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Simran Gill » Blog Archive » CFA Level I Review

ArticlesCFA Level I Review

Good evening all,

It has been awhile since I have last posted – I try to regulate the free-time I spend online, and, to the detriment of this website, most of my online time has been consumed by a webdesign project I’ve been doing.

Hopefully, that project will be up and running by mid-september, and when it’s up, i’ll be sure to post a fat link to it.

In other news, many of you know that I’m a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) candidate – well, last week I got my results, and I was fortunate enought to pass. I’m now 1/3rd of the way through the program.

Many people have asked me about the charter, and I’ll take this chance to give my impressions.

First off, here is the opening paragraph of the letter that came:

Congratulations! You have passed the 2004 CFA® Level I examination. The CFA Institute Board of Governors recognizes the challenge you have met and congratulates you on your achievement. Your success at Level I is an important step toward becoming a CFA charterholder. This June 34% of Level I candidates passed the examination.

Yes, that is right – there was a 34% pass rate. Ouch. Fortunately, most of the people I know who took the exam ended up passing. I’ve heard a couple theories as to why the pass rate has been continually dropping, but I feel that two factors are to blame:

  1. Global Interest in the Program – There are an increasing number of candidates from outside of North America – this means that fewer candidates are comfortable with the langauge of the exam: English. The program is difficult enough with a solid English background, and it must be incrediblely challenging with limited english skills.
  2. Increased Recognition of the Charter – The increased popularity of the program means that more people outside the core functions of finance are attracted to the program. Many people attempt to take the exam as a career booster or means to an industry shift. This inturn leads to people who sign up for the exam without knowing the commitment that it entails

To demonstrate the second point, there was an accountant sitting next to me during the exam (He was from one of the big 4) who said that even if he passed the exam, he wouldn’t sign up for level II. He had no idea how much work the program would be. Supporting this theory, the number of LI candidates who succesfully complete the program has fallen to 10% from what was once 30% (sorry, I coulnd’t find a link to support the numbers though). CFAI (CFA Institute) sent out a letter stating that they believed the reason for falling marks was due to the increased use of study guides in the place of recommended texts. I don’t buy their reasoning. The major study guides (Stalla, Schweser) are excellent, and do a great job of getting you ready for the exam.

The following is from an Email I wrote to a fellow SFU Finance major:

The CFA exam is a big commitment, but the material is honestly not that difficult for someone who went through SFU’s finance program. Most of the people I know who write it, pass pretty easily. In terms of study hours, CFAI recommends over 200, or even 250 hours.

The fortunate thing for us is that almost none of the material (at least in level I) is new – it’s like a six hour exam that covers all the topics we’ve done in school. The hard part is being able to retain so much information; there are no formula sheets. Level II and III are apparently a different story though, and there are very few people who feel comfortable after writing those exams.

While I do indicate that the material is not difficult for a finance major, I would feel sorry for any exam takers that didn’t major in finance. There is just so much material, that it can be overwhelming. The study guides may not be enought for those that do not have a strong finance background.

In case you are wondering what the program covers, here are the main topics:

  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Alternative Assets- Real Estate, Venture Capital, etc.
  • Derivatives
  • Economics
  • Equity Analysis
  • Ethical & Professional Stnds.
  • Fixed Income Analysis
  • General Portfolio Management
  • Quantitative Analysis – Statistics

The weighting varies, but Level I seems to focus more heavily on the accounting and ethics sections.

For all the Canadian bankers, brokers, and PFR’s out there that would like to use the CSC (Canadian Securities Course) as a measure, I assure you that the CSC pales in comparison both in terms of both depth and breadth of material covered. I did the CSC about a month before the CFA exam, so it was fresh in my mind. The CSC exam is probably 1/20th the difficulty of the CFA exam.

Now the big picture question: What does the CFA do for you?

The first thing to establish is that the charter alone is not a ticket for success. It alone will not open doors and get you to the top. What I feel it does do is give others a sense of security what you know – because it is standardized, it is recognized the world over – something that very few collegiate institutions can offer.

My reasons for taking the exam include career advancement, but I’m also taking it because I want to continue the learning process I started in University, to become secure in the knowledge I’ve gained through work and school. Am I an education junky? maybe, but a credentials whore I am not :) .

If you find the material enjoyable, I definately recommend the program. If you are only looking for career advancement, and find it difficult to stay focussed on studying – the program is going to be one tough experience. You’ll have to have a ton of discipline to maintain the commitment necessary to pass the program.

