How I passed CFA level 1 exam

Hi guys, this website has offered a lot of help to me and I thought I would discuss how I passed the level 1 exam and hopefully it may help someone out there. Here is what I did. I must also add everyone has his own style of studying. What worked for me, may not work for you. So please keep this in mind while reading this.

  1. Read schweser notes Book 1 to Book 5 and ofcourse did all eoc questions. In my first read I had zero focus on retention and memorizing formuls etc and 200 percent focus on making sure I understood everything and every concept inside out. So If i did not understand anything, I would maybe do some more research on the internet, use this forum, read other books, reread and reread until I was sure I had in depth understanding of what was written and why things were the way they were. I feel this is important. Some people get some satisfaction by telling themselves hey i read 50 pages today or 100 pages today but maybe it works for them but for me. I would not understand anything that way and its just false sense of satisfaction. I think I would read 20-25 pages in a session/day. So idea was read very slow, thorough understanding, less to no focus on retention.

  2. Once I was done with book 5, I found that I did not remember much from previous books. I would say my total retention was maybe 20 to 25 percent. This can be scary and cos some to panic but I feel its normal atleast given the approach that I took. The second step was to reread everything again word for word like you were doing it for the first time and this time focus on retention and also REDO all eoc questions again by hand like you were doin for the first time. Hopefully on the second go everything will start to come togather and you will start developing confidence. After this painstaking second go, I felt my retention level was around 85 percent.

  3. Then I tore of the formulas given at the end of 5 schweser books and commited them to memory.

  4. read and commited quick sheet to memory

  5. Finally ready secret sauce. This was highly benifical.

  6. I gave some schweser pratice exams, i do not remember how many. maybe 2 to 3 . Regardless of what I did I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you give as many exams as posssible and under fully timed conditions. both volume 1 and volume 2 of schweser practice exams and also ne cfai exams/sample/mock you can get your hand on. Do not under estimate the stamina/timing/speed aspect of this 6 hour exam. This is especially true for level 1 candidates as they are new so they may underestimate this aspect and this can be fatal.

  7. some final comments tips.

a) I do recommend doing schweser eoc twice to truly get the computations/calculations under your grip.

b) Although i did not do it I recommend you read original cfa book and do all original/cfai book eoc for ETHICS SECTION ONLY. i recomend this as ethics is a very important part of the exam.

c) I definaly recomend you NEED TO do as many practice exams as possible schweser/cfa mock/cfa sample. Anything you can find. The more the better. Also try to do atleast 3 to 4 under fully timed conditions. Timing is crucial in this marathon exam.

d) Do not SKIP anything from schweser books. Everything is important, even small little topics/concepts that may seem you can ignore you NEED to know them. You need to know Everything and need to know it solidly.

e) Keep your composure during the exam, if something seems hard it is probably hard for other candidates as well. do your best on every question and donot think you are doing bad or you are doing good. While you are in the exam room just do you best and forget about everything else.

f) I recommend start early, as early as possible. There are no shorcuts, you need to put the effort in and I am sure you will nail this exam.

g) One more point I would like to add which I didnt in my original post. Make sure you make a realistic plan which covers all important aspects I have discussed and stick to that plan. if your plan is too ambitious , you may find you are constantly revisn and updatin your plan and fallin short of your targets and may end up running out of time. So make a realistic plan. monitor your progeress and adjust if necessary but make sure you remain on course to cover all important things discussed


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Good Advice but should be given early.

TBH i read point 3) as like this

  1. Then I tore of the formulas given at the end of 5 schweser books and commited them into my pockets in exam day.


Pretty good advice, it also seems like you throughly went through the material. May I ask how many hours did you put in? I wish I had the time to go over it as many times as you have. Congracts for the pass! :slight_smile:

Hey Rain01, did you make notes as you went along studying or just read the reading? How old were you when you passed Level 1? Were you a student or had a full time job? What did you do in your final weeks before the exam?

Can you please tell us how many months did such a preparation take so that we get an idea of the time frame.

I think I started to 6 to 7 months before the exam. I am really estimating here but I think I put in maybe 2 to 3 hours daily for the first 4 to 5 months and then maybe 6 to 7 hours daily for last 2 months. I really dont remember it was long time ago, so dont want to misguide you. I definately recommend start ATLEAST 6 months before the exam and the more time you give yourself the better. As long as you start 6 months before, you should be fine. Also more important is what you do and how you do it and what you get done and not just counting hours you study.

I did not make any notes whatsoeever. Schweser are already notes I feel so no point makin notes out of notes. I guess equivalent of notes would be 1) schweser eoc summaries 2) schweser end of book formulas 3) schweser quicksheet 4) schweser secret sauce. You can consider these 4 items as notes for revision. But ONLY AFTER you have done everything else like I said. Also if you find an area weak go back to it , reread it do more question on it and maybe even take a look at cfai book if you are still struglling.

I think i was 23 when i passed the exam. as for final few weeks. Like i said before 1) make sure do tons of pratice exams 2) make sure you have schweser end of book formulas and quick sheet momerized completely (and also understood how to use the formulas) 3) read secret sauce 4) 3 to 4 days before maybe go over ethics and fsa again. As both are really important topics.

Again this is what worked for me, everyone is differnt so please dont be afraid to do use the style that is your strength and is known to work for you and get any useful info from my post and incorporate in your plan

It doesn’t sound like you did extra practice problems (like Qbank). So just the EOC and practice exam questions were enough practice for you?

You read the 5 books of Schweser material 2 times each? So 10 books?

