Discover your dream Career
For Recruiters

How long does it really take to pass CFA Level III?

How old will you be when you finish the CFA?

Yesterday was CFA Level III results day. For the first time in a while, the pass rate actually increased: 54% of people passing the third and final exam, more than at any time since 2006, when the pass rate was a heady 76%.  

CFA results forums are predictably filled with ecstatic individuals who spent last night engorged with alcohol. They're also home to the unhappy minority who failed, some of whom are questioning whether it's all worth it. As is well known, each CFA exam requires 300 hours of study. Three CFA exams therefore require 900 hours. If these hours are fitted in after work and at weekends, at a rate of 15 hours per week, that implies 60 weeks of study. This sounds reasonable. Except it doesn't work like that....

Will it really take you seven years to pass CFA 3?

If you embark on a quest to become a CFA Charterholder, you must be prepared to sacrifice a lot of life.

The CFA Institute itself says that it takes the average candidate four years to complete the programme. In some cases, however, this looks optimistic.

One of the contributors to Analyst Forum confessed yesterday that he'd been studying for CFA exams since 2007. He took CFA Level I twice, CFA Level II twice and CFA Level III four times before passing.  "I have passed!," he declared, proudly.

Another contributor was less lucky. Having started studying for CFA exams seven years ago, he failed Level I once, Level II three times and then failed Level III on his first try in June. "I’ll be taking my 8th CFA exam next year. This really sucks," he complained.

Does studying for CFA exams ruin your home life?

Several CFA III candidates, successful or not, lamented that all their studying had been bad for their relationship.

"27 female and married, I thought I could finally get my family life back.but no, another year of work/study fatigue," reflected one exhausted fail.

Another candidate said she'd passed while her husband had failed, which was causing tension and making it difficult for her to celebrate. And another said his wife was unexpectedly ecstatic about his success and return to family life: "Was amazed by wife’s reaction … was happier than me ….realized how much it meant to her …"

Can you pass the CFA exams in 18 months?

The most accomplished CFA candidates pass all three exams in 18 months. How is this done? One of yesterday's 18-month-passers said it's about studying hard, but not too hard. "18 months total. Level 1 in December 2012, Level 2 in June 2013, Level 3 in June 2014. Level 2 and 3 were very narrow pass each time - means I took care not to over-study :)," he reflected.

The most impressive pass yesterday was the 29 year-old mother of two children under three years old who began studying when her first baby was only seven months.  "June 2012 - My baby is 7 months old, I sat CFA Level-1 exam. Passed with All >70%.  June 2013 - First baby is 1.8 years, I’m 8 months pregnant. Sat CFA Level-2 exam. Passed. June 2014 - Two babies, husband, household duties. Sat CFA Level-3 exam. Passed," she wrote, adding that, "I managed to start and finish my charter while on maternity leave... I had no help with the babies until 1 month before each exam, when I asked my parents to babysit full-time."

Related articles:

CFA or MBA: Which is best for a finance career?

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

How I passed CFA Level II only four months after passing Level I




AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

Sign up to Morning Coffee!

Coffee mug

The essential daily roundup of news and analysis read by everyone from senior bankers and traders to new recruits.

Boost your career

Find thousands of job opportunities by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.
Recommended Articles
Latest Jobs
State Street Corporation
Private Markets Fund Accounting and Administration Associate
State Street Corporation
Boston, United States
State Street Corporation
Implementation Services - Managing Director - Charles River Development
State Street Corporation
Princeton, United States
State Street Corporation
Senior Web Developer, Vice President, Onsite
State Street Corporation
Cambridge, United States
State Street Corporation
Cyber Policy and Strategy Manager
State Street Corporation
Quincy, United States
Robert Half - US
Fund Accountant - Real Estate Funds
Robert Half - US
New York, United States

Sign up to Morning Coffee!

Coffee mug

The essential daily roundup of news and analysis read by everyone from senior bankers and traders to new recruits.