the pandemic disruption, so only time will tell if this is a blip in the trend.

So to improve your chances of passing, our current advice is to aim for a minimum target score of:

  • 75% for CFA Level 1
  • 70% for CFA Level 2
  • 65% for CFA Level 3

How can I remember all the CFA study materials? It’s too much!

cfa study material shortlist

“The CFA curriculum is so vast.

Even though I’ve completed studying the study notes, but I feel like I’ve forgotten complete sections of the curriculum.

Some of the earlier sections seem completely foreign to me now even though I know I read them previously!

Is this normal, and what do I do to address this?”

I felt the same in my CFA exams too! Forgetting parts of the curriculum is not unusual, so don’t panic!

Follow these tips:

Do all of that before starting the next practice exam, and by the time you reach 5-7 practice exams you should have a better grasp of the entire curriculum. Promise.

How do I balance work and my CFA studies?

multitask busy

“I’m currently in a pretty demanding job.

My boss is really pushing the team hard at the moment, and I’m not getting much slack or sympathy to prep for the CFA exams.

What should I do? Do you have a way to help me cope?

Or should I write off the CFA exams for this year? :(“

If it helps, you’re definitely not alone.

One of the best advantages to the CFA program is that you can study and take the exams while working, and plenty of candidates every year balance their CFA studies with demanding careers. 

Also, there is no expiration on your CFA progress, or a time limit to do the 3 exams within a certain time, so you can take your time and progress each level as your work commitments allow.

Finally, careful and strict time-management is key to successfully balancing your work and CFA studies. One source of anxiety for some CFA candidates is not knowing their study progress in relation to the time remaining to exam – a good study planner will help here.

The two articles below should help and will cover everything you need to know.

I’m stuck. I’m not making any progress no matter what I do!

cfa last minute preparation

“I know I’m supposed to be progressing soon to practice exams, but I just can’t seem to finish my studying!

I keep getting stuck – rereading the same passages over and over without comprehending. Help!”

Staying on time with your study plan is quite important to make sure you get a good coverage of topic areas for your CFA exam.

If you find yourself getting stuck a lot – where you don’t really comprehend what you’re reading – then perhaps lecture videos or review classes might be a good idea. 

If you’re really strapped for time and need to finish your studying soon, we have also written a last minute cramming guide to rush through your notes.

My practice exam scores are crap. Help!

Failed CFA exam - here's what to do next

“I’ve done my initial review and I’m now progressing to practice exams.

However, my scores are horrible! I got a 57% on my first practice exam.

Is this normal? Would I be able to bring this up to passing-standard?”

Low practice exam scores, especially if you’re just starting out, is completely normal.

Based on our analysis, the average candidate improves 20-25 percentage points before their actual CFA exam day, and every additional practice exam improved scores by an average of 4%.

If you want more tips, here are 10 ways you can further improve your CFA mock exam scores.

We also have 100% free practice tests for all our readers for every CFA level. If you haven’t claimed your free Practice Test yet, make sure you do:

Does my work experience qualify for CFA relevant work experience?

cfa work experience requirements

We’ve written a full guide to CFA work experience requirements here.

We go through what are the exact requirements, how to check if your work experience qualifies, tips on writing and describing your experience in the charterholder application and some examples – do check out our comprehensive work experience guide here!

Hope the above helps as a start! If you have further questions about the CFA program, feel free to comment below.

Meanwhile, here are some related guides about CFA program that may be of interest:


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