How I Pass CFA Level 1 on Second Try [draft]


I am ecstatic! I passed Level 1!

How to Retake and Pass CFA Level 1 Exam

So full of energy that I have to type out my lessons learned:

1. It’s a numbers game — number in terms of studying hours

For those of you at Level 1, I don’t think there is a good “strategy” for you. You need to learn as much as you can, because you will need all of those building blocks at Level 2 and 3.

2. Ethics is key

Pay particular attention to Ethics. It’s not naturally intuitive, as in you can’t just pick the most conservative answer. With practice, it does become more intuitive. I like the suggestion of “thinking like a lawyer” that I find in Stephanie’s post.

3. Master FRA / Accounting (it’s not as bad as you thought)

You also need to understand the FRA material inside and out. For me, FRA performance makes or breaks my Level 1 exam.

I learned the hard way by mechanically working on lots of practice questions without understanding the fundamentals. After I failed the June exam, I decided to go back to Accounting 101 and work on the basics, by building my own 3-statement model on Excel. It works wonders, and studying has become much smoother from then on.

FRA is just bunch of rules. But you’ve got to read the instruction on first page.

4. Take Mock Exams (as many as you can, but with a plan in place)

You should work on several mock exams even if you aren’t ready. I would say, sometime between August and September, take one of the 3-hour practice tests from Schweser or Wiley to give you an idea of the exam and questions/timing and your score. Don’t be expecting to pass – this test should just gauge your current performance.

Review questions that you got wrong AND those that you were unsure about/had trouble with (even if you got the right answer – make sure you know WHY the answer is right).

For sections you had trouble with, make a practice quiz from the qbank. Take that, and again, go over any answers you got wrong/were unsure about

By the end of September, take another practice test. again, don’t be expecting to pass, but getting better.

Immediately after, review (or better yet, redo) the wrong practice questions and CFAI EOC questions.

Aim to take your third mock exams by mid October.

By this time you should have a reasonably stable performance. Aim to further improve the weaker areas and finish off with the rest of the mock.


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Sam H

I was originally from Illinois, now working in New York City as a financial analyst. I am aiming to take (and pass!) the CFA Level 1 exam in June.

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