Duration Of CFA Course

The CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) program is like an exciting journey in the world of finance. 

Understanding the time required to complete each level helps with planning, keeps you motivated, and allows you to celebrate your progress.

But, how long does it really take to complete each level? Let’s find out.

Understanding the CFA Program

The CFA program is structured into three levels, each designed to build upon the knowledge gained in the previous level. This sequential structure consists of Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Completing these levels in order is crucial, as each level progressively deepens your understanding of financial concepts and investment management.

CFA Level 1: Building the Groundwork

At CFA Level 1, candidates are introduced to fundamental concepts and tools essential in the field of investment. This level aims to establish a solid foundation of knowledge, covering various aspects of finance. The Level I exam comprises multiple-choice questions, addressing topics such as ethics, financial reporting and analysis, economics, and quantitative methods.

CFA Level 2: Delving into Investment Analysis

Moving on to CFA Level 2, candidates undergo a thorough examination that delves deeper into the analysis and practical application of investment tools and concepts. This level focuses on the valuation of assets, encompassing equity investments, fixed income, derivatives, and alternative investments. The Level II exam format involves item sets, challenging candidates to analyze and interpret financial information.

CFA Level 3: Applying Knowledge to Portfolio Management

This level places a significant emphasis on applying investment tools and concepts in real-world portfolio management situations. It concentrates on synthesizing and integrating knowledge acquired from the previous levels to effectively construct and manage institutional and individual portfolios. The Level III exam includes item sets and essay questions designed to assess candidates’ ability to apply their knowledge within a portfolio management framework.

Also Read – Is CFA Worth Pursuing? Debunking 7 Common Myths In 2024

Duration of CFA Level 1

Recommended Study Hours for Level 1

Managing your time efficiently is crucial for CFA exam success. Successful candidates, averaging 323 hours of preparation, follow the CFA Institute’s recommendation. For CFA Level 1, allocate at least 303 hours.

The required study time varies based on your subject background. Use 323 hours as a guide for reading and practice. CFA Level 1 encompasses 10 topics, 19 study sessions, and about 60 readings, each with different importance. Allocate time for study based on the topic weight.

Plan four months for readings, keeping the last month for revision and practice. Studying two hours on weekdays and eight on weekends, you can finish readings in about 17 weeks.

Use non-working days and weekends for CFA study. Spend weekdays reading and weekends on practice questions. Allocate two to four extra hours on weekends for practice.

Include end-of-chapter questions; they provide an overview, focus areas, and reveal weaker points. Consistently track results to stay on the right track.

The table below provides a summary to guide your study time allocation for various CFA exam topics. Customize your study routine based on your circumstances.

Topic Area

Weight Hours 

(Based on 323-hour Schedule)

Days to Allocate

Ethical and Professional Standards 15–20% 54 20
Quantitative Methods 6-9%% 31 12
Economics 6-9% 31 12
Financial Reporting and Analysis 11-14% 46 17
Corporate Issuers 6-9% 31 11
Portfolio Management 8-12% 20 8
Equity Investments 11-14% 35 12
Fixed Income 11-14% 35 12
Derivatives 5–8% 20 8
Alternative Investments 7-10% 20 8
Total 100% 323 120 days

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Final Four Weeks Preparation

With the updated computer-based testing schedule (February, May, August, and November for Level 1; February and August for Level 2; and May and November for Level 3), allocate this time wisely.

Devote a day to simulate exam conditions at home, using mock tests. Opt for two 2.25-hour sessions with an optional break, aligning with the new computer-based format. This practice enhances your familiarity with the exam environment and ensures you are psychologically prepared for the actual test.

(Source: CFA Institute. “Information on Exam Registration, Scheduling and Deferrals. CFA® Program Mock Exam and Practice Questions Computer-Based Exam Information.”)

Realistic Expectations: Working Professionals vs. Full-time Students

For working professionals and full-time students preparing for the CFA Level 1 exam, setting realistic study hours is crucial. The demands of work or academic commitments can significantly influence the time available for exam preparation. Here’s a breakdown of realistic expectations:

Working Professionals:

  • On average, allocate 15-20 hours per week for CFA Level 1 preparation.
  • Plan for a longer overall preparation period, ideally around 5-6 months.
  • Utilize weekends and evenings for more concentrated study sessions.

Full-Time Students:

  • Aim for 20-25 hours of weekly study time for effective preparation.
  • A relatively shorter preparation period of 4-5 months may be feasible.
  • Plan study sessions around your class schedule, with flexibility for intensive review closer to the exam date.

Also Read – 6 Important CFA Updates & Curriculum Changes Announced In 2023

Tips for Completing CFA Level 1 on Time

Conquering the CFA Level 1 exam involves overcoming challenges and mastering effective strategies. Here are practical tips to ensure you complete Level 1 on time:

Addressing Common Challenges:

  • Identify challenging topics early on and allocate extra time to grasp them thoroughly.
  • Seek support from study groups or online forums to clarify doubts and gain different perspectives.

