Try our course finder tool

Getting the most from your 300 hours of CFA® exam preparation

In this blog, we share our top tips for how to use your 300 hours of study wisely to significantly increase your chances of passing the CFA exam.

This blog post has been updated and was originally authored by Kaplan Schweser.


To have the best possible chance of passing each level of the CFA® exam, the CFA Institute recommends allocating a minimum of 300 hours towards preparation. It’s critical for your success to efficiently plan your study in advance, rather than cramming in the final weeks before the exam. In this blog, we share our top tips for how to use your 300 hours of study wisely to significantly increase your chances of passing the CFA exam.

Tip 1: Develop your study plan at least six months before the CFA exam

Many successful CFA charterholders credit their exam success to the early development of their study plan. Depending on the exam windows, we recommend creating your study plan at least six months before the exam. This timing is suggested to avoid cramming because exam preparation encompasses more than simply just revising the material. You’ll also have to practise applying what you’ve learned to scenarios, which may take time to develop.

Tip 2: Prepare > Practice > Perform: Allocate 90 to 120 hours to prepare, 120 to 150 hours to practice and 60 hours to perform

For efficient study, we recommend following the Prepare > Practice > Perform® method. The method starts with the prepare stage, before progressing to practice and perform.


We recommend dedicating between 90 to 120 hours (30 to 40% of your study time) to reading and listening to lectures in the prepare stage. This stage is intended for absorbing information and learning examples of vocabulary, theory, concepts and principles to prepare you for the practice stage. The material you learn in the first weeks of study will absorb better if you revisit it, so it’s worth reviewing this consistently. It’s also ideal to spread your prepare activities throughout the allocated 300 hours study time.


It’s recommended you spend 120 to 150 hours (40 to 50% of your study time) in the practice stage. In this stage, you’ll be solving actual problems by applying concepts you learned in the prepare stage and completing practice problems related to them. It’s valuable to spend more of your time practising than preparing. Practise provides you with the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned, which is highly important for reinforcing knowledge. You’ll also want to allocate some review time in the practice stage. Try completing the same practice questions several times to build confidence and ensure you really understand the concepts.


In the perform stage, 60 hours (20%) to simulating exam conditions should be allocated to assess your level of readiness. This stage also enables you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you can go back and practise where required. It’s ideal to spend your last month of studying in this stage and complete more than one mock exam. For example, the Schweser Mock Exam not only mimics the actual exam, it also offers a mode that replicates the computer-based testing for all levels of the exam.

Tip 3: Use CFA exam preparation courses and study groups to stick to your preparation plan

To boost motivation and keep on track, it’s worth taking an exam review course, such as Schweser’s Live Online Review Workshop and treating it like a university lecture. Read the relevant material beforehand, get an idea of the topics which will be covered, and compile any questions you want to ask. This is encouraged during the final weeks of your exam preparation to build confidence and reinforce knowledge.

Another great way to stick to your preparation plan is to join an online study group that meets regularly. Connecting with others who are facing the same challenges as you can help with support and encouragement. In addition, being able to ask questions or explain a concept to someone else helps develop your own mastery of the topics.

Tip 4: Make all Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) part of your plan

The Learning Outcome Statements and core concepts from the CFA Institute are part of the Candidate Body of Knowledge. Along with CFA Institute study sessions, each Learning Outcome Statement helps you determine what you can gain from each reading and what you should concentrate on when studying. They also help you focus on the right topics for the exam. It’s recommended candidates read all Learning Outcome Statements as each one is fair game for the exam.

Tip 5: Know the exam weights

Having a solid understanding of the CFA Program curriculum and how each topic is weighted for the exam will give you a boost on exam day. The CFA curriculum is updated every year and all three exam levels focus on the same 10 topic areas. Exam weights vary by level and can change slightly each year, so be sure to take note. This can also provide additional guidelines for what to focus on with your study.

Tip 6: For each concept you learn, ask yourself how it applies in the real world

To pass the CFA exam, you must take what you’ve learned and apply it to realistic situations. If you memorise material without applying it to real-life scenarios, you may struggle to pass the exam. The purpose of the exam is to test your problem-solving skills and apply knowledge to situations you may encounter in your role.

Tip 7: As exam day approaches, be kind to yourself

In the final weeks leading up to the exam, try and resist the tendency to panic or ramp up your study intensity due to anxiety. Cramming at the last minute can often heighten stress. Be kind to yourself instead. One way to focus on yourself is to space your practice sessions out further apart. Studies from psychological science have shown that when students add an extra day between study sessions, performance in an exam improves significantly.

It’s also important to get into a good sleep routine a few weeks before the exam. You should try to avoid electronics, alcohol and late-night eating right before bed, as this can prevent you from having a relaxing night’s sleep. A routine can also help you sleep better the night before the exam. The goal with your preparation isn’t to exhaust your mind and body at the last minute. This is why it’s best not to take mock exams in the few days before the actual exam as they can mentally drain you. Instead, it’s worth re-reading some of the denser areas of the CFA curriculum.

After months of hard work and dedication, it’s understandable you may feel nervous on exam day. Aim to go into the exam feeling as positive, refreshed and rested as possible. Be confident, you can do this!

Preparing for a CFA exam? Practice and prepare for your upcoming exam with Kaplan Schweser’s CFA exam preparation packages available for all levels.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Programs you might be interested in


Master of Applied Finance

Leading online degree designed for ambitious and savvy individuals who are looking for advanced academic rigour, but thrive on practical and real-world learning immediately applicable in the workplace, and directly relevant to future career roles. It caters to experienced finance professionals and those transitioning into the field, integrating learning outcomes with pathways for further accreditation such as a CFA®.

Master of Financial Planning

Our online, FAS-approved Master of Financial Planning is a purpose-built higher education qualification set at AQF level 9. It’s designed and developed in consultation with industry experts, and combines advanced technical rigour with practical and relevant performance-focused learning outcomes.

Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance

Set the direction of a financial career with the Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance. Individuals can choose to specialise in a particular area of professional practice, or follow a generalist pathway and study the subjects of interest.