Any retake advice for a mother of 3 toddlers?

Hi All!

First of all, congratulations to all who have passed Dec’15 level 1 exam! Well done!

Now coming to my subject, being a mother of 3 toddlers (age: 3.7, 2.3 and 7 mths old) and not working at the moment, I had appeared for Dec’15 level 1 exam thinking I could pass the exam as I’ve got bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting. Well I guess I was in for a shock as I could hardly study with 2 toddlers and a newborn without any external help! I somehow could manage to touch the books (Schweser not CFAI books but would’ve loved to) in the last 2 mths before the exam. And no I couldn’t give in 5-6 hrs per day like many but barely 2-3 hrs per day only after the kids would fall asleep. I guess you can do the math! I could barely finish all the topics and CFAI EOC questions, didn’t get to do any review or what soever, and merely did 1 practice paper. So you can calculate my pass rate!?!

After I received my result (band 4) yesterday, I’ve been rethinking again and again if I should retake the exam? If yes, then should it be June or December exam? What should be my study strategies considering i’ve kids all under 4? Being in my 30s will it be the worth the time and effort? Though I still feel if I could’ve given my 100% then I would’ve passed.

Please feel free to advice/suggest (positive/negative) as I really need to think through it. And as I plan to get back to work, perferrably in a consultancy job if I get lucky!

Thanks in advance.

Candidates report dedicating in excess of 300 hours of study per level to prepare for each exam.

as per,

The question what you need to answer is, “Can I dedicate more than 300 hours along with 3 kids in my 30s to clear all 3 levels”, if no, then I guess we both are thinking on the same line.

If you’re working in finance or serious about working in finance, then yes, it’s worth it. Idk about timing though. Can you regularly dedicate 2-3 hrs per day for the next 3 years? (L1,2,3)

I’m a working mom of 3 so I get where you are coming from. It’s tough being a mom and needing to study while other people, especially small people, are needing you too.

I failed band 10 in June 2015. I completed the material, some mocks, and put in the hours the first time and I have come to believe that the hours aren’t as important as the quality of study, # of questions answered, mock exams, etc completed. I don’t know how many hours I put in this time around but the quality study time was much better… and the outcome was much better too.

If I were you, I would assess your support system (husband, partner, grandparents, etc) and then have a conversation with them to see how much support they can provide. My husband and I sat down and really talked through what I was going to need to study and pass and we put together a “family” study schedule. That gave everyone involved an idea of the times I needed to study and it also gave me an idea of when I needed to plan NOT to study.

Forget the 300 hours of study thing and study smarter instead of clocking time. Also, figure out how you learn best (there are lots of free online tests). I discovered that I am and audio/visual learner so the Wiley videos were a lifesaver for me. Plus I could put headphones on to listen and I couldn’t hear the rest of the house being loud. :wink:

It’s not easy but if this is something you really want to do, it will definitely be worth it. And believe me, my whole family was estatic when I got my results yesterday; it’s really an accomplishment for the whole family.

I am the mother of a 13 year old who is pretty self sufficient and it was very hard for me to make the time. I cannot even imagine finding any time to study with 3 little ones. And to be honest, Level 2 and 3 took a lot more preparation than Level 1. I think unless you are willing to create 300 study hours for Level 1 and more for Levels 2 and 3, you are not going to get through. And you will have given up valuable family time along the way which you can never get back. Only you know how bad you need or want it, but I just don’t see it.

Firstly, I would like to commend you on making an effort to juggle the CFA exam while looking after your toddlers.

You posted:

“Being in my 30s will it be the worth the time and effort? Though I still feel if I could’ve given my 100% then I would’ve passed.”

“And no I couldn’t give in 5-6 hrs per day like many but barely 2-3 hrs per day only after the kids would fall asleep.”

Whether it’s worth or not is a judgment that only you can make. I personally wouldn’t care about being in your 30s - these are limitations created by a bunch of insecure people.

Your second comment tells me that realistically you can dedicate around 2 hours a day.