That’s it for now – I banged this post together quite quickly, so there may be some holes in what I wrote. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask, and if there is more interest, I’ll gladly write more on the subject.

To find more information, try the following sources:

  • CFAI – The organization behind it all
  • Analyst Forums – Many of the people active in the forum are idiots, but there is some great discussion as well
  • Stalla - Study Program
  • Schweser - More study material

58 Responses to “CFA Level I Review”

  1. Ajunta says:

    How difficult are the Level II and Level III CFA exams relative to Level I?


  2. Bahador says:

    Dear .. there were nice information about this exam in your text. I am also intersted in taking the exam.. what are the sources of study ?

  3. Nigga_c says:

    Hey man, its nice wot u ritten, but Am bout to giv my CFA Level I this dec05, and there r 2 more months remainin,rite? So wot i want u to tell me is how shud i study now, now that i kind of completed only 2 books outa 5 of Sweser. Also for the last 10 or 15 days wot exactly needs to b done to secure success in the exam.

  4. Serene says:

    Hey Simran..u r website seems to be quite interesting.. a good one…n wud say the information on CFA level 1 exam sounds quite good one…I have given the CFA level 1 Exam dec ’05..turned out to be damn tough one..well would’nt agree the shweser notes are a good reference materials.. NOT at all!!!

  5. KK says:


    I was checking on the difficulty level of CFA on google and came across your website.

    I was actually looking for someone who could tell me more about CFA and I guess I have found one.

    Since this page was updated in 2004, I guess you must have or must be on your way to completion of this course.

    To be honest, I cannot decide between ACCA, CIMA & CFA though ACCA & CIMA are not recognised in India whereas CFA is recognised globally.

    I am originally from India but working in London. I plan to stick aroud here for 3-4 years and wanted to study further to enhance my career and give it a boost as I am only a BA in general.

    Honestly speaking I have always hated Maths all my life and therefore only did it till the 10th standard.

    CFA passing % of 34% scares me because I am anyway unsure of how much work I need to put in especially being a non-maths student.

    The CFA website also doesnt give any information on the curriculam in detail which I can read and figure out if I will be able to complete it and pass it :)

    Also, the 250 hours of study which even you have mentioned on your site is a bit vague…does it mean 250 hours of total study or only the theortical study and rest you have to keep practicing?

    Can the person do it with a full time job?

    Sorry for writing such a long mail but I am sure you can figure out how anxious and confused I am whether I should enroll myself for this course.

    Would really appreciate if you could suggest me and give more information about the course material, curriculum and maths level.

    Thanks alot.


  6. [...] June 2004 – Passed (Pass rate: 32%) Quit my job at the time and studied for 4-5 weeks straight. Committed <200 hrs. to studying, but felt very confident after the exam, and passed easily. Felt much of the material was seen during undergraduate finance degree. See my Level I review here Level II [...]

  7. smitha says:

    Your page is extremely useful and insightful. Great job and Congrats on passing both levels!

    Somebody is selling me the Schweser study guide for CFA Level I (2006) and I am planning on taking the exam in June of 2007. Is it ok if I follow that?
    I am planning on spending the next couple of months testing the waters here before actually buying the material from the CFA institute.

    What study materials did you use?

  8. admin says:

    Hi Smitha -

    Using the old books could be OK, as long as you are sure to identify where the LOS (Learning outcome statements) have changed. That is the key to getting through the program: making sure you know the LOS.

    If they have changed, you might want to refer to someone elses newer notes for those specific sections.

    Hope this helps (and that I’m not too late in responding)

  9. Anson says:


    Tons of thanks for your informative post! I am in a dilemma choosing between CSC and CFA since I am in Canada right now. But I am planning to work in U.S in the future. Should I take CFA instead of CSC at this moment? How worthy is the CFA level 1?


  10. Amit M says:

    Hi admin would you please forward me the answers to Kirti’s question and how is it going for u. I am looking for the exact answers which you have asked for in your post and some more..i am also studying from the material which my friend had used for appearing for june 2006 papers ..how do i know what los has changed since i have not gone through the material yet and how to identify those changes .. also i would want to how much theory is there in the paper in level 1 and how much practical problems form a part of level 1 and how do i begin approaching the material and with what subject do i have to start with . and also i am working with a call center and not in the financial industry do we need some experience with the finance indusstry before i get the cfa charter.. so sorry to write such a long mail but i think your forum has provided me with te most answers which the entire web has not given i would like to thank you for carrying out such service thanks again Amit ..

