After talking to a group of CFA students and qualified CFA teachers we’ve narrowed down the most common mistakes CFA candidates make or are most likely to make:

Not maintaining your time

This is one of the most common and biggest mistakes CFA level 1 students tend to make. 300 hours is a minimum but there’s no harm in studying for more. Work up a CFA Level 1 Study Plan and try your best to follow it.

Not using your time wisely

It’s not about how much time you have it’s more of how you sue that time. 300 hours may not be the most efficient way, focus on proactive study techniques that force you to actively engage with what you’re learning. Self-testing is ideal, using flashcards, quizzes, or practice questions.

Not studying regularly

If you only study when you are free it may affect your preparation for the CFA level 1 exam. Try fitting in short study sessions in your everyday schedule. That’s why CFA materials are known to be “bite size.”

Not making a study plan

If you don’t have a CFA Level 1 Study Plan your preparation will have no track. You won’t know how much time to give to which topics and what needs more focus.

Using wrong study materials

This is one of the key steps of passing your CFA level 1 exams but many students seem to get it wrong. The most common mistake CFA Level 1 students make is either to rely on the curriculum completely, or not to use it at all. The former is inefficient, as it’s not condensing your knowledge. The latter means your study insignificant and you can’t be sure you know everything you need to know for the exams.

Not revising as you progress

This is one of the most common mistake CFA level 1 candidates make, they think as long as they progress with the syllabus they are doing okay, but you need to keep revising as so move along.

Making your study plan inflexible

It’s likely that you may need to skip a study session, so if your CFA Level 1 Study Plan isn’t flexible it will be hard for you to maintain it. Once your schedules time has passed it’s hard to reschedule. Make sure your CFA Level 1 Study Plan is flexible enough to allocate changes whenever needed. If you decide to study a particular chapter for 1 week, 8 hours every week and you skip a session you can add it to the remaining days and even it out.

Not studying in a suitable setup

If you’re at home in your pjs and sit to study it is likely for you to take unnecessary breaks and feel the need to want to sleep. Try studying in a place where you can do nothing else besides studying, maybe a library.

Not studying troublesome topics

It’s natural that we try to avoid topics that we have a hard time understanding, but you can’t do that for the CFA level 1 exams. If you think of saving the hardest for the last, you might run out of time and not be able to focus on major topics such as FRA and Quantitative Methods. Be strict about scheduling in time for each area of the curriculum, and ensure you stick to it. I always prefer to get the most challenging areas out of the way first instead of letting them loom over you.

Not studying Ethics

Another common mistake, Ethics is beneficial for all levels of the CFA exams. It has been said that if you don’t study ethics you may not be able to pass the CFA exams.

Not making a realistic plan

You definitely need to study but having a healthy social life is also important, that does not mean you can always put off studies for other things you may have to do. Design a realistic plan that you can stick to.

Studying too much

You obviously need to study a lot for the CFA level 1 exam, but don’t overwork yourself. If you overwork yourself you may end up getting very frustrated right before the exams which will have a very bad impact on your exams. You need to look after yourself mentally and physically, and that means taking time for yourself too. Whatever it is you enjoy, make time for it on a regular basis. You can’t survive without soul food.

Not taking the right materials

After all the effort if you don’t carry all the required materials it would be a shame. Make sure you bring your passport, your exam admission ticket, an approved calculator and No. 2 or HB pencils. Don’t forget to check in advance that your passport name, number and expiry date match those on your admission ticket or you won’t be able to sit the exam. Carry whatever is allowed and that makes you comfortable.

Not knowing how your calculator works

Familiarize yourself with the required calculator, this will save you a lot of time and trouble. The CFA level 1 exam is very lengthy and no time can be wasted.

Not arriving on time

You need to arrive at least an hour before your scheduled time.  Doors close half an hour before the scheduled start time, and check-in starts an hour before. If you arrive more than half an hour past the scheduled start of a session, you won’t be allowed to enter at all.

Not prepping yourself

The CFA level 1 exam is very lengthy. It has 240 multiple choice questions split into 2 papers with 3 hours each leaving you with 1.5 mins per question. Practice as many mock papers as you possibly can, this will help you time yourself.


Be it mental or physical, don’t do it! Don’t eat a heavy meal right before the exam, it may make you feel sleepy or worse give you a stomach ache. Don’t leave any studying for the break you will have, try to relax.

Listening to others

Don’t let other students freak you out during the 2 hour break. Have confidence in your preparations and avoid discussing with others.

Getting nervous

Don’t get nervous because of the environment, it may prevent you from giving it your best. Stress can be partially mitigated by having had previous exam experience. And no, I don’t mean if you’ve already failed. I mean by sitting a practice paper in proper exam conditions.

Don’t take the CFA exams lightly

The CFA exams are not impossible but they aren’t a walk-in the park either. Don’t be over confident and think you’ll pass, the pass rates are only 40%. So take your time preparing and try to realize the level of effort and dedication needed to get through these exams.