So instead of rushing into preparing for the exam over the usual 6 month interval, why not adjust the equation to your advantage by increasing the preparation interval to 1 year and studying 2 hours daily ? This way you get to spend time with your kids and continuously develop your skills in the CFA Program. Of course, like anything else you will need to be disciplined, which I am sure you already know.

I’m a father of two under 10; my wife and I both work long hours, but she was absolutely amazing support for me in L1. I definitely think you should seriously consider continuing. I also think June makes sense, as the material is fresh.

Given that time is a huge constraint for you, I recommend a strategy that will help you pass L1 with limited time at the expense of hindering you for L2.

My best advice is, at level 1, don’t treat the test as an education in finance. Treat it as a test. You can get 1/3 of your guesses right, so you need to know about 55% of the questions extremely well. This approach lets you ignore a vast amount of material. If your time is limited, it lets you focus with double or triple the intensity on what matters most (it won’t help for L2, but that would be a good problem to have).

It’s not about scholarship; it’s about drilling. Rehearsing for exam day. Seeing the same type of question a dozen times till the time to solve any iteration of it with any figures drops from say 4 minutes to 25 seconds. Just like how a basketball player can pass without looking.

Don’t read readings. Skip any blue box or practice problem that makes your brain fuzzy. Don’t get bogged down. Move light and fast every day and every week through only the low hanging fruit.

  • Flashcard definitions. You can learn a huge amount by building 100’s of flashcards to drill definitions and basic concepts. Check out Quizlet; lots of people have done the hard work for you.
  • High-priority questions. If a set of end-of-chapter practice problems ask about basically the same thing 5 or 10 ways, spend more time on that issue. You’ll also see things come up on the CFAI mocks and topic tests more than others. Focus on those things. Among the 1000+ practice problems in all readings, you can find a core of maybe 200-300 high priority practice problems across the entire curriculum, and repeat them over and over – 4, 6, 9, 10 times. It’s about drilling in practice what you will face on the exam.
  • CFAI mocks and topic tests – These are not tests. They are signals. They tell you what specific mico-topics matter most. Of 240 mock questions, maybe 150 are comprehensible without much study. Repeat those 150 at least 5, 6, 9 times. Same with topic tests.
  • All this will give you an imprenetrable core of knowledge to answer maybe 55% of the questions perfectly (assuming an 18% bonus from random guesses). If you get to that point early enough, you can branch out strategically – in high-value topics, and invest energy learning select additional concepts so your guaranteed 55% becomes a guaranteed 60% or 62%. Plus guesses.

Last piece of advice is to try as much as possible to get a solid, intensive review in over the last 2 or 3 weeks. Even the last 9 days. If you can get a bit of relief from kids for 9 days, and do 11 hours of studying per day, that’s 100 hours, right before the exam. Don’t learn anything new. Just reheatse and drill. Burn enough key concepts into your brain so you can perform robotically on exam day. If you finish a chunk of the exam robotically, you can go through the rest and start trying to turn your 1/3 guesses into 50% guesses.

Good luck! This won’t prepare you for L2 very well, but if you pass L1, you may gain advantages to solve that problem.

Thank you everyone for the feedbacks/advises. And sorry for replying late.

As most of you have suggested, yes i need to have a check on how many hours I would be able to dedicate every day.

@jenjenks: Congrats! It’s good to hear success stories of mothers. smiley

@biuku: thank you for all the tips. All Noted! smiley you are right about retaking it on June as for the materials being fresh in mind but am not sure if I’ll be able to give in my 100%. And this time I can’t take the risk of failing again!

@Iampossible: thank you for your appreciation. And yes I’m thinking on the same line of yours. I don’t wanna rush in this time. For the last december’15 exam I had registered in march’15 and started preparing for the exam little by little daily. But then I was in due for my 3rd child in June and after which, time went by in a flash and I was hit hard by the reality only by end of august. I had almost decided to withdraw as I was sure that I wouldn’t pass at that rate but then my hubby didn’t let me to. I used to be cranky all the time in those 2-3 mths as i wasnt able to study the way i wanted to or suppose to. So seriously this time I don’t wanna rush. I can’t risk it for the 2nd time, money wise and also family time wise.