  11. Amit M says:

    So sorry i also needed to know which calculator is the best and what sort of calculator should one buy and which woould be available in India and what sortof notes would be the best to start your studies with I have seen many people talking about Schweser notes are they the best choice one should go ahead with please guide me i am really worried about all of this and one last question what sort of profile as in the different fileds this course will open doors to in financial industry in india ..once i have completed this course Thank you so much once again ….Amit M

  12. Ajith says:

    Hi Simran,

    Congrats for passing both the levels.
    And Applause to you for putting so much of relevant information about CFA.I am basically a software engineer (no background of finance) working in India and have decided to take CFA level 1 in June 2007. I am taking it due to the passion i have for money and so is finance. I would be really great if you could guide me how to go about preparation for this exam keeping in mind to pass. As you mentioned I am doing this for a career shift but after passing level 1.

  13. Rane says:

    Hi Simran,

    Was wondering if you could tell me where you bought the textbooks from? Did you go for the original ones or just opted to buy the used textbooks/photocopies?

    Am just starting out on the CFA and want to get as many weeks as possible down before the exam!



  14. Sourabh Mittal says:

    Hi Simran,

    Currently I am a Software Professional working in Financial Domain in India.
    I have much interest in finance and want to do a course which increase my knowledge and also provide me career advancement. Whould CFA is right choice for me?

    Thanks & Regards,

  15. Alok says:

    Hi Simran,

    Am working in Software feild for the last 3 years but am too passionate about Finance (preferably Equity Research). Hence looking forward to clearing CFA Level 1 and also shifting my job thereafter!! Can you please help me with some info quoting the possibility of getting a job after the same and the salary range.


  16. ashutosh deo says:


    i am in mumbai and i would like to give the exam in december please tell me how to prepare for the exam .
    there r so many infrmations on the net that i got cnfused.

    i am waiting for urs reply
    thanks a lot

  17. Dhruv Sabharwal says:

    Congrats on passing both levels!!! I too am sitting for L-3 in June 2007.

    Yes, there is not much new material for someone coming from a Finance Undergrad background. But for the ppl with engineering, computer science background there is alot of Accounting which does not make sense right away. So I’d say some of the guys wanting to appear for these exams may opt to take a basic accounting principles class just to get up with pace.

    So you went to SFU…what course? I was studying at USF (MSc. Financial Analysis)

    Best of luck studying!!

  18. MAW says:

    Hi, thanks for your blog. A very helpful starting point. Please advise if I need to assess my abilities required to pass the CFA program, where do I start? Will a quick review of the materials be a good starting point? Grateful for your help.

  19. Priya says:

    Hi ,

    I am almost in the same situation as Kriti;looking for more information on which course is better -CFA, CIMA or ACCA ? I am a software engineer and have 3 years of work experience and now looking for a career change to the field of accounting and finance.I am compeletely new to accounting. So could you please suggest which course will be the best for me to choose ?


  20. Khanh says:

    Wow – thanks for this little write up Simran. I am on the fence about getting the CFA designation and when I saw that the level of people who passed Level I kept going down and down, I was leaning towards no. After reading this, its pretty comforting to know that if I do my studying, along with my finance background, then I don’t have to worry about failing as much.

  21. Enock Mhindurwa says:

    Well, I guess your website can actually be the best for CFA forums for candidates and members alike, provided questions are answered timely and precisely.

    Congratulations on your success!

  22. bob says:

    Get a life!

  23. pony says:

    hey guys,
    I registered to take the CFA level 1 this Decemeber. Im planning on buying the CFA curriculum.

    Do you guys think this should be enough? I have heard the the curriculum books are very detailed and might be time consuming, but considering my lack of finance background, im willing to do the extra reading.

    In addition to the curriculum would suggest any must haves ?


  24. rohit says:

    hi simran. first of all thanks for this very informative website.

    i m in merchant navy, got 4 yrs of job experience. i m deeply interested in the field of finance and investment and hence planning for a career change. will going for a cfa be helpful, considering that i hav no exp in this sector. also like to know if clearing level 1 will ensure a job. and how much package can be expected at each level. reg the hrs of study, thats no problem. i hav sufficient time for that.

  25. Himanshu says:

    Where can I get coaching or tips from? any qualified CFAs u know off who can help?

  26. Alex says:

    Are the notes for May 2007 CFA level I the same as for December 2007? What could possibly change considering they sell both of them now?

    Thank you

  27. rohit says:

    hi simran.
    first of all thanks for this very informative website.

    i m in merchant navy, got 4 yrs of job experience. i m deeply interested in the field of finance and investment and hence planning for a career change. will going for a cfa be helpful, considering that i hav no exp in this sector. also like to know if clearing level 1 will ensure a job. and how much package can be expected at each level. reg the hrs of study, thats no problem. i hav sufficient time for that.

