CFA Level 1

Saw CFA Institute advertising its career guide in Facebook. No wonder Facebook’s revenue is growing fast. More and more companies are advertising on Facebook.

I still remember my study for CFA Level I. I registered for the exam on 11 January 2009 and received the books on 14 January 2009. I was excited to begin immediately and studied for 1 week. After that, Chinese New Year came. I brought the books back Indonesia to study. BUT, the CNY was just too good, too much gathering, relatives visiting, friends meeting, I ended up not study for the exam. Then, in February, the new project for my work started. Was working on 2 projects at the same time. Very busy period. Occasionally worked until 9-10pm and the client office was located in Tuas. It took nearly 1 hour 20 mins to reach home from client office. So, in February, I put my study aside.

Came mid March. I started getting panic. 2.5 months left. That’s when I started studying seriously. In late April, I started to wake up at 6am to study until 7am. After work, I reached home at 9+pm and started studying at 10pm until 1.30am. Weekend was burnt.

One week before the exam, I took leave and went back Indonesia. I finished all the study and review and came back Singapore on Thursday. Never did I once do the mock exam. WTF I told myself. On Friday morning, I did one mock test for morning session. I scored close to 85%. Was quite surprise to score so well. The passing mark was said to be around 70%.  Then I did mock exam for afternoon session. Again, I scored close to 85%. My confidence built up. I did another mock test and scored around 80%.

Saturday was basically reviewing and practising mock exams. Came Sunday. After morning session, I felt it had same difficulty as mock exams. During the 2-hour break, I didn’t study as I really needed a break and let my mind rest. Afternoon session, again, I felt, had same difficulty as mock exam.

I had confidence to pass the exam but still had a bit doubt because, afterall, I self studied everything without doing any assignment, project or exam and without anyone to teach me. So, I had no one to tell me whether my understanding was correct or wrong.

It was a big relieve that I passed. I don’t know the score, but looking at the general grade for each topic, I should score above 80%. The overall passing rate for Level I was 46% that time. This is really a bad study schedule that I hope people don’t follow. But, it’s also an example that, for someone who don’t know about finance, he/she can still pass CFA Level I exam by self-studying if he/she wants to study hard. Of course, if you have strong interest in Finance, that helps a lot. If you have a goal you want to achieve, that helps even more. After passing level 3 exam, I managed to switch career from IT to finance.

Before I registered for the exam in January 2009, I was actually accepted to Master in Applied Finance course at SMU. I dropped out after the orientation because I felt the course material overlapped with CFA material by more than 50%. Also, I got to know that the year before, the CFA Level I passing rate of the students taking that Master course was around 50-60%. That’s quite disappointing. I know that in a Master program, building network with classmates and alumni is big part of the value of the program. The school’s connection with the corporate world can help in job search as well.

But, I took the risk. Going back to University is a safer path.  Professors teach you. Classmates may help you. The certificate and brand name can open up the opportunity to interview easier than without one. However, I have not taken much risk in my career. So, I wanted to try to take more risk and challenge myself. Remember the previous two posts about risk? In 2009, I also invested 90+% of my savings in stock market. Whenever I got my salary, I saved to invest in stocks.  In December 2009, I took another risk, buying a house, when the property market was at its peak. Luckily, all risks taken in 2009 paid off. What a year!

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