Time Management Strategies:

  • Create a realistic study schedule that aligns with your daily routine.
  • Prioritize topics based on their weight in the exam and focus on mastering key concepts.

Effective Preparation:

  • Break down study sessions into manageable chunks to enhance understanding.
  • Regularly assess your progress through practice questions and mock exams.

Test-Taking Tips for Success:

  • Familiarize yourself with the exam format by practicing with past papers and mock tests.
  • Develop a systematic approach to answering questions within the allocated time.

Transitioning to CFA Level 2

So, you’ve successfully tackled Level 1—Congratulations!

This level may have felt quite manageable; however, don’t fall into the trap of assuming Level 2 is just as easy as Level 1 was—it’s not.

Level 2 is tougher. Many candidates are caught off guard, realizing the challenge too late. Elevate your preparation for Level 2, as it involves a substantial amount of material.

Overview of Level 2 Curriculum and Format

The Level 2 CFA exam curriculum comprises 10 topics, each assigned a weight. While these weights may change, the most recent information shared by the CFA Institute in 2024 is as follows:

  • Quantitative Methods 5–10%
  • Economics 5–10%
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis 10–15%
  • Corporate Issuers 5–10%
  • Equity Valuation 10–15%
  • Fixed Income 10–15%
  • Derivatives 5–10%
  • Alternative Investments 5–10%
  • Portfolio Management 10–15%
  • Ethical and Professional Standards 10–15%

Source: CFA Institute

CFA Level 2 focuses on applying these tools and analyzing asset classes. So, plan your study time based on your strengths and weaknesses, considering the syllabus weightings.

Also Read – How are CFA And Financial Modeling Connected? Why Should You Study Both in the Same Course?

Understand the Question Format for CFA Level 2 Exam

In CFA Level 2, the exam structure involves item sets, each focusing on a single topic or combining multiple subjects. These item sets include connected questions and are accompanied by a brief vignette providing necessary information. 


Vignettes Item Sets Time

Total Number of Questions

1 11 2 Hours 12 Minutes 88
2 11 2 Hours 12 Minutes

CFA Level 2 consists of two sessions, each lasting 132 minutes, with an optional break. Each session includes 11 item sets with vignettes and multiple-choice questions based on the sets. These item sets have a case statement with around 4 questions to analyze.

No penalties for wrong answers encourage candidates to attempt all questions, improving success chances. Candidates should practice with Level II sample papers and utilize mock exams on the CFA Institute’s official website during their preparation.

Increased Complexity of CFA Level 2 vs Level 1

Aspect CFA Level 1 CFA Level 2
Depth of Content Fundamental concepts and tools introduction. Deeper into financial analysis and investment management.
Concept Complexity Basic concepts with less intricacy. More intricate concepts, increasing complexity.
Real-World Application Primarily theoretical understanding. Emphasis on applying knowledge to real-world situations.
Focus on Practicality Initial focus on theory. Shift towards practical application in realistic scenarios.
Level of Challenge Generally considered less challenging. More challenging, demanding a deeper understanding.
Sense of Accomplishment Achievable with diligent study. Brings a deeper understanding, providing a sense of accomplishment.
Study Approach Emphasis on understanding core concepts. Requires a more comprehensive and in-depth study approach.
Commitment Level Diligent study aids success. Demands increased commitment and dedicated study efforts.

Also Read – A Comprehensive Guide To the Syllabus and Exam Pattern of CFA

Duration of CFA Level 2

Recommended study hours for Level 2

Consider starting your studies slightly earlier: To effectively grasp the extensive details in Level 2 materials, it might be beneficial to commence your studies earlier, perhaps 6-9 months in advance. This approach can be particularly useful unless, like Sophie, you passed Level 1 and are aiming to conquer the CFA in 18 months, a feat achievable in 4 months with determined effort.



CFA Level 2 Preparation Time 300 hours or more
Daily Study Time 5 hours per day
Total Study Days 60 days (2 months)
Additional Consideration Allow time for revision and consolidation
Flexibility in Preparation Adjust preparation based on individual learning pace and needs
Recommended Start Time for Preparation Start as early as possible to ensure ample preparation time

The CFA Institute suggests spending 300 hours on CFA Level 2 preparation. It’s a good idea to start early and have more time if possible. Your study plan for CFA Level 2 should include time for learning concepts, practicing with mock papers, and doing a final revision.

6 Tips on Balancing work or other commitments while preparing for Level 2

  • Create a study plan that aligns with your work and personal commitments.
  • Identify key topics and allocate study time based on importance.
  • Maximize downtime for quick reviews or listening to study materials.
  • Set specific study objectives to stay focused and motivated.
  • Share your study schedule with others to minimize distractions.
  • Review progress regularly and adjust the plan as needed.

