The Importance of Having A Study Plan for the CFA Exams

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By Mike

One of the biggest mistakes a CFA candidate can make is to not have a study plan to prepare for their exam, or not following it seriously.

Studying without a study plan is akin to trying to walk a straight line to an objective with your eyes closed – without a correcting mechanism, you’ll soon go off-track and be lost. In the case of your CFA prep, this can lead to:

We have offered a free Study Planner that thousands of candidates have used successfully for their own exams already – get your free personalised one here if you haven’t done so already. For those of you who need more convincing, we’ll detail exactly how a study plan helps you maximise your pass chances for the CFA exam.

A study plan is NOT just a timetable

A timetable tells you ‘at this time, do this for x minutes’. That’s not what a study plan is. Many factors need to be weighed to come up with an exam approach that works best for you:

  • The time you have before the exam
  • Your work and lifestyle commitments
  • The material you need to get through
  • The importance of the individual components of the material to the exam

An effective study plan should assess all these factors and build them into the recommended approach. It shouldn’t bother telling you exactly when to study – you’re a grown-ass adult and can figure that out for yourself. Reminding you that you should be focusing more on FRA, or finishing up your studies by the end of the month to make way for practice exams – that’s the real value of a study plan.

The benefits of utilising an effective study plan

A good CFA study plan should:

  • Ensure you cover the entirety of the CFA curriculum on time
  • Remind you to build in enough time for practice
  • Allocate proportionate time to each CFA topic area according to CFA exam weights

In addition, our free CFA Study Planner also:

  • Gives you an estimate of what your practice exam target scores should be at a given point of your exam prep
  • Indicates a clear ‘study status’ – i.e. whether you are on track, behind schedule or ahead of schedule with your studies
  • Shows you many more days there are left to the CFA exam

Tips to generate the best study plan for you using our Study Planner tool:

  • Plan early – today if possible. You may not need to necessarily start studying early, but do build your study plan early. The reason for this is that if you have lots of other commitments, the study plan indicate that you need to start studying earlier than you originally planned. It only takes a minute to generate your Study Planner.
  • Be realistic. Honestly ask yourself how much studying time you can commit on an ongoing basis, and stick to it. If you are too optimistic when planning, you might find yourself with an overly-aggressive plan that you’ll have difficulty keeping up with.
  • Stick to the plan. A plan is only as good as the execution – make sure you stick to the schedule, or keep ahead of schedule.
  • Track your data. Our study planner offers many tools to track your progress, and only needs minimal updating from you, but make sure you update your planner! An updated planner will help you keep on track as your progress and performance varies.​

What do the experts think?

Derek Burkett, CFA, FRM, CAIA, VP of Advanced Designations at Kaplan Schweser, also shares his opinion on the importance of study plans:

Over the last three decades, we’ve taught hundreds of thousands of CFA candidates around the world and through that experience have accumulated a massive amount of data on what does and doesn’t work in prepping for the CFA exams. Globally, we have full-time staff that includes psychometricians, instructional designers, learning science experts, data scientists, and over 20 CFA charterholders.

I’ll highlight two essential elements: a well-structured study plan and practice. I can’t stress enough to candidates that they must be organized, but having a structured plan isn’t the same as having the right study plan. Candidates must incorporate the right study tasks in the right amounts at the right time to get the most out of their scarcest resource: time.

I also tell candidates that practicing what you’ve learned is an absolute must. Many unsuccessful candidates fall into the trap of reading and re-reading notes and don’t spend enough time practicing the material. The practice forces you to actively engage with the curriculum rather than passively reading. It also allows you to fail fast, learn from your mistakes, and move on. It’s far better to make mistakes practicing during the study plan rather than on the actual CFA exam. 

Generate your free Study Planner here now

You can generate your own Study Planner (and learn more about it) here, or simply by filling in the form below. After clicking ‘Submit’, you’ll receive an email with a link to your personal Study Planner!

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan


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