  28. Shadab Taylor says:

    I’ve just gone ahead like a chump and bought the Schweser 2007 Study Notes for the December Level I exam, because someone I knew told me it’s all her husband used for the exam and he passed. Now I find out that it’s apparently just a complement to the set curriculum and can’t be used on its own? Am I going to be out another $350! I live in Dubai and the books are well expensive here. I have a degree in Business Studies and Finance from the U.K and I work in investments, so would I be able to manage without? The LOS are the same, right? Man, I feel dumb.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  29. pony says:

    Im preparing for Dec 2007 and I decided to get the Curriculum books, after asking folks who have taken the cfa.
    I really don’t feel it matters where you study from. Just make sure you cover all the LOS.
    Also, there might be some difrrerence in the LOS of Dec 2077 from June. Check out the cfai site , download the LOS and you should be good.
    I thinking of buying the Schweser Practice exam book a few months before the exam and that would be it.

    All that matters is are covered with the LOS!

    good luck

  30. pony says:

    Im preparing for Dec 2007 and I decided to get the Curriculum books, after asking folks who have taken the cfa.
    I really don’t feel it matters where you study from. Just make sure you cover all the LOS.
    Also, there might be some difrrerence in the LOS of Dec 2077 from June. Check out the cfai site , download the LOS and you should be good.
    I thinking of buying the Schweser Practice exam book a few months before the exam and that would be it.

    All that matters is are you covered with the LOS!

    good luck

  31. Tony says:

    Your site is great! Keep up the good work!

    Quick question here. Is there adequate material in the Schweser notes to prepare you for the Ethics portion of the exam? There doesn’t seem to be too much material in the notes on this section, especially the GIPS section.


  32. Tony says:

    Are the questions in the Schweser notes indicative of the type and weighting of the questions?


  33. Patti says:

    I took level 2 yesterday and thought Schweser thoroughly prepared me for the exam. The weights were within the probabilities given by Schweser and I learned from one of the CFA proctors that the exam is written so that the weight of the material is evenly distributed between the morning and afternoon sessions. This is to ensure that your strengths and weaknesses are evenly distributed and makes the time management more fair for everyone.

    I don’t think there is any material out there that can prepare a candidate for ethics. I took all the Schweser questions and all the Stalla questions and there were still 3 of the 12 questions in topic areas not considered by either prep courses. I have a difficult time with ethics, because if I’m not familiar with the issue then I pick the most conservative/most ethical answer, which is not always the best answer according to the CFA.

  34. abhinav says:

    Hi All,

    I’m a new candidate for the CFA.I’ve made up my mind to do CFA.I’m appearing for level I in december and would require all of your’s precious guidance regarding the course material and where to get it.

    My email address is “abhinav.gupta28@hotmail.com”
    help me out with this.

  35. yasmeen says:

    Your website is very informative. I will be taking the CFA in December. I am also a banker. I think I am going to order the Stalla notes. I have heard Schweser is too basic. Although I have a masters in Finance, I think I need a review of it lol. Which one would you recommend?


  36. Mat says:

    This is a great site. Also, please check out http://www.cfapro.ning.com. It also has some good links and commentary on CFA vs. LIFA vs. MBA.

  37. Ted Olaye says:


    Just registered for the Dec 07 CFA Level I exam.
    Where can I get an affordable study guide ? Can’t afford most on offer costing over 400 dollars,

  38. nitya says:

    The Delhi High Court has dismissed the writ petition of CFA Institute. However, the detailed order is not yet available yet. Basically the situation is that the CFAI has lost this particular case. The detailed order should be available soon.


  39. Saurabh says:

    I am very much new to this finance field.
    But aspiring to opt for CFA exam.
    Frankly speaking, dont have that much exposure which is required to go for this particular exam.
    But, somehow i feel like this is 1 of the best option for me to get into global financial domain.
    Will you please guide me for the same what efforts i need to put in to get thru this exam successfully.

