December is over and you haven’t started studying for the 2017 CFA exam yet?
I know it seems way too early and every year I bark up the same tree that candidates need to start studying earlier. Every year the majority put it off until later…then much later. Some are still successful, others not so much.
I’m not just trying to fill space and there really are some strong reasons for starting early.
If the average time spent studying to pass the test is 300 hours, then what does your Level I statistics tell you? Sure you might get away with a couple of hundred hours studying but do you want to take the chance? You can spend 150 hours and probably have to spend another 300 for the same exam next year or just spend the necessary amount this year.
I don’t know what your schedule is like but mine was busy when I took the exams. It is hard enough fitting in 10 hours of studying a week, let alone15 hours or more.
If you haven’t been on the forum long then you haven’t seen what happens around March or April before the exam. Candidates start FREAKING OUT! There will be no less than ten forum posts asking if it is too late to begin studying [in April] and asking desperately what to do. Even the candidates that start with what they think is enough time in February still feel the stress of the first Saturday in June.
Now imagine the sigh of relief you’ll have seeing those forum posts and knowing that you are prepared. Having started no later than November for all three exams, I was able to go through the curriculum, study guides, flash cards and a mountain of practice problems. Yeah, I was still worried but I knew I would pass the exams.
So you’ve outlined your study plan and will have plenty of time to start in late February. Fifteen weeks of 15 hours a week and you’ll take a week off work for an intensive review. No problem.
If you are clairvoyant enough to know that it will work out exactly that way, then call me and we’ll go to Las Vegas. Life is what happens when our plans don’t come out exactly. What happens when your boss won’t give you the time off work? What happens when you get put in charge of that dream account that will lead to a promotion but will mean long hours? What happens when your kid’s team makes the state finals and you are traveling for two weeks?
What happens when life gets in the way and you come up short studying? Better luck next year.
The most simple and best reason – because the curriculum will make you a better analyst. If you do not want to be a better analyst or money manager then you need to find another profession. This industry is incredibly competitive and only those that make the time to get those extra few basis points of alpha will survive.
Don’t think of it as studying for a test, where all you have to do is memorize enough material to pick the best of three choices. This is the easiest professional development you will do in your career. Everything is laid out and organized in a few texts complete with practice problems. Enjoy it, enjoy your career.
You’ll get other advice from charter holders that say they studied for just a couple of months and had no problems. It may be true or they may just be remembering things how they want you to see them. Ultimately, it’s your choice when you want to begin studying but I hope the reasons above are enough to convince you to start sooner rather than later.
Be the tortoise, not the hare.
‘til next time, happy studying
Joseph Hogue, CFA