So I guess I would prefer to appear for December’16 exam, most probably after reanalysing how am gonna do it considering the tips given above by you all above. smiley

Any more advice from others ?!?

OP, this is my .02. Take it for what it’s worth. (FTR - I don’t mean to be a jerk, and I apologize in advance if it comes across that way.)

When I passed L1, my wife was pregnant with our first (we didn’t know it yet)in December. I failed L2 when she was 7 months pregnant. Passed L2 with a 10-month old, then passed L3 with a toddler and another one on the way. Now I have a four year old and a two year old.

If I were you, I would stop taking the CFA exam. First, you’re not working. Second, if you do get a job, how can you manage a job and three kids and the CFA exam? Third, how do you know that you’ll get a job where the CFA is in demand? What if you get a job that requires something else entirely, or nothing at all? (More about me–I am a CPA + CFA, and if I could do it again, I would get the CFP instead of CFA. More recognition by clients and a lot easier to get.)

Fourth, and most importantly of all, you’re going to miss a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of time with your kids. You failed L1 pretty miserably, and it is by far the easiest of the three. L1 is merely the application for admission. The CFA Exam begins at Level 2.

Again, I don’t want to discourage you from following your dream, but I think by continuing in the CFA exam, you’re sacrificing a lot that you can’t get back, and it’s probably not going to be worth it in the end. At least wait until you have a job that values the CFA Charter before you take it again.

Hey Greenman72! Thank you for all your input, and don’t worry I won’t judge you as I understand that its just a mere discussion we are having to help me to make a decision.

Yes some part of my brain has been telling me not to retake the exam until I can commit myself completely into the studies. But then to finalise that decision I need to have strong reasons to convince my other part of the brain to not to retake. So your reasons do make sense.

Just to give more insight about myself- I was working till I gave birth to my 2nd child. As doing CFA have had been my longtime dream so wanted to pursue it now since I don’t have the pressure to be in office. Yes taking care of 3 kids single handedly (though my husband tries to help me time to time) isn’t an easy job and of course you are right about missing out on my time with my kids. But one day I do plan to get back to work, and seeing the competition in job market I don’t feel quite secure to land up with any good job with having only done bachelor’s! I want to utilise this career gap to something useful which would be of my interest and also help to get a job in the same field. No I am not expecting a great job but then again I don’t wanna be left behind in this so called rat race either. I had signed up for this course cause I like finance (as it was my major in undergrad) and also I need to progress in my career.

I hope you are got my point. So what do you’ve to suggest on that? Yes my level 1 result was pathetic! But all along I knew if I could put in my 100% I would’ve done better.

Once again please feel free to suggest or advice. BTW what is a CFP? How is it useful?

When I was taking the CFA exams ('97 – '99), I had three children: 11 – 15 when I started, 13 – 17 when I finished. Of course, I had the advantage of a wife who handled everything each Spring while I was studying . . . something many candidates don’t have.

Family comes first. If it’s a choice between your toddlers and the CFA exams, it’s no choice: take care of the wee ones. Believe me: you will not regret it. But you will regret missing out on this most important stage of their life if you’re studying while they’re growing, developing, changing. To me, it’s not even remotely close.

Best of luck!

+1 to Magician.

You’re missing a critical time in your children’s lives for a designation that you may not use in a career that you may not get. If you had a career that you loved and your promotion to partner were contingent on passing the CFA exam, then my answer might change. But as a SAHM, I would not sacrifice time with kids that age. Not for a minute.

And a CFP is a Certified Financial Planner. Pretty useful if you want to be a retail financial advisor slinging mutual funds and insurance. Most importantly, it has a lot of client recognition. Not very useful if you want to be an analyst or institutional portfolio manager, though.

