The actual length of the CFA curriculum varies a little each year but it’s generally between 2,500 and 3,200 pages.

When you get the books in the mail, or receive the digital version, that may seem like a monstrous task.

Over the three years of studying for the exams, I think my upper body strength grew just as much as my financial knowledge just from carrying the books around.

Study guides meant to substitute for the curriculum vary but generally range between 1,400 and 1,700 pages.

At under two-thirds the length of the official curriculum, it seems like a no-brainer and I know many candidates who have only rarely even peaked inside their curriculum books.

And many of them are still candidates.

Candidates that have tried to substitute the CFA curriculum with study guides have come to me afterwards with their horror stories.

My reply is always the same, “I wish we had talked before because if you do the math then the answer is pretty obvious.”

The minimum passing score for the exams is never released but I would guess it is around sixty-five percent.

No candidate has failed with a score of 70% or better and I doubt if the Institute would want to charter someone that knows less than two-thirds of the subject matter.

Even the most gifted candidates are going to miss points. If about half the candidates fail the exam every year, I am guessing that most miss at least a tenth of the points and probably much more. We have no way of knowing but it’s obvious that you need every point you can get.

Now, I have seen pretty much all the study guides commercially available.

There are some that do a pretty good job of condensing the material but none are able to get everything in a packet that is half the length of the curriculum. It’s impossible and information is going to get left out.

Try to fit nearly 3,000 pages of information in less than 2,000 pages of notes and I would say you’re lucky if 20% of the information isn’t lost.

So if you neglect the official curriculum completely, you are already out something like 20% or more of the points. Now you need to remember at least 80% of the material just for a score of 64% on the exam.

Most of you have taken practice exams through test banks or the CFA Institute.

How many have scored better than 80% on these?

I know reading all those books is a daunting task but you just cannot afford to leave points on the table by neglecting the official curriculum.

I don’t talk about the FinQuiz study notes much here on the blog other than to reference specific sections of the notes and the curriculum.

I don’t want candidates to think I am being biased by pushing one particular study provider over another.

But I can say, without any bias, that the FinQuiz notes have at least one big advantage over other study products, that they are meant to be used as a complement to the curriculum instead of a substitute.

The FinQuiz notes vary by length as well but are generally around 600 pages.

It’s really the best of both worlds, you get 100% of the information from the curriculum and additional condensed explanations where you need them.

Free examples of the FinQuiz CFA notes are available for download on the website. Take a look and compare them with the curriculum.

FinQuiz regularly offers discounts on products and packages so you may want to contact the provider to get the best deal possible.

‘til next time, happy studying

Joseph Hogue, CFA