I totally agree with Rachel. 300 hours is not enough. In my case, I avoid being too obsessed with the number of hours needed, and instead I use a schedule where I can carefully cover all the material leaving one month for review & practice at the end, and then study as many hours as are needed to stick to that schedule — it will end up being 400+ hours. Sounds simple but it’s actually really hard to stick to a seemingly insane schedule! One thing that may help is to start early.
Another (seemingly crazy) principle I stick to is to use the original CFAI materials as the primary source; in my opinion, not doing this misses the whole point of becoming a CFA charterholder. For Level I that’s actually pretty much all I used (except that I used a Q-bank and a couple of mock exams towards the end). For Level II, I’m supplementing with Schweser (I’m using the notes to review after each reading, and the flash cards which I write on the back to “correct” or “augment” what was originally there), and will obviously use a Q-bank and mock exams during the last month.
I personally think that the 300 hours reported in the surveys are inflated for several reasons:
First, I think very few people actually keep track of how much they have actually studied for the exam, and when it comes to answer the question, they take a guess, which I think is more than the actual time studied. Why more? Because having so much material to study, some of it so tedious and hard, makes you think that you spent more time that you actually did. I say this because I keep track of every hour studied, not to reach a target of 300hrs, but to see the pages per minute on every reading and to keep myself motivated to look at some progress. If I had not done this, I would have guessed very wrongly on that question. Now that the 300hr mark have been in the front page for many years, people would usually say 350 or 400hrs if they think they studied a lot, and 200-250hrs on the contrary.
Second, I think there is a conflict of interest, because the CFA wouldn’t want to have a program in which you can pass with “only” 100 hrs… I am not saying they do this, just that the conflict of interest is there and rounding up the average wouldn’t hurt.
And third, based on my experience, which is someone who is usually a slow-avg reader and the kind that finishes last on the exams, personally take around 150 hrs to read all the schweser notes with all EOC and counting revisions of the summaries before doing the Selft-Tests. Sum that another 50-70 hrs max on revisions and mock exams, that’s 200-220.
In conclusion, I think you should study until you get 70%+ on the mocks. This is just what I’ve been thinking lately looking at my spreadsheets from lvl1 and lvl2. I think too many people talk about how many hours they take without actually measuring them and that makes them higher than they should be.
Great comments, thanks for weighing in! Dan, I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit as a speed reader, because that is an impressive speed to get through all of the Schweser notes at that pace and retain the material. For most other candidates, I personally think the number of hours are significantly under reported. Considering practice exams (6 hours each plus time to review), practice questions, flashcards, etc., I kept track of my hours as well and studied more than 300 hours for every Level. I’ve found that many candidates leave out these “side activities” and only consider reading the material when estimating time spent. I also think candidates under-estimate their hours out of pride – we all want to seem inherently smart, rather than admitting it took way more hours than “typical.”
I actually think the CFA Institute would like to avoid saying the CFA Program requires more than 300 hours… the Institute already has to battle a perception that the Program is nearly impossible to pass (not the case, but certainly harder than most other certifications). I don’t think it would like to advertise that passing requires even more than 300 hours – the idea of 300 hours per Level already turns off a lot of people! They need new candidates willing to sign up for the Program and submit themselves to the rigorous day-to-day grind to keep revenues up. I do agree, though, that they wouldn’t want to suggest it takes only 100 hours. There’s a fine line. Regardless, I think the CFA Institute is straightforward about what it is reporting: 300 hours is a reported average, plain and simple. Then they let you as the candidate decide what to do with that information. Perhaps the Program can be done in less time (I have never met a charterholder in which this was the case), but I think budgeting more time rather than less gives a cushion that can be adjusted later.
Also as a side note, I think aiming for 70% on mock exams is a little dangerous, simply because that is an average just like the 300 hours mantra. If the average candidate aims for 70% on mock exams, I find it safer to aim for 80%. That puts you ahead of the competition on test day. Just a thought to ponder!
Good luck to all,
Rachel Bryant, CFA
Author of book: Direct Path to the CFA Charter
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