I get what you both (Greenman72 & S2000magician) are indicating. Quite helpful feedbacks indeed. Thanks a lot.

Hmmm, if you dont mind me asking - How do you suggest I make myself visible or make my CV standout once I get back to the corporate world? Of course that would be only maybe in another 2-3 years. For your info- I don’t like staying at home 24hrs, and may not like the idea of being a SAHM forever. It’s all OK if you find it irrelevant to answer. smiley

Thank you Greenman72 for that piece of info on CFP. Will try to look into it in details. smiley

given, “I would prefer to appear for December’16 exam”

“CFA (Program) have had been my longtime dream”

“Of course that would be only maybe in another 2-3 years”

“may not like the idea of being a SAHM forever”

You don’t be with your kids for 24*7, its ok to let them breath for 2-3 hours alone, thus if money is not an issue and you put in entire efforts for the next 2-3 years, I guess that would be the best utilization of time (to continue) sitting at home at least better than watching TV or surfing internet.

Hey. This is a good idea. Just tell your kids, “Be quiet and don’t bother me for the next three hours. Mommy is studying.”

Why didn’t I think of that before?

It isn’t a terrible idea… maybe with some supervision since they are little.

At the risk of sounding like a huge feminist; I do find it odd that advice is being given to not move forward in the program because, among other things, she will miss time with her kids. Yet it’s completely normal and acceptable for you guys to acknowledge that you had kids while studying and your spouse just took care of everything.

Kids need their parents regardless of whether it’s mom or dad. But parents also need time to themselves and if 2-3 hours of studying is considered her time for herself, then that’s to her benefit as well as to the family’s benefit… and probably more beneficial than sitting in Starbucks for 2 hours gossiping follwed by an hour of shopping which is what many have deemed acceptable and the norm for SAHMs.

I suppose I’m a little biased in all of this because I am a mom with 3 kids and in the CFA program but I do think another point of view is needed here. Yes, she needs her family’s support and buy-in here but it’s no different that the support and buy-in that dads (hopefully) ask for when they start this program. And heaven forbid that something happen to her spouse but if something did, having skills and a certification would certainly be an asset to her and her family.

Just something more to consider…


may be because you are not a mommy and if you are, this may help…

I think I wholeheartedly agree with S2000magician - “IF” it’s a choice between your toddlers and the CFA exams, then family comes first.

However, I don’t think spending quality time with your family and passing the CFA exams are necessarily mutually exclusive.

Let’s do the math. For each level of CFA exams say you study 1.5 hrs a day for 365 days = 547.5hrs.

In my opinion, this time allocation is sufficient to pass each of the three levels.

Yes, it will take you around 4 years to complete the program. And yes, may be after passing all three exams you still don’t earn the Charter until you accumulate 4 years of relevant experience. So what ? You still get to spend quality time with your family while pursuing your goals/passions under your own terms.

It’s important to define what success means to YOU. Passing all three levels in 18 months isn’t everyone’s goal. For example, I could sit for the level 2 exam this June, but I prefer doing it next year (yes I don’t like to burnout myself, and couldn’t care less about what others think…lol…) and am instead focusing on the final year of my part-time Master of Finance, my full-time analyst job and learning boxing.

Do whatever you do wholeheartedly and give it your best. Don’t let others steal your dreams. You want to be great, not just good at what you do. YOU can do it !!

@jenjenks, @sonuvga & @iampossible- u guys are just spot on! U guys said what I was unable to convey to @Greenman72 & @S2000magician. Why do i’ve to choose? Is it that bad of an idea to do something for myself just cuz am a MOM? Men are sometimes lucky to have their wives take care of the kids but doesn’t work otherway as my husband failed miserably when he had to take care of the kids all alone. I really want to utilise and make myself useful in the gap till I get back to work again. It’s not that I want to run behind my career keeping the family aside. But i do also want to have my own recognition and identity. So if @Greenman72 & @S2000magician u both feel CFA is too intense for me, then what other course do u think I can do in my free time in next 2-3 yrs?