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CFA Level 1 November Exam: Fast Track to Pass CFA in 18 Months


Are you thinking about taking the CFA Level 1 November exam? After all, the CFA exam is only given a few times each year, so you must carefully plan your CFA schedule. So whether you’re planning a CFA exam retake or you’re just getting ready to start your CFA exam journey, let’s discuss the details of taking the CFA Level 1 exam in November.

What’s Good about taking the CFA Exam in November

The CFA exam dates only include a few annual windows in which candidates can take a portion of the three-part exam. For instance, in 2024, here are the dates for taking the CFA exam:

CFA 2024 Exam Dates

  • February 2024: Level 1 and Level 3
  • May 2024: Level 1 and Level 2
  • August 2024: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3
  • November 2024: Level 1 and Level 2

You’ll note that two exams are offered in November, including CFA Level 1 and CFA Level 2. In the past, however, the winter testing window was in December, but now it has switched to November. Taking the Level 1 CFA exam in November has several benefits, which I’ve outlined below.

1. Take the November Level 1 test and pass the CFA exam in 18 months

Taking the CFA November exam is the fastest way–and really, the only way–to pass all three CFA levels in 18 months.

2. It helps your Level 2 study by passing the CFA Level 1 exam

The CFA exam is sequential. That is, your knowledge builds from one level to another. It’s great to take Level 2 with the Level 1 knowledge still fresh in your mind.

2. You’ve got another chance to pass the Level 1 exam (just in case you fail the CFA exam)

Take this as a free option — if you don’t pass the November round, you can always try again in May of the next year. It doesn’t throw off your schedule that much.

Cons: Taking CFA Level 1 in November

1. Only 4 months for Level 2

Let’s say studying goes well and you pass the November CFA exam. By the time you get the results, it’s late January. This means that you only have 4 months left for the preparation of Level 2.

You’ve got to know that Level 2 is substantially more difficult than Level 1. It’s arguably even harder than Level 3. If you work in audit or tax, it seems impossible given these 4 months fall right at the busy season.

But then, if you decide to wait for the next Level 2, it would be 18 months away. And it’s good to have an exam dragged on for so long.

2. Can you actually study in the Summer?

As a rule of thumb, you should allocate 300 hours for each part of the exam. If you want to make sure you pass on the first try, it’s more likely 350 hours.

For a typical candidate willing to spend 15-20 hours per week, it translates to ~70 hours per month, or 5 months of study.

For the November CFA exam, it means studying starts in early June, right at the beginning of the glorious summer. Realistically… can you do it?

What You Can Do to Pass the Level 1 CFA Exam

Some CFA candidates manage to pass the CFA exam within 18 months. This is only possible if they start with the Level 1 exam in November. If this schedule worked for other CFA candidates, it could work for you, too!

To accomplish this seemingly impossible mission, you need to:

1. Build a solid foundation to pass CFA Level 1

There are people who got lucky and passed CFA L1 without much studying. We’ve seen quite a few boasting on various forums, on how they skipped around, scored below 50% in so-and-so topics and still passed.

You need to understand that the levels build on one another in the CFA exam. If the foundation is weak, it’s going to haunt you in the next level.

For November Level 1 takers, if they are to spend the precious 4 months re-revisiting L1 topics, it will be disastrous for their CFA L2 exam.

2. Consider studying before receiving your Level 1 results

If you work busy hours, I suggest that you start some light studying in early January.

I don’t suggest hard core prep because it’s impossible to tune in before knowing your L1 result. Instead, you may want to skim through the L2 materials and get a good idea how tough the material is, identify your weaker areas, and set the tone on how studying should go forward for the next 4 months.

By the time you get the green light after passing CFA L1, you are mentally prepared to go full speed on studying to pass the CFA Level 2 exam.

3. Create a tight but workable study plan

You should have this for Level 1, but it’s critical for Level 2. It has to be realistic for you to follow through. Stick with it, and you’ll be fine!

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