What's new

CFA CFAs, share some tips plz.

Hend Abuenein

Active Member
Hello everyone,

I'm contemplating taking on CFA, and would appreciate any advice I can get from those who are already CFAs, but share FRM experience as well.

1- How many hours do I need to put in per week?
2- What's the exam like? Qualitative to quantitative? Anything compared to FRM exams?
3- What is the most challenging thing about taking the exam? What would make it difficult to pass?

Anything more you'd like to share is appreciated as well.

Thanks in advance.


New Member
I had cleared CFA Level 1. Then decided to do FRM instead of further CFA levels. In my experience, the breadth of CFA is more( u must have heard this 100 times). Also if u r not the memorising type and more of concepts type, then I suggest read the ethics portion last. Do the capital markets sections & quant sections for which u would have very little things to study new after having done FRM. next do the accounts & eco & then ethics and one round of revision. In my case, I had started from ethics and i had completely forgotten it after 2 months and my revision was actually relearning !!!
Ethics u just got to mug up and the questions are much more and much trickier than the ethics questions in FRM.Economics, if u have a background then fine else the macro economics part will be a challenge. Overall it tests your memory a little more than FRM does.

Hend Abuenein

Active Member
Thanks Rony for replying,

So what you're saying is that the modules are not interdependent/intersecting like in FRM I, for example?
I can choose where to begin and what to end with, and it won't affect my performance?

If this is true regarding CFA I, do you know whether it holds for the other parts as well?

What was the exam like compared to FRM I exam?


The CFA exam is made up of sections much like the FRM exam. However, the syllabus covers a lot more ground in each exam. As you may have heard, CFA touches every aspect of financial analysis, not just risk management.

They are independent to a certain extent. However, you may benefit from going in the stated order. Especially, if you have limited knowledge of economics and portfolio theory.

Overall, it will take a lot longer for you to prepare for the CFA exam as compared to the FRM exam. I would say that each part of CFA = 1.5 * either of the FRM exams

It is quantitative in certain areas and qualitative in others. Overall, level 2 is considered the hardest by some due to the number of concepts and formulae.

The most challenging part is the CFAI heavily regulates the pass rate. The number of candidates have grown from a couple thousand to more than 200k each year. However, the pass rates are still hovering around 30-40%. So, more than a 100k people fail each year. Also, aside from level 1, both levels 2 and 3 take place only once each other. One failed attempt is one additional year of waiting for the charter.


New Member
Hello everyone. I have cleared my CFA Level 2 and would be giving FRM level 1 in Nov. So comparisons between the 2 exams would be difficult. Overall I would agree with what everyone said. I think preparation time for CFA is dependent on an individual's background. My strategy was to do those topics which I am weaker earlier to have a better understanding of them. And If you have a full time job the earlier you start the better it is.

CFA level 1 covers the basics of finance in areas of economics, accounts, corporate finance, equity, fixed income, alternative, derivatives and portfolio. CFA Level 2 as mentioned in an earlier post is the the toughest of all levels with advanced topics in these areas and Level 3 is all about portfolio management. Both level 1 and 2 are a mix of qualitative and quantitative, leaning more towards quant. Level 3 has more qualitative questions.

It helps to go through the learning outcomes provided on the CFA website before starting your preparations. Also CFA is a long-term commitment (and can test your patience sometimes) with 2 years being the earliest you can finish the course.

Hend Abuenein

Active Member
Thank you Basu and Lanky,

Lanky: I had no idea you sat for CFA exams. Did you?
On what basis do you give this information?

Thanks anyway.


I passed level 1 in December last year. I found the exam to be relatively easy because I was over-prepared. It was the first exam I "targeted." I learnt about FRM and other programs AFTER I started studying for CFA.

Out of all the certifications, the CFA designation is no doubt the most valuable. But, it takes a lot longer to prepare for it and failing it is..very disheartening. Considering the gap between the attempts, the cost, and the time you put into preparing for it.

Mohamed Sakr

New Member
If you want my opinion as someone who attempted and failed CFA level 1, I would say the following:

- You definitely need to spend more time to study. I finished a Master degree in September 2010, and suddenly decided to join the next CFA exam on December 2010. I had only 3 months, and I was complete free (no job, no study, .. nothing) .. so I spend the day and night during these three months, trying to understand and practise. My BIGGEST mistake is that I ignored CFA curriculum completely and relied on training providers. I was so happy that I can answer so many difficult question from the 1st attempt and I thought I'm well prepared for the exam.

On the exam date, 4 December 2010, the exam was sooo long, but I found it relatively easy, and I don't remember that I struggled in any area except the "ETHICS" part. After the exam, I was 99% confident that I will pass and indeed I started preparing for Level 2.

The bad news came on 25 Jan. 2011 that I failed in Band 9, which is close to passing, but doesn't change the fact that I failed. At that time, I've already started a job in the Market Risk area, and decided to pursue the FRM instead.