Tips for Completing CFA Level 2 on Time

Addressing Common Difficulties Encountered in Level 2

  • Identify challenges like increased complexity and extensive syllabus.
  • Concentrate efforts on crucial areas for maximum efficiency.

Strategies for Mastering Complex Topics and Concepts

  • Divide complex topics into manageable sections for better comprehension.
  • Prioritize high-weight areas to optimize study efforts.

Test-Taking Techniques for Level 2 Success

  • Efficiently manage time during the exam with specific periods for each question.
  • Carefully read item sets, extracting essential information and grasping nuances.

Looking For CFA Level 2 Classes Near You?

Preparing for the Final Level – CFA Level 3

We get it – beating Level 2 feels like a big win, right?

Even though Level 2 seems harder on paper because there’s so much to cover, Level 3 has its challenges. People often underestimate and misunderstand Level 3. It’s not about not having enough time; it’s about not spending time to get to know how Level 3 works.

CFA Level 3’s unique focus on Portfolio Management

Portfolio Management is a significant part of the CFA Level 3 exam, contributing 180 out of 360 points. It’s crucial in both morning and afternoon sessions, covering topics like behavioral finance and risk management. Expect questions on individual and institutional wealth.

Key concepts include the Investment Policy Statement and Economics, now part of portfolio management. Topics encompass managing institutional portfolios, asset allocation, risk management, and evaluating portfolio performance. While the CFA Institute doesn’t specify crucial topics, practicing with previous essay questions aids preparation.

Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning make up 30%-35% of the CFA Level 3 exam.

Item-set Questions to Constructed Response (Essay) Questions

The Level 3 exam combines item sets and constructed response (essay) sets. Both types involve vignettes with multiple-choice items for item sets and constructed response items for essay sets.

All answers must be based on the information in the vignette, removing free-standing items from CFA Level 1. Before responding to each item, you are required to refer to the vignette.

Each session has either six item sets and five essay sets or five item sets and six essay sets. This balanced distribution totals 11 item sets and 11 essay sets, each worth 12 points.

Also Read – What Salaries Can You Expect In India As a CFA?

Duration of CFA Level 3

Study hours recommended for CFA Level 3

According to the June 2019 Candidate Survey by the CFA Institute, the average CFA Level 3 candidate dedicated 344 hours to study. However, from our experience, it is more common to aim for a minimum of 350 hours of study spread over 4-6 months to enhance the likelihood of passing.

Realistic Timelines for Completion

For success in CFA Level 3, start your preparation six to nine months early and finish the syllabus three months before the exam. 

Effective study habits and applying learned concepts are key to success. Aim for at least 350 hours of study over six to nine months, planning longer sessions on specific days.

Distribute your study time based on each subject’s importance, using the full curriculum for CFA Level 3. 

Focus on all seven core topics tested in both exam sessions, ensuring a balanced approach before the scheduled exam dates.

Tackling Common Challenges in CFA Level 3

Understanding the challenges specific to Level 3

  • Understand the exam’s structure, with a focus on essay-type questions and vignettes.
  • Adapt your study approach for Level 3 challenges, emphasizing deep understanding.

Strategies for mastering essay-type questions

  • Practice timed essay-type responses to enhance efficiency.
  • Analyze past essay questions to grasp examiners’ expectations and grading criteria.

Last-minute tips for success in Level 3

  • Review key concepts and formulas comprehensively in the days before the exam.
  • Refine essay-writing skills and time management during final preparation.

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Benefits of Completing Each CFA Level on Time

Professional Advantages:

  • Show that you’re good at managing your time and committed to your goals.
  • Prove to employers that you’re serious and disciplined in your career.
  • Build a positive image as someone who gets things done efficiently.

Impacts on Career Progression and Opportunities:

  • Move up the career ladder faster by finishing each CFA level on time.
  • Qualify for higher roles and more responsibilities in your current job.
  • Explore different job opportunities in specific areas and industries, thanks to the solid knowledge gained from completing each level promptly.

Final Thoughts

On average, it takes about four years to complete all three levels of the CFA program. However, the duration can vary based on individual study plans, work obligations, and personal commitments.

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  • How long does it typically take to complete each level of the CFA course?

The duration varies, but candidates often spend 4-6 months per level, with Level 3 requiring additional preparation time.

  • Can the duration vary based on individual study habits and commitments?

Yes, individual study habits, work commitments, and prior knowledge can influence the time needed to complete each level.

  • Are there any recommended study plans for working professionals pursuing the CFA program?

Recommended plans include setting a study schedule, prioritizing high-weight topics, and utilizing weekends for more intensive study sessions.

  • What strategies can be employed to manage time effectively while preparing for CFA exams?

Strategies include creating a realistic study plan, breaking down sessions into manageable blocks, and incorporating practice exams to gauge readiness.

  • Are there any specific challenges associated with the duration of each CFA level?

Challenges may arise due to the extensive curriculum, essay-type questions in Level 3, and balancing study time with work or personal commitments.