How Many CFA Practice Exams Should You Be Completing? Here’s What Our Research Says

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By Zee

You may not be completing as many CFA practice exams as you should.

If you’re a regular reader of 300 Hours, you’ll know that practice exams are a very important aspect of preparing to pass the CFA exams. Although you may not get a great score the first time around, practice is the key to acing the exams.

As a Level I candidate, I thought I was going above and beyond when I got 6 practice exams to sink my teeth into. I didn’t manage to finish all of them: my official tally of practice exams for Level I was 5 practice exams.

It was only later that I realised that the better candidates were about averaging that number, plus there was a free mock exam that is given by CFA Institute that should have been absolutely prioritised. Of course, I completely missed that as a green CFA Level I candidate.

This post is to help you avoid one of the basic mistakes that many candidates make, and know exactly how many you should be doing, using research that we’ve done with CFA Insights.

Why Do I Need Practice Exams Anyway?

​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
  • Gives you a good avenue to retain concepts you’ve learnt

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. You can also join for free and ask a question or start a discussion!

So How Many Practice Exams Is Everyone Else Attempting?

In CFA Insights, we cover this topic extensively, but we’ll go through some of the learnings here. Passing candidates average slightly more than 4 full sets of practice exams for Level I, and the number goes up as you go up the CFA levels. You can see the results of our research in the chart below:

The minimum we would recommend for any level is about 4 practice exams. Most prep packages have 3 practice exams – add in the free CFAI mock exam and you have 4. That should be a minimum number in any candidate’s case if they want a good chance of passing. 

Just as a frame of reference, my practice exam tally was:

  • 5 practice exams for Level I
  • 7 practice exams for Level II
  • 7 practice exams for Level III

Is More Always Better? Not Necessarily

So if 4 practice exams is recommended, should more be better? According to our research, there is a diminishing return on exam performance once your practice exam number starts to increase beyond certain levels. You can view the data here:

I have no finance background prior to this (you can find out how this influences your performance here), so if you’re of a similar background I suggest that you at least aim for what worked for me.

So Where Do I Get More Practice Exams?

Here are some you should definitely be looking at:

More Research Available on CFA Insights

Our CFA Insights has a lot more research and tips on how to pass all three CFA levels. You can learn more here:

What Do You Think?

If your CFA exams are coming soon, how many practice exams have you attempted, and how many do you plan to go through? Let us know in the comments below.

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan


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