I was reading so much about the FRM, but was soo hesitant to register for the exam, then I did register on 31 July 2011, and I was spending almost 40 hours per week on average on David's videos and practise exams. The DIFFERENCE between David's practice questions on FRM, and "the other" training provider's question on CFA, is that I was getting almost all my answers WRONG in the first attempt, and I was learning a new concept and a new trick with every question I attempt. I took the FRM L1 on 19 Nov. 2011 and Passed in (2 2 2 2).

So now, comparing the two experiences, I can summarize the reasons of failing CFA in two:
1. Studying for the CFA in three months only is NOT enough (unless probably if you are an experienced financial analyst).
2. DO NOT ignore the CFA curriculum.


Hend Abuenein

Active Member
Thanks Mohammed for contributing here.
1- I need to know which training providers did you depend on? And what resources did you use (Notes only or with videos, 1 on 1 instruction...etc) I heard Kaplan's notes were very good at CFA. Did you try them?
2- Is the CFA curriculum more or less organized than that of FRM? Does it over lap like in FRM 1 for example?
3- In your opinion, if I choose to cover the material from the curriculum, how much time should I allocate for this?
This should help me decide whether to sit in Dec 2012 or June 2013.

Thanks a lot again.


Active Member
1. I would not suggest using CFAI compiled reading material. It's way too voluminous. Schweser is sufficient to pass. Level II is the most challanging. Level I is a bit like a teaser. It's easy to pass and that's how you get trapped into 3 year ordeal.
2. CFA curriculum is very well organized. FRM curriculum might seem like a bit amateruish compared to CFA. Same goes for exams. I would be shocked to find errors in CFA exams, while you are bound to find errors, really stupid ones at that, in FRM exams. FRM needs to clean up its act a lot.
3. 3 months for Level I, 4 months for Level II and 3.5 months for Level III. Please do yourself a favour and buy the sample exams from Schweser. They are really good and are at higher difficulty level compared to real test. If you can score 70% or more on these sample exams, you cannot fail. Best of luck.

Only thing I hated about CFA that I must mention is it's a 3 year ordeal. It's a huge commitment, while FRM can still be done in one shot...

Hend Abuenein

Active Member
Troubleshooter: thank you so very much. I really needed these answers. I'm about to order Schweser's Notes and I will begin studying soon.
Thanks again.


Active Member
Best of luck Hend... I think you are ahead in the game already as you have all your FRM material stillf fresh in your mind. There is a lot of overlap between CFA and FRM, which is going to work on your favour...


Good inputs. Thanks.
I will also be appearing for CFA L1 and have a few questions.

- Between Schweser and Elan, which one would be better - considering videos, notes, practice questions and exams.
- Which topics should I "must" do from the CFAI curriculum? People have advised me about Ethics, anything else?
- I am thinking of appearing in Jun 2013. Please suggest a study methodology. I generally do not face a problem in understanding, but retention and continued motivation are always challenges :)

I am also looking for like-minded people with similar goal (CFA L1 - June 2013) to keep each other motivated and to spar thoughts with.


New Member
Here are my two cents.

I took CFA Level 1 in December 2011, CAIA Level 1 in March 2012, and CFA Level 2 in June 2012. Passed all three on the first attempt. My experience is Finance undergrad and 3 years private equity on the investment side.

CFA Level 1:
The topics are easy, the material is vast. The best forum out there for CFA in my opinion is AnalystForum (sorry if I can't advertise here! - new member). I signed up for Level 1 two months in advance and put in about ~200-250 hours of prep while working at least 70 hours/week. I used solely Schweser: notes and secret sauce. The question bank is also great and you are allowed to create your own quizzes. I didn't have time to do many practice mocks, but if you use those products from Schweser, plus the practice tests they offer, and mocks from CFAI, you should be all set for Level 1.

CFA Level 2:
I only had 2 months to prep for it, since I wanted to focus on CAIA Level 1 first. I do not advise anyone to do this. My work week also jumped to 80/90 hours/week. Schweser is still good, but make sure you use it extensively. Also, use the CFAI examples and EOC questions. The test is harder due to it's vignette format. I recommend at strict study schedule, since the material is vast and even though it is easy, you could forget some concepts. Repetion and review every week is key.

Hend Abuenein

Active Member
Thank you James...that was informative indeed. And thank you for the embedded advice.

But what are"EOC questions"?
Schweser is still good, but make sure you use it extensively. Also, use the CFAI examples and EOC questions.


New Member
EOC = End of chapter questions

Also, some other comments for you to digest: I am pursuing the CFA, CAIA, and FRM to bulk up my resume. I know that I do not "need" these certifications in private equity, but depending on your goals and ambition, they can all help. I started pursuing the CFA because I wanted it to complement my undergrad experience (non-target school) and people highly respect the CFA program (dedication, hard work, etc). I am debating pursuing an MBA if and only if: 1) it is a top 10 school 2) it makes sense financially (long-run and short-run)

Check out AnalystForum. It is a very active forum for the CFA Program.