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5 reasons it’s better to take the CFA® Program exams while you’re still a student

It’s a common dilemma among candidates at university who are considering becoming a CFA® charterholder - should they start the process immediately, or wait until they’re working so they can fulfill the requirements of 4 years’ working experience?

Our advice? Start studying while still in school.

Here’s why:


#1. You have more time

University students - even those in their final year - have way more free time than a working adult. They’ll also have more control over their schedules, since they don't need to report to the office from 9 to 5 (or beyond).

According to CFA Institute, those in the final year of their undergrad degree can take the Level I exam. (You need to complete your degree, however, to take the other two levels). This gives you a precious headstart on the process of getting chartered, and means you have 2 tries to pass the first exam before graduation.

You can tweak your final year class schedule, or see if it’s possible to shift your classes so that you have less modules in final year, meaning more time to study. This flexibility is nearly impossible to achieve once you start work (especially if you then get married or have children!) so make use of it while you can.

Don't believe us? An article by 300hours interviewed lots of exam candidates, and most of them said that they had the most time to study when they were in university, not when they were working.


#2: You have a buffer period in case you fail the papers

One major reason people delay taking the exam is because they need four years of work experience to get the CFA® charter. They think: well, I might as well do it concurrently and only spend four years, instead of five or six, to get chartered.

We disagree. Taking the exams as early as possible gives you a precious one-year additional time buffer.

While it’s the ideal scenario to pass all three exams on the first try, the truth is that only 10% of all candidates manage this.

Here are the passing statistics for the June 2018 CFA Program exam, taken from CFA Institute:

Level I CFA Program exam: 43%

Level II CFA Program exam: 45%

Level III CFA Program exam: 56%

Those aren't the best odds - so you need to account for the chance you may need to retake some of the exams. Since the Level II and III CFA Program exams are only offered once a year, you’ll need to wait an entire year for the next opportunity.

[Read also: Failed the CFA® Program exam? Here’s how to decide if you should retake]

This will be an especially painful sacrifice once you’re working, so take advantage of the additional year you have in university to pass the initial one first.


#3: You have a buffer period in case the job market is bad

Former AB Maximus student and curr