It seems that the general consensus from 95% of people who have passed the CFA L1 exam already was that the most important thing is to do practice questions, assuming you read the entire curriculum thoroughly. Reading the entire curriculum two times seems like an inefficent use of time. Doing the questions is way more important than reading the books a second time in my opinion. Everyone is different though.

HI, yes i did not do qbank. the schweser eoc questions are pretty good (IMO) for the sort of questions you may face in level 1 exam. I did them twice to solidify my understanding on the concepts and calculations and also did a few exams at the end. (though i recommend as many exams as possible). The length of curriculam on the cfa exams is so much that it is humanly impossible to retain all of the information while going through the books once.

Some people tackle this problem by reading once and doing loads of extra questions to aid retention and then going through and revising for the material they were weak on or made mistakes on and then repeating this process over and over again. If you read posts here everyone has unique approach how they approached their preparation and tackled the exams and many differnt approaches have been succesful. its differnt ways of tackling the same problem really. the bottom line is you need to know every word in schweser inside out and this is the approach i took to achieve that goal and it worked for me. I also used the same approach for level 2 and it worked for level 2 as well. Like i said before everyone has his own style of working and this method has given good results for me. Whatever approach you use, as long as you know EVERYTHING in schweser inside out when you the enter the exam room you will be fine. The way you get there is your own choice, i just illustrated my way incase it may help someone. but whatever way you get there as long as you get there you should be fine.

You make valid points Rain, but I disagree with you when you say you need to know everything inside out. I think even if you know 95% of the material in Schweser, you can probably get close to every single question right on the CFA exam. Why? Because CFAI won’t test you on small minute details that bear almost no significance in the investment world. They will test you on the big important stuff that matters. There are tons of really small details in the curriculum that will never show up as a question or even be mentioned.

You need about a 70% to pass the CFA, according to many sources. Saying that you need to know everything inside out implies that you need to know the small details just as well as the important ones. I don’t belive that is true. In order to understand the small details, you have to master the major subjects, then work your way into the intracacies of a concept. The way that I look at the CFA and the Schweser material is that less is more. Schweser condenses 3,500 pages of CFAI material into about 1,500 pages of material. Those extra 2,000 pages are still of importance, but they are not nearly as important as the main concepts focused on in Schweser. Why fill your mind up with small details when you could be using those efforts to master the important concepts, which is obviously more important.

I think what Rain is trying to say is that the Schweser material is already a very condensed version of the material so don’t approach it like it covers 100% of the material and leaves you room to pick and chose which parts you think are important.

Think of it like using Cliff notes for reading a book. You couldn’t be bothered reading Hamlet in high school so you went and bought the Cliff notes. If you read and understand those Cliff notes (covered in 30 pages), you should be able to get a C on the exam (a pass for CFA exams). But if you pick and chose which parts of those Cliff notes you think are important (i.e. read 20 pags only), you’ll probably fail the exam.

I read Schweser notes twice for L1 btw. First time round was a very careful read which took maybe 4-5 months, then second read took about 6 weeks. Then practice exams for 3 weeks.

Some people cram everything in 3 months while working 60 hours a week. Everybody is different.

I agree with your analogy, but I think knowing Schweser in and out is not necessary. Knowing it 90% should be more than enough, the focus should be on taking thousands of practice questions.

Agreed, we’re only human, there’s only so much you can cram and retain in your brain. But try to cover 100% of Schweser with the aim that you’ll retain 80%, rather than try to cover 75% and retain 80% of that.

With this in mind, I recommend NOT skipping through Derivatives and Alt. Investment and PM (I hear people saying this all the time as a time saving strategy on this forum). These have a high reward to effort ratio and are easy points vs something like Econ (low reward to effort ratio).

Hi, i agree tih it may not be possible to know shcweser 100 percent. But when i said 100 percent i meant more in metaphorical sense to make a point rather then literal sense. I will give you 90-95 percent as you have said. But please bear in mind if you think cfa will not ask about those “un important” or “obscure” material then you may be very surprised on exam day. Every serious candidate covers the main ideas and its these “other” content that seperates these serious candidates. This is especially true when you go to higher levels like level 2. I can assure you have the same mindset and sit the level 2 exam you have a 60-70 percent chance you will not pass as you will be surprised at the sort of things they are asking. So please do not underestimate the importance of concepts that you may feel are not important.

I AGREE with you, you cant know everything but you need to get as close as possible. That is my humble opinion from my own experience and you have every right to disagree and also ask other level 1 passers here for their input into this matter and take their advice own board and then do what you feel is the best way forward given this information.

Good Luck!

What’s worked for me for other challenging professional exams (and should work for CFA) is to master 90% of the material (ignoring whichever 10% is giving me the most difficulty). Work problems and eliminate mistakes so I can get 80% of the questions right. That leaves 10% margin for a bad exam day.

Ermm…80% of 90 is 72%. So you only have c2% margin of error.

Many advice i could take from this thread, i wish i could be like u u u mates, who has passed cfa level I and until get cfa level III, i still searching information about the cfa axam, need deep understanding.

Dear Rain01 I’m now a second year student in university and really interested in learning to achieve CFA certificate. Following your instructions helps me a lot in my self-learning but I had a trouble with the materials for my practicing. You know, I’m hopeless in finding Mock exams or sample exams on the internet. Could you mind give me these materials in pdf file? I really need these materials for my improvement. My e-mail is, hope to see your reply soon. Thanks so much for your sharing!

The way it is phrased its 80% part of 100%.