So you want to take the CFA Exam?

A few people have asked me about how to study for the CFA Exam. Here is my list in hindsight.

1) Official books.
You should at least read the ethics part of the book. This part of the book is also on the CFA website in a pdf file, but I would get the books in physical form for reference just in case. You might need them in level 2 and level 3.

2) Schweser notes.
Get them. I have no experience with Stalla's study notes.

3) Schweser Audio CDs.
If you spend 25 minutes commuting each day, 5 days a week, that's 1.5 hours of extra studying you're getting. Given that you probably have to spend 10 hours studying each week, so either you get some of it out of your commute or you get it out of your free time. Your choice.

4) Schweser Practice Exams.
The scheweser notes already give you 3, but this set is different. They are also slightly harder than the real exams. There's also a free CFA assessment exam on their website. I took about 4-5 schweser exams total.

5) CFA official practice online exam.
I only took one, but it doesn't hurt to take more.

6) Sign up for a CFA prep class.

There're 2 reasons for doing this: 1) a class puts you into a structured study schedule. You will know just by going to class that you're behind or ahead, and exactly how many sections of the book you have to read to catchup. You don't want to be in a situation where you're 2 weeks before the exam and then realize that you're only half way done with the books. 2) You get to meet other students in the class. Unless you know everything about every aspect of finance, you will probably learn something from other students. If nothing else, there's always the professional networking aspect...

My class was offered by the local analyst society (, and if you don't have a local society, both Stalla and Scheweser also have courses that you can take. I don't have experience with their classes, but if I have to choose I probably would pick Stalla's class just to get a feel of the style between Stalla and Scheweser. You can also match the study notes with the prep class if you want.

7) Find a study group, or even better form one.
I found mine from a free service offered by You can also find other people on How intense of a group is completely a matter of style, some people prefer a regular weekly group, and others just want a loosely connected online group.

8) Use the HP 12C Platinum calculator.

The TI calculator is easier to use, but the HP one is better once you get used to it. I would get the HP one because you're going to take level 2 and level 3 anyway so might as well put in the effort now. If you're getting the HP 12C, make sure you get the Platinum model. This newer model is much faster when you're doing intensive calculations (e.g. IRR).

9) Start EARLY! You can do it.
I'm not from a finance background so I had to spend total about 200-300 hours. Look, we're all busy, driven people, and you're going to make some time sacrifices, but you can make the smart ones. Hopefully this list helps you do just that.
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