CFA Exam – The best time to start preparing

CFAAbdullah-Al-Rezwan is a recent graduate of IBA, University of Dhaka. He has just joined as Management Trainee of The City Bank Limited. He is a Finance enthusiast, but almost readily falls in love with anything that makes him feel a bit more knowledgeable.

As a recent graduate of IBA (Institute of Business Administration, Dhaka), I do not dare propagate futile advice to people who are far more knowledgeable and experienced than I am. So let me first define the target market for this write-up: University students or recent graduates who are planning to sit for professional exams like the CFA and the FRM exam. The reason I can dare preaching to you is that I happened to pass both CFA level 1 exam and FRM Part 1 exam while in my senior year in IBA.

Preparing for CFA exam at any point of your life will need a hell lot of dedication, perseverance and energy. I keep getting this question from many of my juniors whether it is possible to maintain both University academic requirements and CFA exam preparation. With less than a month of work experience and almost non-existent work pressure, I can still vouch for the fact that the easiest way to pass any professional exam is to sit for the exam while you are still a student. Now before you start jumping around, you should remember you can only sit for CFA level 1 exam in your senior year in University. But there is one way you can pass all three levels of CFA exam while being a student. If you join an MBA program just after graduating and pass all three levels at first attempt, you can basically pass CFA exam even before joining a workforce. (I am personally not a big fan of starting MBA right after graduation for many good reasons, so I will not follow that path)

I know it might sound a bit odd that University students hold an edge over professionals in ‘professional’ exams! But that is one absolute truth. Even if you work in Goldman Sachs, you are going to need to go through the CFA exam materials at least once as there’s hardly any school out there which covers all the things that CFA exam encompasses. You can be a fixed income analyst in J.P. Morgan, and you have a very good chance of being bright enough to not needing to go through the Fixed Income section of CFA exam. But what about 9 other topic areas in CFA exam, especially Ethics? It is almost impossible to gain first-hand understanding from work on all the topics of all three levels of CFA exam. Besides, the level of energy and dedication you need to study after returning from work at 8/9/10 pm is enormous and it inevitably results in a not-so-peaceful life. Of course, a student will probably need more study-hours than a professional to pass a particular level in CFA exam but that’s okay. Students get at least twice as much time as professionals do to prepare for the exam. In fact, there’s a general rule that you should invest 300 hours for each level of CFA. Because I had more time and literally zero intention of wasting 100,000 BDT, I think I have gone through 420 study-hours for level 1.

If you are still not convinced, let me throw another surprising benefit that students may enjoy while preparing for professional exams. Because we usually have ample time left for getting more ‘Likes’ and stalking others in Facebook, academics always take a back seat during university life. Many of us ended up suffering from a chronic disease called ‘Procrastination’! As my level 1 exam was approaching, for the first time in my life, I really had to lead a pretty disciplined life because I began to realize that an hour lost in ‘unproductive’ things might result in a grand wastage of 100,000 BDT.  Therefore, I finally stopped procrastinating in my academic requirements in IBA. The outcome was nothing short of ecstasy. I passed CFA level 1 exam in June, FRM part 1 exam in November and obtained a CGPA of 3.9 in my senior year.

So if you have made up your mind, do NOT wait; sit for the level 1 of CFA exam while you are still at the University.

8 thoughts on “CFA Exam – The best time to start preparing

  1. A timely article that hits the nail on the head. I have friend who gained CA charter from England and Wales and Bangladesh while he was doing BS in Economics with us at NSU. It is indeed more plausible. Now my only regret is why someone didn’t tell me about this before I graduated. Well, its better late than never and I’m sitting for the CFA L1 exam in June.

    1. No point in regretting, Kashif bhai, I am sure life has much to offer in future. My best wishes for your level 1 exam.

  2. Thanks for your recommendation for the youngers. Would you pls write about the registration process, easy and effective ways to get study materials like Nilkhet or somewhere else, a common platform where we may get solution if any difficulties rises for Bangladeshi young mind. Thanks again.

    1. There is no doubt you are doing tremendous job by giving advice and direction. our country is being benefited by your advice as lot of young guys are getting mentors like you. But A lot of young guy in Bangladesh is waiting for such direction like from where students can get text book or materials for CFA . At the Same time many of us who are student but eager to uphill sound knowledge in finance with lot of financial problem want to know is there any way to give mock exams free of cost? So please give a direction to collect textbook of CFA. From where we can buy 1. All text book of CFAI 2. All text book of SCHWESER. Last question: can we communicate with you free of cost, i mean without credit card number.

  3. So having passed both CFA L1 and FRM part 1, can you please tell me how similar the syllabus were? how much help did you get for your FRM from studying for CFA L1 ? You mentioned 420 hours for CFA, how about FRM?

    And it a was a great write up. Well done man for all the enthusiasm you showed in your senior year of college (Y)

  4. salam. an inspiring one. got a relevant question. i am currently a CA student and i joined this year right after hsc. i didn’t take admission in any uni. do you suggest that i pursue an academic degree besides CA or shall i focus on completing CA in the shortest time possible? Regards.

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