One of the most effective ways to learn is through practice, lots of it.
However, how many CFA mock exams should we aim to complete for practice?
According to our research (10 years worth of data!), there is an optimal number of CFA mock exams you should be doing for the best chance of passing.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this data-driven guide:
- The average number of practice exams attempted by CFA candidates across all levels;
- The correlation between the number of attempted practice exam vs. actual CFA exam performance;
- The minimum number of CFA mock exams you should complete before your exam day;
- Whether there is such a thing as too much practice (there is).
Why do I need mock exams?
As we’ve covered before, practice exams are important to passing. They:
- Help you understand what are the main testable topics
- Get you used to the exam format, under time constraint
- Help you retain what you have learned
You’ll probably not get the best of scores on your first practice exam, but don’t get discouraged.
As long as you go through the detailed answers carefully and review concepts you’re unfamiliar with, you’ll continue to improve your scores and timing.
How many CFA mock exams are candidates typically doing?
Here’s an important chart you need to know that summarizes our research data in the past few years.
The chart below shows the average number of practice exams attempted by CFA candidates across the most recent five years, categorized by their results grade.
To be clear, “one practice exam” is defined as including both sets of exam papers, i.e. one practice exam is 4 hours 15 minutes worth of test time (previously 6 hours before the change to computer-based testing).
Band 1 to Band 10 are actual CFA exam failures, with Band 1 indicating the lowest scores, whilst Band 10 is a borderline fail, i.e. closest to reaching the minimum passing score.
This chart shows us that:
- For CFA Level 1, passing candidates completed an average of 4.1 practice exams.
- For CFA Level 2, passing candidates completed an average of 4.4 practice exams.
- For CFA Level 3, passing candidates completed an average of 6.2 practice exams.
Not only do passing candidates attempt more practice exams, the trend is clear across all fail bands.
The number of CFA mock exams completed is strongly correlated with candidates’ actual CFA exam performance, with candidates achieving Fail Bands 1/2 attempting only about half the practice exams the passing candidates’ average.
The average number of practice exams also increases sharply as you go up the CFA levels, reflecting not just the increased difficulty in passing, but the increased level of competition.
So how many CFA mock exams should candidates do? Is more better?
OK, it looks like we should attempt at least 4 full practice exams for Level 1 and Level 2, and 6 practice exams for Level 3.
Should we do much more than that? Is more better?
According to our research, there is a diminishing return on exam performance once your practice exam number starts to increase beyond certain thresholds.
Here’s a correlation analysis between the number of practice exams attempted by candidates, with their predicted CFA exam score (also known as the “40/60/80 score”).
By plotting that graph, we determined:
- where the ‘Pareto point’ is (i.e. the point where additional practice exams start to have diminishing benefit), and
- that beyond a key number of CFA mock exams, performance actually loses correlation, as candidates sacrifice other aspects of their prep to complete an overly-ambitious number of practice exams.
Surprisingly, there really is such a thing as doing too many CFA mock exams!
Given these insights, we recommend that:
– CFA Level 1 candidates should attempt at least 5 sets of practice exams;
– CFA Level 2 candidates should attempt at least 5 sets of practice exams;
– CFA Level 3 candidates should attempt at least 7 sets of practice exams.
Make sure you utilize CFA Institute’s free mock exams (yes these are the best ones!), as well as get additional ones you need from third party prep providers to meet the recommended minimum for a good chance of passing.
How many mock exams does CFA Institute provide?
CFA Institute offers up to a maximum of 3 full length mock exams for each CFA level on their Learning Ecosystem.
If you don’t have enough time to complete all of them, I highly recommend you to at least go through those questions and analyze each one of them by reviewing the answer. Treat CFA Institute’s mock exams as the best source that mimics the actual CFA exam.
So, where can I get more CFA practice exams?
Here are some you should definitely be looking at:
- As mentioned, CFA Institute gives away free mock exams to every registered candidate. You should be all over this.
- Check out our ultimate guide to CFA practice exams for the latest roundup of the best third party CFA mock exam offers.
- Our Offers section also features the latest deals offered by third party CFA prep providers such as Kaplan Schweser.
Finally, remember that we also give away free practice tests to our readers for all CFA levels, thanks to our partner IFT!
Hope the above insights helps you with your CFA exam prep. Do make sure to save the last 4 weeks prior to the exam day for doing all the mock exams and revision.
Meanwhile, here are some related articles that may be of interest: