Is Skipping CFA Level 1 a Good Idea?

As a financial expert and a CFA charterholder, I often get asked whether it's possible to skip CFA level 1 and still pass the exam. The short answer is yes, it is possible, but it's not recommended if your goal is to truly master the material. In this article, I will share my insights and recommendations on this topic based on my personal experience. First and foremost, let's address the issue of using a calculator for the exam. Whether you choose the BA II Plus or HP 12 calculator, it's important to be proficient in using its functions and to learn time-saving tricks.

Personally, I recommend the TI BA II Plus Professional for its additional functions that are particularly useful for relevant questions in the CFA exam. However, regardless of which calculator you choose, it's crucial not to rely solely on it and to have a solid understanding of the underlying concepts. Now, let's talk about skipping topics. While it may be tempting to skip a topic or two at levels 1 and 2 in order to save time and effort, I strongly advise against it. The CFA exam is designed to test your knowledge and understanding of a wide range of topics, and having a strong foundation is essential for passing level I and surviving levels II and III. Speaking from personal experience, I have taken a total of 9 finance courses, 10 economics courses, several mathematics and statistics courses, and two introductory accounting courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Despite having a strong background in these subjects, I found FRA (Financial Reporting and Analysis) to be my weakest area in the CFA exam. This goes to show that even with a solid educational background, skipping topics can still have negative consequences. Furthermore, even if you manage to pass level I by skipping a topic, it may come back to haunt you in levels II and III. The CFA curriculum is designed to build upon the knowledge gained in the previous levels, so skipping a topic at level I may put you at a disadvantage in the later levels. Another important aspect to consider is the weightage of ethics in the CFA exam. Ethics is a unique subject that is specific to the CFA institute and carries a significant weightage of 15-20% in the exam.

Therefore, it's crucial to thoroughly study and understand the CFA Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct. As we approach the date of the CFA level 1 exam (June 15), it's important to note that this advice applies not only to level 1 but also to levels 2 and 3.While candidates for levels 2 and 3 have already taken their exams, it's never too late to start preparing for future levels. In conclusion, while it may be possible to pass CFA level 1 by skipping a topic or two, it's not recommended if your goal is to truly master the material and succeed in all three levels. It's important to have a strong foundation and discipline in order to pass level I and build upon that knowledge in the later levels. So my advice is simple: don't skip anything and put in the necessary effort and time to succeed in all three levels of the CFA exam.

Serena Lubahn
Serena Lubahn

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