The Perfect Number of CFA Practice Exams You Should Complete, According to Science

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By Zee

As you may know, one of the ways we keep 300 Hours running is through CFA Insights, our all-in-one guide to the CFA exams. CFA Insights is created to help you better plan and approach your CFA prep and ensure you’re better informed on what you’re up against. 

And one of the most useful lessons we’ve learnt from our analyses is that we can provide more information to candidates on the number of practice exams they should be attempting. Read on to learn more, but to get the full picture and really equip yourself to be as prepared as you can for the CFA exam, do get our CFA Insights book in ebook or paperback!

This is one of many tips from CFA Insights

CFA Insights has already helped thousands of candidates better approach and pass their CFA exams. It’s our guide to effectively passing the CFA exams by adopting the right approach to timing, topics, practice exams, and better understanding the CFA exam.

We cover a wide range of topics to help candidates pass, and one of them is advising on the number of practice exams you should be doing, based on what has worked for candidates. The thousands of data points we have results in some solid recommendations! We’ll cover each level below, but to get more details (and support us), you can get a copy for yourself which covers a whole lot more other topics.

How many practice exams do candidates attempt?

When we first investigated this years ago, we found that the average number of practice exams each CFA Level I candidate attempted was around 3.8 exams. But would this number be consistent? And how does this vary across levels?

Now that we’ve got many years worth of data and thousands of datapoints, we can draw some really useful and solid conclusions:

  • Level I – an average of 4.1 practice exams completed by passing candidates
  • Level II – an average of 4.4 practice exams completed by passing candidates
  • Level III – an average of 6.2 practice exams completed by passing candidates

To be clear, “one practice exam” is defined as including both an AM and PM session, i.e. one practice exam is 6 hours’ worth of test time.

The average number of practice exams increases sharply as you go up the CFA levels, reflecting not just the increased difficulty in passing, but the increased level of competition.

Do passing candidates attempt more practice exams?

If you’re a current CFA candidate preparing for an upcoming exam, the chart below is an important one for you to look at. This chart shows the average number of practice exams attempted by candidates across the most recent five years, categorised by their results grade.
From the chart, you can see that not only do passing candidates attempt more practice exams, the trend is clear across all fail bands. The number of practice exams is strongly correlated with candidates’ actual CFA exam performance, with CFA candidates achieving Fail Bands 1/2 attempting only about half the practice exams the passing candidates’ average.

This is solid evidence showing what we’ve advised again and again – practice exams are key.

If you need more practice exams, don’t forget to check out our Offers section to see the latest discounts on practice material. We also offer free practice tests for all CFA levels (see, we’re so good to you guys!). You can check them out in our Guides section.

Our correlation analysis shows the ‘sweet spot’ number of practice exams

The numbers we’ve discussed so far are only average values. So how many practice exams should you attempt for your preparation?

In CFA Insights, we also perform a correlation analysis between the number of practice exams attempted by candidates, with their eventual CFA exam score. By plotting that graph, we determined two things: where the ‘Pareto point’ is (the point where additional practice exams start to have diminishing benefit), and show that beyond a key number of practice exams, performance actually loses correlation, as candidates sacrifice other aspects of their prep to complete and overly-ambitious number of practice exams. You can see the full analysis and graphs in CFA Insights, but our recommendations are below:

  • Level I – we recommend that you attempt at least 5 practice exams
  • Level II – we recommend that you attempt at least 5 practice exams
  • Level III – we recommend that you attempt at least 7 practice exams, but we recommend as many as you possibly can, especially for the AM essay section

Hope this helps you plan the revision phase of your CFA preparation! For more information, do consider getting our CFA Insights book, as an ebook or paperback.

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan

300Hours founder.


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