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How to pass CFA Level I when you’re seriously panicking with one week to go

Saturday 7 June is CFA exam day. If you're not ready now, you may never be. The CFA says you need six months to prepare for each of its exams. If you haven't prepared yet, you might therefore want to give up and go for the December 2014 exams instead. Alternatively, you can spend the next seven days seriously flogging yourself in the hope that you can miraculously join the 38% of CFA I candidates who actually pass.

CFA coaching companies are short on advice for slackers are trying to make amends at the last minute. "I can't give you any advice as this goes against the grain of everything we're trying to teach," one coaching firm told us. "Success is strongly correlated with the time you start revising," an ex-Deutsche Bank trader agreed.

Unfortunately, you can't wind back the clock. If you haven't revised enough for the CFA Level I exam next Saturday and you're not prepared to give up gracefully, there is only one thing you can do: shut yourself in a room and study hard. This is our seven day last minute CFA I revision plan. We're not guaranteeing it will work.

Saturday and Sunday: Questions, questions, questions

At this stage in the CFA cycle, it's all about running through real exam questions. You'll find out what you don't know. You'll also get to practice exam technique.

Spend Saturday and Sunday looking at CFA I question banks. Thousands of questions are provided by Schweser's QBank and you should be able to stipulate whether you want to complete difficult ones or not. Go for 100 sets of QBank questions in each sitting, "I am going buck wild on the QBank," says one candidate, setting the tone. QBank is available via the Schweser site and is expensive. Cheaper CFA I sample questions are also available here, or here, or here. 

When you find a question you don't understand, make a note of it. Group what you don't know into subject areas and revise the necessary formulae and techniques when your 100 question sessions have finished. Elan offers some helpful free CFAI formula sheets here.

Monday: EOC questions only

The CFA offers practice questions at the end of each chapter of its curriculum materials.  Initially ignore the CFA's (turgid) reading matter and go straight for these questions. Focus only on the aspects you don't know.

Revisit the notes you made over the weekend.

Tuesday and Wednesday: Mock tests in own time, revisit notes 

You need to start testing yourself on proper mock exam papers. CFA Level I is about timing. On Saturday, you will have just 90 seconds per question. However, it's only Tuesday and Wednesday and you have the luxury of running through mock exams in your own time. You can find cheap or free CFA I mock tests at: Passed Tense, soleadea and Analyst Notes.  Use these tests before you get serious.

Revisit the notes you made over the weekend.

Thursday and Friday: Serious mock tests in seriously timed conditions

It's time knuckle down. Endeavour mock tests in timed conditions. The closest approximation to the exam is provided by the CFA Institute. This is sent to every registered candidate and can also be downloaded here. Beware taking any CFA I mock papers from previous years: the curriculum may have changed and you could find yourself fretting over questions which won't recur.

Other challenging and accurate CFA mock tests are provided by Schweser and Elan. Elan's is said to be the harder of the two.

Saturday: Time's up

If you manage to pass the CFA I exam having crammed frantically in the last week and slacked before, you'll be incredibly lucky. You'll also be exhausted. Saturday evening may involve you lying in bed.

Related articles:

CFA offers prestige, but don’t expect a huge pay raise

What’s the minimum score you can get on CFA Level I, and still pass?

The 10 commandments for succeeding at CFA exams


AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • AN
    19 November 2014 actually offers 10 mock exam exams and 5,000+ practice questions for CFA level 1 candidates.

  • Ma
    Max G.
    2 June 2014

    By the way you have the pass rate inverted, it is actually more like 38% of level 1 candidates that pass not 61%... you may be thinking of the estimated minimum passing score.

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