CFA Fast Track: How to Pass the CFA Exams Quickly

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It takes an average of 1,000 study hours to obtain a CFA charter, so it is worthwhile investigating the most efficient way to pass before signing up. While there are no shortcuts, there are things you can do to tip the odds in your favour. 

Having completed my CFA exams in 18 months years ago (see my Level 1Level 2 and Level 3 experiences), I hoped this can be replicated for those who think it is a desirable goal.

This article shows you:

  • what is the fastest path to the CFA charter, given the new 2021 exam cycles;
  • how to customize a Fast Track study plan that works for you, depending on whether you’re a student, full-time working professional and/or a parent.

What is the fastest route to complete the CFA charter?

CFA Fast Track Plans shows you which CFA Level 1 registration is the fastest route to complete CFA exams

Our CFA Fast Track plan maps out the fastest current route available to complete and pass all 3 levels of the CFA exams.

On 7th December 2020, CFA Institute has recently announced additional exam slots for all Levels in 2021. Here are the upcoming 2021 CFA exam cycles by Level:

  • Level 1 (6x in 2021): Feb, Mar (one-off), May, July (one-off), Aug and Nov.
  • Level 2 (3x in 2021): May, Aug and Nov.
  • Level 3 (3x in 2021): May, Aug and Nov.

With the new testing schedule, there is a one-off opportunity to pass CFA exams in 1 year with the May21-Nov21-May22 route, assuming consecutive passes. Otherwise, there isn’t much difference with other Level 1 registration windows as they are similar in length.  

We recommend 6 months of studying per level to minimize fail chances, which is the biggest setback you can risk.

Therefore in 2021, the quickest (practical) way to a CFA charter is about 12-18 months, from starting Level 1 to finishing Level 3. This assumes 6 months’ study per level and consecutive passes when pass rates are averaging less than 50%.

Although the 2021 switch to computer-based testing for all Levels meant that CFA charter can be completed faster, significant study time for each level is still needed, so the Fast Track length is unlikely to change much.


​CFA Fast Track Plan: FAQ and Key Considerations

Fast tracking the CFA charter is not for the faint-hearted, as it requires serious sacrifice with no guarantee on results.

There are a few things you need to consider before committing to the CFA Fast Track Plan to increase your chances of success.

Is there a time limit to completing the CFA exams?

  • No, CFA qualifications don’t expire, so you can take as long as you want. However, candidates may lose momentum and motivation if they take a too long a break between exam levels.
  • There is also an advantage of having previous levels’ knowledge still fresh in your head and attempting the next level without much refresher needed, saving precious study time.

Is There A Difference Between the 6 Level 1 Exam Registration Windows?

  • Although the exam questions are different for each candidate with computer-based testing, the tested CFA exam curriculum is the same.
  • Choosing between the 6 Level 1 registration windows depends on your personal circumstances and preference on study intensity.
  • While taking Level 1 in February, May or August is part of the CFA Fast Track Plan, the downside is that it requires you to jump straight to Level 2 preparation, which can be intense.
  • Taking Level 1 in November may seem like it ‘sets you back’ 3 months, but it evens out the workload and may better prepare you for Level 2. 

Pros and Cons of Fast Tracking your CFA exams

Advantages

  • The CFA Fast Track plan is a very solid study path that prepares you as best as you can for the CFA exams. Even if you do fail along the way and experience some delays, your path would likely have taken even longer if you didn’t attempt to Fast Track.
  • Power through – a lot of failures are caused by lack of dedication, similarly many candidates stop after Level 1 or 2 due to lack of momentum. Committing to the CFA Fast Track Plan may help boost motivation to ‘get it done’.
  • Getting your CFA charter fast may help your career – achieving your CFA charter early on in your career might help you stand out during promotions and interviews.

Disadvantages

  • No social life – CFA candidates already don’t have much of a social life to speak of, but more so if you choose to try to complete it in 15-18 months. In particular, the first year’s grind is the toughest as it has minimal break in between Level 1 and 2. 
  • Trade-offs – you may have to choose between furthering your career or investing in CFA preparations.
  • You may still have to wait for work experience to officially gain the CFA charter.
  • You may have to spend more on materials or courses to make sure you stick to the syllabus on schedule – always check our Offers section to reduce the cost of your study materials.

