“Hi friends, I am Bushra Vahora, in this blog, I am sharing my journey of choosing the CFA® path and cracking Level I CFA® in the first attempt. I hope you find this journey helpful to plan your own path.”
After completing my bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering,
I chose to go for an MBA, and as an engineer, I was determined to go for an MBA in Operations. Though, when I studied some of the Finance concepts during my first year of MBA, I found it interesting. I started reading books and watching movies, series, etc. based on financial events, stock markets, private equity & venture investments. I really love the show Shark Tank. But I was nervous about taking up Finance as my career choice as I did not have a finance or accounting background. While I could see my friends, who had a commerce background, their fundamentals were clear, and they were able to understand things better. I connected with a few seniors who had an engineering background and were doing well in the finance domain. One of them suggested me to take up the CFA® course. In fact, he said- “even if you are not ready to take the exam, just reading the curriculum will help you understand financial concepts and you will be able to crack interviews and get a finance job”.
The journey from MBA to campus placement
I started researching about CFA® Program, but like many, I was lazy to study anything extra along with my MBA. Then I got a campus placement in an IT company as an Associate Consultant in Financial services consulting domain. Now, I had just started earning for the first time in my life. I was in Pune; the cost of living was low. I got busy in partying and traveling and chilling in general. I forgot all about CFA® Program and just focused on enjoying the time.
It was difficult to get into Finance jobs
When I worked there for a few months, I realized, this is not a finance-related job, or it is not helping me increase my knowledge or skills. I started looking for a job switch, a sector switch, in something related to Finance. I found it difficult to even get my Resume shortlisted for any Finance jobs. I struggled for almost 7-8 months, in fact, for 3 months, I was unemployed, and I was just sitting home and applying for jobs.
The idea of doing the CFA® Program.
That’s when it struck me to start pursuing CFA® Program and I was serious this time. Now, the first step was the CFA® exam registration. I took advantage of early registration discount- $300 (so necessary as the exam is expensive, man!) and registered, in September 2017, for a June 2018 attempt; that gave me a good 8-9 months to prepare. Meanwhile, I also managed to get a job. It was a Financial Planning and Analysis role in a startup. A real exciting role.
How and why I chose EduPristine for training
So now the situation was- I have paid the fee (Enrollment fees $450 + Level 1 Exam fees $650) for Level I CFA® Program, just started working in a role, I am like, how do I manage to prepare for the CFA® exam?
I went to our friend Google – searching for ways to prepare for the Level I CFA® exam, coaching, material, etc. First of all, CFA Institute material is vast and just not possible for me to read all that. So, I decided to purchase Schweizer notes. I thought using a coaching institute for my preparation will be helpful as it will keep me on the track. After some research, I found, EduPristine is the market leader in CFA® Program preparation. I enrolled with EduPristine in a full-time weekday evening batch… I would attend classes after finishing work. The classes were amazing, right from the first week, I was already confident that with sincerely attending the classes and studying over the weekends, I will pass the exam. Even otherwise, it was fun to attend classes. In the class, the faculty and other students would share their experiences, and you could talk about work challenges and studies, which was helpful.
But you know the Irony, anyone who works in Finance or Accounts, their February to May months are super busy with the company’s annual Budget and Statutory Audit and so on. And then you have the exam in June, oh God, so much pressure now. It is March, I am insanely busy at work, not able to study anything. All weekends are working, working till late nights, totally exhausted. Could not manage to give any time to the program prep.
Now it’s May already, stress period at work is over, but hardly a month left. For once I thought, I am not going to make it in this attempt, might have to try for it in December only. But one smart thing I did was, in all the stress and everything, I still made sure I attend at least two-three classes a week. In one of those classes, a faculty said, he prepared for Level 1 exam only in 15 days and cleared in the first attempt. Now a ray of hope!
I approached him and had a detailed conversation on how I should start, what all things I should do, important topics, etc. Made a full plan of study and immediately applied for a 15-day leave at work, my manager was supportive and sympathetic to approve my leave.
I started studying and going through the class notes and calling or writing to the faculty whenever I get stuck somewhere. And wow, with this I cleared the Level I CFA® exam!
