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2 Ways to Read the CFA Curriculum Effectively


The CFA curriculum text book is one huge reading material. It is tempting to skip the parts we don’t understand or don’t find it interesting. The question is: should we read the CFA curriculum level one books in order, rearrange in another order, or is it okay to skip around?

Here is the text version for those who don’t prefer to watch the video.

The Best Way to Read the Level 1 CFA Curriculum

There are two schools of thoughts.

1. Read in Order

This means starting with ethics and run thought the text in its entirety. Most would finish with another read of ethics.

Ethics is presented as the very first chapter for a reason. It sets the tone on how you approach finance as a current or future participant in this industry. It’s like you need to know the rules of a game before jumping in and play.

Because of this, CFA Institute puts a big emphasis on ethics. For borderline candidates, if they do well enough in this topic, they can be bumped into the passing zone. This is technically known as the “ethics adjustment”.

Overall, the books are designed to read straight through. There are multiple mentions of topics being covered in future readings, and other times they refer back to previous reads to clarify certain points.

2. Start with Your Strength or the Heavy Weight

Another school of thoughts is to start where you are good at, to give you the confidence required to finish the whole program. Some may start with the heavily tested sections (e.g. FRA) to get the biggest bang for the buck. This may be a good strategy if you run out of  time.

On how later books reference early ones several times, I have readers who don’t think it matters, because each topic is well explained from scratch anyway.

My Recommendation

I personally prefer the first suggestion, to start with ethics and read the book in order. The ethics codes and standards are the overall underlying “rules” across all topic areas in the CFA exam. It’s good to read it through and let it sink in, then wrap up the entire study with another reading of this chapter. Most agree that you need to read ethics a few times.

Since ethics is the same and it appears in every exam, you may as well study hard for it from the beginning.

If you really want to skip around, I suggest that you at least work on the quantitative subjects in order — the quant, fixed income, then derivatives. It does more or less build on one another.

Further Reading

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