Monday, June 8, 2009

CFA Level 1 posed no problem

33% Pass rate must be for Laurier students...
[just joking =) ]

I wrote the CFA Level I this past Saturday, and found it was a very simple straight forward exam. There were a lot of definition hammering that I didn't care to memorize. There were some tricky questions here and there, but overall I am confident in a pass.

Historically no one has ever failed the CFA Level I exam when they scored at least 70%. That means out of the 240 question -3 choice -Multiple Choice Test, you can get 72 questions wrong and pass.

I feel confident in my chances. The 33% pass rate absolutely shocks me, but I guess it is mostly due to different backgrounds. Some people attempt the CFA Level I without a prior accounting and finance background, which would be extremely tough.

If, however, you are a University student who has prepared for University type exams in an accounting or finance program, and have historically gotten good grades, this test should pose no problem given you put in the hours.

Something funny was the "completely dominant" male population at the exam. There was a huge line up to use the male washrooms before exam start. There was no line up for the female washroom. Some guys who couldn't wait actually went into the female washroom.

hey.. doors were closing for the exam. can't really blame them now can you. =)

There was a band playing during the afternoon session of the CFA exam which I'm sure pissed off a lot of candidates. A little unprofessional in my opinion, as we didn't get extra time. I wasn't affected by the band playing, but I'm sure a lot of people were.

So anyways, after going through the CFA Level 1 exam, I have some thoughts:

There is a lot of time dedication it takes to pass the CFA Level 1 exam. The material was easy, but it still takes a lot of time. They test you on ethics and accounting frameworks and are very specific and detailed. It's not something that you can write without studying. I recommend a minimum of 150 hours of studying even if you have an accounting or finance background. You should follow the CFA guidelines if you want to guarantee a pass.

With that said, I don't feel I learned anything new in the CFA Level 1 exam. I majored in accounting and have a minor in finance. There was nothing new that I learned other than CFA ethics. I'm not a better financial analyst or anything because of the exam.

If you have an accounting or finance background, you'll probably find yourself memorizing things, and reinforcing things you learned more than anything. For someone who has no accounting and finance background, I think this test was a tremendous learning opportunity.

With that said, is the CFA designation worth it?

One of my good friends who is a CA gave me some advice. Pass the CFA Level I exam. Don't go further in the program unless your employment requires you to.

What he means is that, passing the CFA Level 1 gives you a nice "oner upper" over other candidates. However, the time investment to fully attain your CFA designation especially when you're already pursuing your CA is not worth it.

I agree with his analysis. The CFA designation is a great designation to attain if you aren't pursing any other designation, but seems like overkill with a CA designation.

To get the CA, you're looking at 4 years undergrad + 3 years articling. That's already 7 years.

To get the CFA, you're looking at minimum 3 years to pass all three exams, and 3 years of job experience.

To do these things concurrently will be a hell of a task. You're going to have to quit your Big 4 job to get some finance experience and work your way up again from a lower salary in finance. I don't know too much people who would do that. Maybe that's why there is a lack of CFA + CA combos. The people sure as hell paid their stripes.

I can imagine the prestige of owning both the CFA and CA, however, the sacrifices you must make are astronomical.

For me, I am happy passing the CFA Level 1 for now and enjoying life a bit.


  1. This is what I would've done:
    1)Write CFA L1 right after 4th year
    1)Pass ufe
    2)Write other two CFA exams [2 years]
    3)By now I have 3 years experience and i can just transfer to Financial services advisory or MA within the Big4. [experience would count depending on the role]

    but yeah it does requite a lot of time and devotion. I would only do only if i see myself leaning towards finance.

  2. Or write all three sections at once. :)

  3. Do you think that it is worth it to go on and pass the level 2 exam?

    The level 3 one is not as you said, but maybe the level 2 one will give you some advantage over your fellow finance exam writers who passed the level 1 exam. I've heard of people who have gotten some pretty substantial pay raises after writing their CFA exams in industry.

  4. Don't be shocked that less than half pass. the exam is done in English for all candidates globally. Imagine if you had to learn another language just to be able to understand the questions.

  5. To Hassan,

    An even faster way to is to transfer to financial advisory or MA after one year in audit (with all assurance chargeable hours completed). Then you will get CA after 3 years, and CFA after 5 years.