How I cracked Level I CFA® exam in the first attempt.
Not as easy as it sounds, I studied for almost 14-15 hours a day, straight for 15 days. Plus, the exam-style was not easy, giving an exam of all the 10 subjects in one day, two papers back to back, a total of six hours of concentration. Honestly, it was overwhelming. On the last day before the exam, I had so much anxiety. To add it all, I could get only 1-hour of sleep the night before the exam. I somehow managed to keep my brain working till 5 PM on 22nd June 2018.
But yes, my hard work paid off Constant hard work, understanding the concepts during the classes and doubt solving sessions, really worked for me.
I would not suggest you do the same thing; please, please do not wait till the last 15 days.
I would give a few suggestions:
- Register in the early registration window, for two reasons:
- A saving of $300 is a big deal. Early registration is $650 and the standard registration fee is $950 (late fee is $1380).
- Once you register, you are committed to studying for it.
- Join EduPristine for CFA® Program training and clear your concepts. With working professionals (faculty and classmates) you get an idea what kind of jobs are out there in finance, which domains can CFA® Program help in and how do you leverage your CFA® certificate to get into a job you desire.
- Make a strategy for how to appear for the exam and implement that in every mock test. So that you can time your exam well, you can balance among different subjects.
- And do keep your weight in check, I eat a lot while studying 😀
After I cleared my Level I CFA®exam, I was able to apply a lot of concepts at my work and analyze the financials better. I was more confident in decision-making in FPA and gave better recommendations/suggestions to my seniors.
Trust me, with Level I CFA® certificate and a year of experience in Finance; your resume starts getting short-listed for various finance roles. And that gives you a push to start working for Level II CFA® Program, and thereafter Level III CFA® Program.
Preparing for Level II CFA® Program.
Well, when I started preparing for Level II CFA® Program, I realized, Level I was so easy compared to this one. For Level I CFA® Program, you just need to know your concepts and you can solve 80% of the questions. But now you must be responsible and sincere towards your studies.
In Level II CFA® Program, there are case studies, where there will be 4-6 questions based on a case study for each topic. Make sure not to miss a single lecture, give as many mock tests as you can, try to solve both the practice volumes of Schweizer. The syllabus of Level II CFA® exam is vast; each topic is tested in detail. You need to give enough time for thorough revision. Make your notes, mind maps that contain problem-solving flow and formulae, which you can refer on the last day.
To conclude, if you want to make a career in Finance, you should enroll for CFA® Program. As of now, companies specify CFA® designation as a ‘preferred’ qualification but very soon it will become a ‘pre-requisite’. And if you want to give a CFA® exam, do register for the exam immediately and if possible, join EduPristine as it keeps you on track.
What you should know when you are considering doing CFA® Program
- CFA Institute is based in the US. They offer global courses in the Investment management domain. It has recognition in almost 30-35 countries.
- Awareness of CFA® Program in India is surprising. 25,000 candidates appeared in June 2019 which is almost 10% of global candidates. (Courtesy: Economic Times). In India, a lot of multinational companies consider CFA® designation as a preferred qualification in a finance professional. Large Investment banks, Big 4’s, Equity research firms, Credit Rating firms are some of the organizations where CFA® designated persons are highly in demand.
- Passing all the 3 levels of CFA® Program, and a minimum of 4 years of experience in Investment decision making profession makes you eligible for a Charter.
What you need to know about the CFA® exam
- Most of the Level I CFA® Program topics are covered in MBA Finance at a top view level. CFA® curriculum is in much more detail. It is very important to understand all the topics of Level I CFA® as it makes a foundation for Level II and Level III.
- Schweizer notes are good. They are precise, easy to read, enough examples to understand the concepts and two volumes of practice problems, covers a variety of problems and questions.
- It takes around 35 to 45 days for CFA institute to declare the results. Till then, the candidates are relaxed and can continue with their normal lives.
CFA Institute does not endorse, promote, or warrant the accuracy or quality of the products or services offered by EduPristine. CFA® are trademarks owned by CFA Institute.