Here’s How to Check If You Realistically Still Have Time to Start Studying for the CFA Exams

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By Zee

If you’ve looked at our CFA Exam Calendar recently, you would have been reminded that the final registration deadline for the December CFA exam was last week.

We usually see messages from readers around registration deadlines asking whether it is still feasible to start studying for the CFA exams, ‘late’ as it is.

The trouble with this question is that it really depends on what you’d be willing to do, study-wise, in the limited time that you have left. So we’ve come up with a handy guide to get a rough idea of how much effort and time you’ll need, depending on when you choose to start studying for the CFA exams, as well as the recommended steps you’ll need to take to maximise your pass chances.

The chart in this article details an approximate amount of daily and weekly study hours a candidate will need, depending on when they chose to start studying. We’ve calculated this daily and weekly study hour requirement based on a 300-hour total, which of course is approximate.

How do I use this chart?

Simply look along the X axis for the point when you started studying for the CFA exams (or when do you plan to). Observe the point on the blue curve where this is, and note the weekly and daily study requirements in the Y axes. For example, if I started studying 30 weeks before my CFA exams, I would be needing about 10 hours a week, or 1.4 hours a day to study.

The colours correspond to approximate categories we’ve identified, where we’ve given advice for below. We’ve also highlighted the three CFA exam registration deadlines where they occur (at approximately 32 weeks, 16 weeks and 13 weeks before the CFA exam).

After looking yourself up, identify your category and go on for our advice on what to do.

The Smooth Slope of Assuredness
4 months before CFA exam or more, or before 2nd CFA Exam Registration Deadline
Study ​
10-20 hours a week, or 2-3 hours a day
Sophie recommends starting 6 months before the exam, which we wholeheartedly support. Starting 4-6 months before the CFA exams gives you dollops of time to adequately go through the syllabus, take practice exams, iron out weak spots and tune yourself to be exam-fit.

So if you’ve already started studying before the second CFA exam registration deadline, you definitely have enough time to do it.

If you’re in this category – well done on your preparedness! Read these articles to ensure you’re getting everything right.

The Tough Hill of Caution
13-16 weeks before CFA exam, or between 2nd and Final CFA Exam Registration Deadline
Study 20-25 hours a week, or 3-4 hours a day
As we’ve advised before, it is STRONGLY recommended to register for your CFA exams by the second registration deadline. Besides the large difference in registration fees, you WILL NEED the time to study.

The graph highlights our point. If you’ve started studying soon after the second CFA exam registration deadline, you’d probably need to allocate an average of 20 hours per week to studying. Which is still solidly doable even with a work schedule, although if you have exceptionally tough work demands, you may have to adjust things around a bit.

If you’re in this group, read these articles to further solidify your pass chances:

Caffeine-Drenched Cliff of Urgency
Less than 13 weeks before CFA exam, or after the Final CFA Registration Deadline
Study 25-55 hours a week, or 3-8 hours a day
Although the CFA Institute does offer the final deadline, in our opinion, it’s extremely risky to leave your studies until you’ve got less than 3 months to go. 

The amount of work to be fit into your daily schedule is now rising exponentially with every postponed day. It’s not that you shouldn’t register and take the plunge. Especially if it’s the December exam, where if you didn’t manage to pass, you can always try again in June the following year. 

But if you do register, you haven’t got much time to mess around – you should really start getting into it.

If you fall in this group, you should study these 4 articles:

The Near-Impossible Wall of Wild Hope
Less than 1 month before CFA exam
Study more than 55 hours per week, or more than 8 hours a day
This is now unchartered territory. It is definitely NOT impossible to pass at this point – we know people who have done it before. However, either luck or prelearned knowledge has a LOT to do with it. If you can’t rely on either, the best you can do is work hard and hope for the best. It has happened before, so I wouldn’t give up. 

In any case, regardless of your confidence, you should always show up for the exam. Getting to know the exam experience itself is a great way to ensure a future pass even if you’re sure you won’t this time.

Here are the articles you should be reading to improve your chances:

Which category do you fall into?
Do you need more advice, or does your situation need more thought? You can easily reach us by commenting below or asking in the Forum


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