Advice please

Hi all,

Firstly congratulations to those of you who passed today and commiserations to those that did not. Anyhow, I am considering signing up for level 1 this June in Japan. I have very little mathematical background and looking at the material, quant, FI and FRA scares me a little. Due to having limited time, if I focussed my learning through Qbank and then cross referencing content I am unsure of in the textbooks would this be suffient? Essentially, does Qbank cover every possible area I could get tested on? Obsiously I am not epecting identical questions to come up in June but I am thinking if I can understand every question on Qbank and why the answer is what it is I should put myself in a good position. Is this a resonable and realistic strategy given the time constraints and my background? I think I can devote about 2 hours every day including weekends. Anyone using/used a stretegy similar to this?

Qbank is too basic. The questions are too easy in that.

If I were you I would look into getting the Elan practice questions as they are harder and closer to the style CFA present theirs in.


If you have no background whatsoever, and you goal is to pass all three levels and gain the Charter, I think its best that you use CFAI materials and not schweser because you really need to learn the material. While Schweser does work for some, it appears that it is mostly for people with the relevant background from their university years. Even so, many others complain that Schweser in general and the Qbank in particular failed to prepare them properly for the exam.

I also do not have an undergraduate degree in finance and I sat for level 1 in December. I used CFAI materials (books + 6 hour mock exam) to prepare and Elan exams (3)+ 11th hour guide (which I also found lacking in many ways, but this is a seperate discussion). While I probably have slightly more relevant work experience, I can tell you that we are probably similar in the level of exposure to math and statistics (I had none past highschool). When I took the exam I felt comfortable with the language of the exam (from what I have seen Qbank questions look nothing like exam questions most of the time) and I think this helped me be successful.

My advice if you want to pass:

  1. Use CFAI materials.

  2. Focus on pareto = your focus should be on mastering the most important parts of the exam: FRA, FI, Ethics and Equities. Alt investments and Portfolio Mgmt are small subjects easily learned and they together are worth as much as Economics, which is 10% but its a large amount of material (more than 15%). Q methods are 12%, and some of the material should not be too hard to get easy points.

  3. Practice

(a) Do all of the End of Chapter (EOC) questions in the CFAI texts and understand the answers.

(b) take exams - as many good ones as you can find (I can speak positively about Elan in this respect - they were wonderul prep).

There are 130 days until the exam. If you devote 2 hours per day and the last week fully, you will have about 300 hours of preparation time, which is marginal, so I suggest you devote at least 10 hours on weekends, which should be sufficient. The hard part is to remain motivated and work at things every day - I remember cursing Fixed Income and it ended up being one of my best areas. Also, look in your schedule for holes - ride to work, lunch, where you can read ethics or review formulas - even for 10 minutes.

Best of luck,



I started for the Dec’12 exams in Sep (I signed up in Mar, but was too lazy…), and mostly learned through Qbank since it’s about the only thing I could get a hand on beside the curriculum. So I was in a similar situation, but then: - I work in the insurance field, so quant and FRA are somewhat familiar to me. In fact, except for economics and ethics, all other topics I can relate to. - My study time was way higher than 2hrs/day. I think it must have been like 20-30hrs/week, for all of Sep and Oct. In Nov I had to slow down a bit (work caught up with me) but still around 10hrs/week. If you haven’t started now, I think this is the most viable approach if you decide to sit for June, but you’ll need to START NOW, and up your study time per day by a lot, and make sure to spend your last month for LOTS AND LOTS of sample exams/mock exams/any exams you can grab.

Thank you for your replies. The point about Qbank being relatively easy is something that does concern me. Although, I am thinking that Qbank should have roughly have the same amount of difficult questions as Elan as Qbank has 4,000 compared to Elan’s 2000. Maybe is seems easier because there will be considerably more easy questions? Can anyone verify/comment on this? Would a good combination perhaps then be to purchase Qbank and the mock exams from Elan? Also when do people think is a good time to do the mocks? I am looking to spend 3 months completing all Qbank and EOC and then complete as many mocks as I can afford to purchase in the last month. Any different approaches to this?


I just passed the Dec 2012 sitting of the Level 1 exam using Schweser material plus the end of chapter problems in the CFAI material and I have absolutely no financial background (i have a liberal arts degree).

I passed with over 70% in 8 out of 10 subjects.

I also didn’t do any practice exams or waste time with flash cards; the Qbank combined with the EOC questions in the CFAI was completely sufficient for me.

Don’t be frightened off by the math content of the CFA, just throw yourself into it and study as hard as you can. If you really want it then you will put in the right amount of time to pass.

If I can give a piece of advice it would be to actually work to understand the formulas and concepts you’re studying. If you don’t do that you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. I would suggest studying at least 350 hours.

Videos plus Q-Bank was my main learning tools and Schweser notes for polishing subject matter. Practice exams are very useful, the more you can access the better.

You would be surprised how little you use your calculator in the exam. There are lots of ‘if something changes, then what is the effect on something else’ type questions. As a result, an understanding of the concepts will get you further than memorising just the formulas. As an anecdote to that point, the guy next to me at the L1 exam didn’t even bring a calculator to the exam and he left after a couple of hours for each exam - not saying he passed but it was certainly a bullish position to take.

Good luck with your studies.