My Lessons Learnt From CFA L1 June 2014


Just want to share some of the mistakes which i made while preparing for CFA L1. I know u guys might have heard or read all this but its just my take on the exam and hope none of us gonna make those again in any level. U guys are welcomed to pitch in.

  1. I underestimated CFA L1. Everyone talked about how difficult CFA L2 is as compared to L1…heard that anyone could pass L1 or its easy to pass L1…that made me complacent…imo not anyone could pass L1…never ever underestimate CFA L1

  2. CFA Curricullum examples and back questions are must…that what i read on sites and forums…but i ignored it…i believe how could kaplan go wrong, they are in this buisness for a long time…that was another shot on my foot

3)Reading original material…idk wether its worth that effort…i am on fence on this one

  1. My biggest mistake…i did not do a single TIMED mock…i did lots of mocks but at my own pace…and that just came back and haunted me in the exam…where every other guy fnished it about 30 mins earlier, i barely managed to mark all dots in time

  2. Finally the most important advice would be to stay away from this forum surprise 3/4 days before the exam and obviously dont kill ur time after the exam on this forum. Later on yea…u could come back

u could make all those mistakes and still pass…but i am pretty sure if i have done any of those pts1,2,4 mentioned above i could have a much smoother ride…i hope above things do hold for L2/L3.

I would like to add to it one more point. I remember many saying to me , donot wait to complete the course for starting doing question banks. But Somehow I could not convince myself to start doing questions till I know the entore matrial once. Unfortunately I could not complete reading everything on time, and only started with Mocks/Questions 1 week before the exam. This was my biggest mistake I believe.


I did timed mocks and did fine on the second session but was fooled by the change of positioning on the portfolio management which came last and had to do randoms on 70% of it, 30% left blanc and this led me to an epic band 10 fail. Will see if I can get the exact results today on my profile as I see people with worse performance than mine having passed. But timed mocks help a lot.

The exam was definitely harder than any of the mocks I did, so whoever is reading this and has an upcoming L1, strive to score above 80% on the mocks because the exam might turn out harder.

One great mistake I did was using Schweser. The CFA curriculum is what you want if you`re looking to pass.

I thought I’d give some input on what worked for me.

Having been out of university for 7 years and graduating with a C average if I was lucky, I’d never really put in much effort when it came to school. Once I decided on taking the Level 1 exam I did some research and spoke to many people who had both passed and failed, and came up with my game plan. For 6 months starting the first week of December I committed to 10-15 hours of study each week, which isn’t really much if you think about it. 2 hours on 2 or 3 nights during the week and 1 solid day on the weekend. I continued to work full time, get to the gym twice a week and play hockey with my buddies one night. I used only Schweser material with the exception of Ethics and the end of chapter questions in the CFA material. I would read the Schweser notes and do the Schweser practice questions, then start off with the CFA questions in my next study session to test myself on the previous material I had studied. Then in the last month I focused on as many practice questions I could get my hands on and reading the solutions for every question, not just the questuions I got wrong. I was told you’ll learn 100 times faster by doing practice questions rather than reading over the material again and again and that might actually be true.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have terrible study habbits and a horrible attention span, but never during those 6 months did I feel over worked or stressed out and I think it goes back to having a clear plan and sticking to it. This strategy worked for me and I came out with better results than I could have imagined. I plan on following that exact same routine for Level 2 next year, but who knows, mayble I’ll be posting a thread on the mistakes I made and why If ailed next July. Good luck to all!

Lessons learned for me:

  • Focus on the CFA EOC questions and CFA sample questions more. The CFAI administers the exam, get used to the way they ask the questions and how to think through them
  • Take more time to brush up on subjects that I haven’t hit in awhile. Next time around I’ll briefly review topics I hit weekly/monthly. Eventually, I was solid on most of them, but the first 3-4 mocks, I felt like I missed many questions based on rust.

Something that I think I knew going in, but it really didn’t hit me until exam day: There will be a noticeable amount of things you will memorize/drill/understand that won’t even be covered on the exam sad . Again, I knew this already, but it REALLY hit home on exam day. In the end, you just have to know as much as you possibly can.

Glad I was able to pass Level 1, but I am going to have to step my game up for L2.

Hello, I failed this time with a band of 4. The marks on corporate finance, Quants, Ethics were >=70. I did not attempt any mocks but went through curriculam back questions . Worked hard for FRA but surprisingly scored lowest in that. Please advice if I should go in for 2014 dec attempt or June 2015 attempt, I am not working.

June 2015 they might change a section of the curriculum again. I would recommend you to just go for it in December but it really depends on your schedule.

Band of 4 you probably need to start from scratch studying again.

You really need to do a lot of mocks and do the EOCs.

Ethics, FRA, Equity, Quants and Fixed income should be your main priority.

You probably need to try to start understanding the material you are reading before you go and try to memorize the equations.

