This post was originally published here.
Becoming a CFA Charterholder is all about the three exams. And the required 48 months of work experience. And the 900+ hours of time in blood, sweat, and tears you’ll spend studying. But mostly, it’s the exams. All of these elements—and the exams—make the globally recognized CFA Program the highest standard of measurement for assessing the integrity and competence of any financial analyst.
While there are different requirements for each level, the Level 1 exam is statistically the hardest exam of the three (see the blog post Your CFA Result Is Void: How Not to Fail for more details on past results). However, don’t let that fact deter you. Knowing the material isn’t the only thing required to get a passing CFA score.
Am I Ready to Take the CFA Exams?
Before even getting started with any CFA exam preparation, ask yourself a couple of critical questions prior to signing up to the program.
- Can I commit to the time requirements required to study for the exam?
- Can I actually afford it?
- Do I have the work experience neeeded to pass the requirements?
- Are my family and friends going to support me through this process?
But most importantly though, ask yourself this:
‘Do I have the determination to succeed?’
This should be the top question you ask yourself when deciding if the CFA Program is right for you. Keep in mind, it’s not just really whether your nerves can sit and survive through the three big exams, you also want to get a passing CFA score, right? This is exactly why your personality is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting ready for the program.
Can You Handle Being Alone—All the Time?
If you want any chance of a passing score on your CFA exams, you will need to be extremely comfortable spending time by yourself. You’re about to spend hundreds, perhaps even over a thousand of hours studying. Since the study program is a ‘self-study’ one, you will be going at your own pace too. While study groups are great, they’re not always easy to balance with your work, family, and other time commitments too. So, once you’ve begun the program expect that you will be spending a serious amount of alone time in study. Be sure you can handle this fact.
Depending on the type of personality you have, spending most of your time alone may not be a big deal to you. Now factor in your determination. Only after passing the exams and the work experience will you be able to call yourself a CFA Charterholder. If this doesn’t discourage you, then you may have the perfect personality to get started in the CFA Program. However, if you have the personality type that needs to interact with others and you can’t stand spending extended amounts of time alone, you may want to rethink if this is the right path for you.
How Long Can You Focus?
To be successful with your CFA exams, you are going to need to focus on set topics for hours and hours every single day. This is another personality question you must ask yourself prior to getting started. Are you going to be able to study this long religiously every day?
If you are the type who struggles sitting still for longer than 20 minutes, this may be a more challenging task for you. But if you have no problem sitting and going over every aspect of your study material, you may even enjoy the studying element of the program. Maybe.
Your Personality Will Set You Up to Succeed
While becoming a CFA Charterholder is a fantastic honor, before you commit to spending all of your free time on studying, make sure that you have the determination to succeed. In fact, it is interesting to note that many CFA Charterholders actually share many similar personality traits, which is not quite a coincidence. While having a good study plan is going to be a huge help, the rest starts with you.
So, before you commit your time and hard earned money trying to pass the CFA exam, ask yourself if you have the right personality and motivation to stick with it.
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