This article is a continuation of an earlier article: Wish to pass all CFA exams on the first try? which talks about the importance of passing all three levels of CFA exam on your first try. There are certainly huge opportunity costs for not being able to pass each level on your first attempt.

In particular, we highlighted three pitfalls one should avoid, in order to pass CFA exam in one go: 1) Being penny wise, pound foolish, 2) Forgetting to calculate the opportunity costs, and 3) Being overconfident when it comes to CFA exam prep. 

CFA Exam Tip 1:  Set a CFA Level 3 pass-date for yourself

Remove the false sense of security from having multiple chances to clear the exams. Remember – failing it means you have to spend some extra money and extra time to re-study for that level. If you graduate after the usual hiring window which is typically at the beginning of the year, your chances of landing a front office job in the same year get slimmer.

In addition to passing your CFA exams, you will still need to factor in preparation work, including learning how to build a professional grade financial model, pitch stock ideas at interviews and building your network that can lead to your interview. Our nearly one decade of experience suggests that this preparation could take you anywhere from six months to one year. For more details of what you need to prepare, please read From CFA exams to investment jobs, How? 

CFA Exam Tip 2: Engage a good prep course provider to help you stay on track 

Even national teams need a good coach to play in the finals. The cost of engaging a CFA provider may seem like a ‘costly’ but the timetables, cheat sheets, and question banks all help increase your time commitment to your studies and help you get ahead of those who do not.

Besides, if you are learning to gain a better understanding of how to apply such concepts in the real world, the CFA teachers are great.

In my opinion, a good CFA prep course would provide you:

  1. concise and easy to comprehend study notes that save you time reading thick curriculum,
  2. cheat sheets that help you memorize key formulae,
  3. lecturers from investment industry that teaches more than the curriculum, and
  4. responsive support team to answer your questions on demand.

CFA Exam Tip 3: Factor in grants and future payoffs in your ‘cost’ calculations

A good training provider can assist you with applying for grants or subsidies for your CFA preparations. In Singapore’s case, financial assistance from IBF Standards Training Scheme means that candidates can get CFA prep classes at special rates.

In his article Which has better payoff – CFA or FRM? Here is my experience, one of our mentor, AKY talks about payoffs of different career paths in an investment career. Despite a wide range of payoff after years of experience in the investment industry, the return can easily cover your initial investment for CFA prep. Remember that an investment career has a very high leverage that can pay off well.

CFA Exam Tip 4: Guard your time and know your best hours of studying CFA

Distractions are common in the modern era. Your mobile phone pops up the latest notifications from Instagram or your favourite blogs. Before you even start studying, Netflix tempts you a snippet of their latest series. How would you pass CFA exams with so many distractions?

When I was studying for CFA exams, I woke up 1.5 hours earlier on weekdays to study or exercise before I set off for work. I will study on Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings, and exercise on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday mornings. Sundays are for a recap and spending time with family. I try not to study every day so I do not feel ‘burnout’ on this marathon. There were days when I ‘missed’ my study schedule due to work or exhaustion, but I do stay on track for most days. However, everyone has different learning habits so you need to find out what works best for you. Sticking to the above routine lets me pass each level of exams on my first try.

CFA Exam Tip 5: Learn techniques to pass each section of the exams

CFA providers not only provide tips on studying and understanding concepts, they also help you to strategize on passing each section of the exams. Their strategies helped me to plan my study time, as well as answering time.  Our partner AB Maximus even provides peer support and moral support via WhatsApp chats. Do get in touch with the team if you are a Singapore or Malaysia-based candidate.

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We would like to thank Valerie for her contribution to this article. She has been a sell-side research analyst at HSBC and Macquarie and continues to work in the field of investment. She is a senior mentor at Springboard Talent Management.

Springboard is a platform that nurtures young professionals intending to enter the investment industry. We are in the midst of developing practical curriculum with veterans in the field of real estate investments, private equity, and fintech. If you wish to get more career advise, please feel free to write to val AT

Springboard is proud to be a training partner of AB Maximus, headed by Mr Th’ng Beng Hooi, former secretariat director of CFA Singapore. AB Maximus has provided financial certificate training covering CFA, FRM, CMA, and CMT for more than 20 years.

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