I failed with a band of 10 in December 2013. June I got all over 70 except fixed income.

For me I just spend 80 percent of my time on FRA and Ethics. I felt really understanding FRA helped with equities, fixed income and corp finance.

Since you aren’t working you got to keep pushing it. Waiting for a year is really too long.

I agree, write again in December but try a different strategy.

Up until 2 weeks prior to the exam I don’t think I would have passed and I had already done at least 1,000 practice questions. Then I did 11 timed practice exams from 9am-12am almost every day in the 2 weeks prior to the exam (I was fortunate to get 2 weeks off work), reviewing each of the 120 answers + explanations for the remainder of the day. By the time exam day came I felt more ready than ever and I scored >70 in 9 of the 10 with quant 51-70.

Someone told me the beauty of Level 1 is that it’s all about repetition and practice questions…he was 100% right in my eyes.

Thank you for the advice.

I realized I digressed from the actual topic and started to just tell me story (below), so… What I learned:

PS. Take all this with a grain of salt considering I didn’t exactly make the best decisions leading to the exam.

  • Ethics has a point of diminishing returns (make sure you ethics mark is consistently ~69-75%, I believe striving for more than that will result in diminishing returns due to the nature of this topic)
  • Time all practice tests, mark each session and work through each problem you got wrong before starting the next session
  • Focus on understanding concepts–and how changes to their inputs would affect their respective outputs
  • Econ also has a point of diminishing returns (as you can see, I got <50 on this section which is also around what I was getting on the practice exams). Relative to its weight on the exam, it has one of the lowest payoffs when considering the sheer thickness of the section and time needed to absorb and retain the concepts. (on a side note, after reading econ and doing the EOC Q’s I felt fairly confident with my understanding of it–my prac exams and EXAM result say otherwise)

I barely passed. Although, after two months of solid studying (Jan/Feb), I got a new job and did not open a book for 1.5 months. This meant, I was half way through April and not through all the material. I ended up skipping the FI/Deriv/Alt Inv book completely (kaplan) in order to make it through the rest of the material and leave 1 month for practice exams. First couple practice exams I got ~57% on, then did some review on any concept I felt I had never seen before. About a week before the exam I was consistently scoring ~67-73% on the practice exams (I did about 6 practice exams in total and timed each one; after each session I would mark it and take notes from the answer on questions/concepts I did poorly on). Also, I did not do any EOC Q’s from the CFA Texts, though I will for Level II as I believe this was a mistake.

Feel free to ask anything if anyone cares to know

Q# Topic Max Pts <=50% 51%-70% >70%

Alternative Investments 8 - * -

Corporate Finance 20 - * -

Derivatives 12 - * -

Economics 24 * - -

Equity Investments 24 - - *

Ethical & Professional Standards 36 - * -

Financial Reporting & Analysis 48 - * -

Fixed Income Investments 28 - * -

Portfolio Management 12 - - *

Quantitative Methods 28 - * -

Replace point 1 “Reading the CFA Insitute material is essential” with the following and I’ll say you’re on the right track…

“Tuck your CFA text into the back of your closet only using them for eoc questions and when absolutely necessary after reading the Schweser Notes”

I approve this message.

I’m almost done with the Kaplan guide scoring roughly 72-73% on all the material in total. I generally average 1 minute per question, so I’m not terribly stressed about time, but I realize I need to work mocks to get time management down. I’m debating on whether or not I should power through the CFAI text. That’s 4000 pages, and while It will be a good deal easier becaus eI already have a solid review under my belt, I’m still a bit weary of going through that much material, especially because it will take a great deal of time away from me being able to work on mocks and questions.

Is going over the entirety of the CFAI material a necessity, or should I focus only on specific sections/points?

Make sure you answer the CFAI EOC questions. Those questions will definitely test whether you know the material well or not. If you score well in those questions, I think you’re good to go (4 months early?!).

Going through the CFAI text in its entirety is definitely going to burn you out. I strongly suggest you only look into the CFAI material for the stuff that you’re having trouble with, which you’ll probably find after doing mocks.

I make a big mistake. I study first Financial Reporting, do the readings and data bank questions for a month, and achieving a score of 70%, wishing I could improve it later. Then I continue with the other material, but time was too short that, by the end I could’t review Financial Reporting again and other staff. So i do not have time to make a general review. That cost me grade <=50% on Financial Reporting, Portfolio management and Corporate Finance.I positioned myself as a result in band 8

I totally agree with one point that Goblin made. “Never look at this forum a week before the exam”. U’ll find all sorts of people who would report having done multuple mocks and scoring really good on those too. Then your brain starts comparing your situation to theirs and might just freak you out.

I personally hadn’t done any mocks. Then this forum just scared the hell out of me a day before the exam. It took me about 3-4 hours to get back to equilibrium.

Just believe in the fight that you have put in and rock ur exam with confidence!!