CFA Mock Exams: How Many Should You Be Doing?

Want to pass your exams? Start preparing the right way.
My email is and I'm preparing for

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 (9 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).

Let’s go!


Why do I need mock exams?

how many cfa mock exam

​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.

For a good practice exam post-mortem guide, read this discussion by @Sarah in our Forum for Level 1 and Level 2. You can also join for free and ask a question or start a discussion!


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.

how many cfa mock exam attempted vs actual CFA results

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”).

screen shot 2018 04 12 at 07 59 09 1 orig

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?

question

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?

where to 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

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:

blog1
blog2

15 thoughts on “CFA Mock Exams: How Many Should You Be Doing?”

  1. CFA is only offering two mock exams for level 1 May 2022. Your statement of having at least three is incorrect.

    Reply
    • Yes, this has varied quite a bit in recent exam cycles. Some previous exam cycles only had one! We don’t say ‘at least 3’, but rather ‘up to 3’, so a maximum of three, which I believe is the maximum number of mocks that CFA Institute has offered candidates in recent exam cycles. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  2. Hey,
    does the institute provide 3 mock exams for all levels ?
    i am appearing for l1 in may 2022 and only 2 are available on the learning ecosystem
    also do the number of exams reduce closer to the dates of the actual exam ?

    Reply
  3. I think your data is quite true. Last year for May 2021 exam, I forced myself to complete at least 12 CFA Mock exams (past papers from 2017 to 2021)

    A lot of these questions were recycled and I consistently scored above 80% for them as I had “memorised” the answers without thinking.

    Eventually, I failed my May 2021 exam by just a thread below the MPS thanks to my weak Ethics scores.

    This year, my strategy has changed to Quality over Quantity. I do mock exams, review the answer schemes and close the gap on my weak areas. I spent more time reviewing weak areas compared to just plowing through more mock exams.

    I do hope my new strategy will be fruitful for Feb 2022 Level II paper. Wish me luck!

    Reply
    • Hi Zarul! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, sorry to hear about May 2021 exams, but glad to hear that our 5+ years of recent data is a good representation of the overall population.

      Yes, quality not quantity is indeed what we advise candidates to do 🙂 Aim for a minimum amount of mock exams under time constraint and exam conditions (say 5-6 sets), go through them thoroughly to close the gap in your knowledge in your review session.

      We wish you the best of luck for Level 2. You can do it. Do let us know how it went!

      Reply
  4. I’m pretty sure this is actually bias. If you don’t have enough money, you will be only allowed to 2 mock exams (for level I) and one mock (for level II). People will pass eitherway. Lol.

    Reply
    • Can you describe your bias hypothesis?

      It seems sensible to me that for most skills, the more you practice something, the better you get at it.

      Reply
  5. I’m registered for L2 in November 2021.
    On the Learning Ecosystem, I don’t see any mock exams, where I have previously saw a section for mocks when I was studying for L1. Anyone else missing the official mocks for L2 or know how I can find them?

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.