CFA exam June results have just been released. Whether you need a retake, or ready to start your CFA exam journey, the question is:
Should I take the CFA Level 1 December exam? What are the implication of taking if “off the June cycle”?
What’s Good about taking CFA Exam in December
1. Pass the CFA exam in 18 months
Taking the CFA December exam is the fast way, and the only way to complete the 3 levels in 18 months.
2. It helps your Level 2 study
This is a sequential exam and knowledge builds on one level to another. It’s great to take Level 2 with Level 1 knowledge still fresh in your mind.
2. You’ve got another chance
Take this as a free option — if you don’t pass this round, you can always try again in June next year. It doesn’t throw off your schedule that much.
What to Beware
1. Only 4 months for Level 2
Let’s say studying goes well and you pass the December 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. Not 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 December exam, it means studying starts in early July, right at the beginning of the glorious summer. Realistically… can you do it?
Here is a Summary Video for Easy Reference
What You Can Do
There are candidates who manage to pass the CFA exam within 18 months. This is only possible if they started in December. If it works for them, it could work for you too!
To accomplish this seemingly impossible mission, you need to:
1. Build a solid foundation in Level 1
There are people who got lucky and passed 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 December Level 1 takers, if they are to spend the precious 4 months re-revisiting L1 topics, it will be disastrous for their L2 exam.
2. Consider studying before 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 L1, you are mentally prepared to go full speed on the studying.
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!