  40. sourabh arya says:

    hii simran/
    i m doing my mba in india from one of top b schools.planning to take finance as my major.
    m interested in making career in investment banking.
    n with summerinternship break plaanning to take cfa level 1..
    want to knw frm u is it really worthful fr me..
    n i can easily manage 6-7 hours study fr continuous 2 mnths.
    would i able to pass.
    well i,ve always been an good student.
    i believe i can really do it.
    but wud appreciate ur thoughts on this to knw the real circumstances..
    waiting fr ur reply dear….
    sourabh arya

  41. Arpit Kothari says:


    I am appearing for CFA level 1 in june this year. I just had a small question about inflation.
    I will really be grateful if yuo could just tell me where am i wrong in this statement :)

    if liquidity increases, then interest rates fall
    Also if liquidity increases, inflation increases, now as inflation increases, banks observe they have a low amount of real money, so they increase interest rate. But earlier we observed that interest rates fall!!

    Where am i mistaken??

    Many Thanks
    Arpit Kothari

  42. andre says:

    Yes,you are right.That is a question about economics.If u had studied about IS/LM & AD/AS..You can understand it better.

    IMHO,in the earlier Money supply(liquidity) increases so LM goes to right make r(interest rate) falls..so AD goes to the right also because LM goes to the right,when AD(Aggregate demand) goes to the right,it makes price is higher(causes inflation)->because price is higher then LM goes to the left,when LM goes the left,it causes r is increasing..

    This is only a short..if it continues then when r is increasing,Y decreases,Price is higher so real wage is increase..when real wage increases it causes price is higher then LM goes to the left.and it finishes.

    In summarize,Liquidity increases,it will cause r increases,Y decreases, and real wage is increase.

    this is not good for worker although real wage increases but the price is higher..

    hope this will help u..

  43. bhasker says:

    dude you have almost made us aware of CFA in precise manner but let us know can we go ahead to do CFA in india if yes name some of the universities eg.ICFAI.


  44. Mike says:

    I am trying to take CFA I, but do not like paying $400 for it. Does anybody know cheaper way to do it?

  45. [...] is known to be the most difficult in terms of content. The topics covered don’t change much (See my Level I cfa review), but the depth of knowledge needed to get through the exam does. While writing level I, I found [...]

  46. dennis says:

    I am a registered nurse that is really interested in finance, pursuing it as a second career. They told me the 7 and 63 were hard and personally I found them to be a joke. Would it be difficult to take the CFA courses/program considering my educational background. I have a BA degree, one in psych and one in nursing. I really do not feel like going back to school, but what I would like is input as to whether this would be a good option?

  47. Simran Gill says:

    Hi Mike – I haven’t done the Series 7 or 63, but have done the Canadian equivalent (the Canadian securities course). The CFA is on an entirely different level – and is not comparable in terms of effort required or difficultly.

    Obviously, there will be no shortcuts with your unrelated educational background, but there isn’t any reason you couldn’t get through the material.

    The problem for you is going to be gaining the work experience required. You need 4 years, and they aren’t too flexible with the types of work they accept.

  48. Simran Gill says:

    You are provided books from the CFA institute – they are augmented by texts that you can purchase. Many also choose to get third party notes from Stalla or Schweser

  49. ASDF says:

    So are you done now?

  50. Simran Gill says:

    Yes, i am done

  51. gujaratmba says:

    What a help u have provided.

  52. san says:

    I am looking forward to sign up for CFA level-I, before which I had some queries to be resolved.

    I am an India citizen, but would be travelling for a limited period to UK as my husband would be posted there, so is it possible that I enroll in for the exam at London center?

    Further in cfa website I can see that its divided into 3 different regions, America, Asia Pacific & EMEA so does it mean once I take up Level-I in UK I cannot complete other 2 levels from India?
    Is there any difference in the curriculum?

    Thanks in advance.

  53. Prasad says:

    Thanks. It was very helpful.

  54. [...] Simran Gill » Blog Archive » CFA Level I Review 10 Aug 2004. How difficult are the Level II and Level III CFA exams relative to Level I?. the Schweser study guide for CFA Level I (2006) and I am planning on.. After reading this, its pretty comforting to know that if I do my Simran Gill » Blog Archive » CFA Level I Review [...]

  55. James Horitz says:

    Hi Guys

    I have just completed my CFA Level I exam and I am sure I will get through, I have got a Engineering background so it was not easy.

    I would use a training company to help you get through it, I used Quartic Training based in the City of London to do my Education. They offer great support and the tutors are always available when I had questions.

    I used their on-line call recordings which help me understand the subject in more detail.

    I am looking forward to getting my results and starting my career in banking


  56. [...] read up on the securities industry to see where you want to be. Good Luck!Powered by Yahoo! AnswersJoseph asks…What careers would be good for finance/accounting and criminal justice?I took a career… good for finance/accounting and criminal justice?I took a career interest test and I was a 100 [...]

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