Ready to Commit? Here’s ​Your Customized CFA Fast Track Plan

Customize your CFA fast track plans for students, working professionals and parents

To increase your probability of success with the CFA Fast Track Plan, the first step is to set aside enough study time given your personal circumstances.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

To do this, tailoring your Plan with the free 300 Hours Study Planner is crucial. 

It’s a simple but effective planning and progress tracking tool available to all CFA exam candidates. The key input to this planner is the date you start studying for your exam, depending on which of the following broad candidate profiles you fit into:

The CFA Fast Track Plan for Full Time Students

  • Who this Fast Track plan is for: You’re likely still attending classes in university, and able to spare a comfortable 3 hours a day (including weekends) to revise.
  • When you should start studying for the CFA exam: Your optimal study period is to start 4 months before the exams, as you are training yourself to focus on 3 hour blocks from the start. 
  • Additional Fast Track tips for full-time students:
    • If 3 hours daily is too much, you may be able to start your revision earlier, but not more than 6 months before exam day (2 hours a day on average).
    • If you start too early, you may lose momentum halfway and struggle with retaining the material you’ve studied at the start.

The CFA Fast Track Plan for Working Professionals

  • Who this Fast Track plan is for: Full-timers in a demanding job, working long hours most weekdays. No young family commitments.
  • When you should start studying for the CFA exam
    • ​The ideal time to start studying is 6 months prior to the exam, aiming for 14 hours of study time per week, however you want to split it across the 7 day week.
  • Additional Fast Track tips for full-time professionals:
    • A balanced plan is to aim to study 1-2 hours per day on weekdays, and catch up on the remaining hours on weekends. 
    • Weekends only? No problem. If you can’t study on weekdays, be a “weekend warrior” and dedicate 7 hours per day on the weekends (this was the plan I used)
    • Rinse and repeat. Cultivate a good long-term habit by making your study sessions a routine – stick to the same time each weekday and weekend.
    • Ramp up: Lengthen your study sessions to at least 3 hours during the last month to train your focus for exam day. This should happen naturally as you move to practicing timed mock exams.

The CFA Fast Track Plan for Working Parents


Final Tips for all CFA Candidates

  • Use our Free study plan. Regardless which profile you fit into, the recommended study pace ensures that you will have sufficient time to cover the study materials and do a proper review, if you stick to the study plan and use it to track your progress.
  • Pace yourself, don’t burn out. Remember that the CFA exams – especially if you are aiming for the Fast Track Plan – is a marathon and not a sprint.  Pacing yourself and not burning out over the years is important. 
  • Gather support. Do have the talk with your partner, friends and family about the study commitment you need to pass all the exams, and make time for them when you can. Support from the people around you is crucial to getting through the CFA exams.
  • Establish a consistent, regular study habit. Breaking the big task of digesting all the CFA materials into small daily goals does make the insurmountable seem achievable (and it is!).
  • Practice mocks. Don’t forget to earmark the last 4-6 weeks before your exams for doing practice papers, ideally under timed conditions. If you are working, take 1 week off before the exams. I’ve done this myself for all my CFA exams – it helps a LOT with last minute revision sessions.

So there you have it – just my two cents on passing all the CFA exams in the fastest possible way. I hope you all found this helpful, let me know if you have questions in the comments below.

Meanwhile, you may find these other articles and resources useful:

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5 thoughts on “CFA Fast Track: How to Pass the CFA Exams Quickly”

  1. Hello,

    I had to reschedule my Level 1 Dec 2020 to July 2021 and would like to ask what would be the fastest way to pass all three exams?
    Would I be done with all 3 exams if I write the Level 2 this year and Level 3 next year or would that be no difference if I write Level 2 in May 2022 and Level 3 at the end of 2022?

    Hope you can help me to find out the fastest way to pass all three exams.
    Thank you very much!

    Reply
  2. Would just like to clarify that there is an exam date on November 2021 for CFA level 2?

    I have checked CFA and other website – there is no such exam date for level 2.

    Can you please clarify. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Yes, there will be a Nov21 for L2, details are just not confirmed yet. From CFA Institute:

      —-

      Level II and Level III Candidates

      For December Level II and Level IIII candidates whose locations have been closed, you may register for any applicable 2021 exam. If you would like to sit in May (LII and LIII), August (LII) or November (LIII), you may register now.

      In addition to the current available windows, we will be adding more testing windows in 2021 for LII and LIII candidates. New windows will be scheduled for August (LIII) and November (LII).

      More information will be shared soon regarding registration for new windows.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply

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