Which Level I CFA® Exam Should You Take—December or June?
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On the surface, it sounds like a no-brainer. Starting with the December Level I exam shaves six months off the time needed to take all three exams, right? Yes, in theory that’s true—if you pass all three on the first try. But let’s dive into this a bit more so you know what you’re against if you decide on this route.
LEVEL I: THE DECEMBER PATH
Let’s say you take the December exam and pass. Now what? Well, you don’t get your results until about the third week of January and you can’t register for the Level II exam until you have them. Assuming you click ‘register’ three nanoseconds after you get your pass notice, it will still take a week or two to get your Level II exam materials. That only gives you about four months at best to study for the next exam. Not impossible, but you are definitely behind the eight ball.
Oh, but that’s not all. Because you can’t register for the Level II exam until late January, you have missed the least expensive registration period. So not only will you be crunched for time, but your wallet will be a bit lighter as well if you choose the December exam route.
Up until now, we assumed you passed the December exam. Well, don’t forget that pesky low pass rate looming in front of you. Approximately 40% of all Level I takers pass and move on to the next exam. But that means the remaining 60% will have to rinse and repeat if they want to want to continue on the CFA path.
What does it mean if you fail a December exam?
Well, the same scenario above applies: you will have less time AND it will cost you more money to register for the next exam. But like those late night infomercials, that’s still not all! If you have to take the Level I exam again in the following year, you will have the ‘opportunity’ to study a new curriculum. Remember, the material changes every calendar year, at least a little bit.
SO HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO STARTING WITH A JUNE EXAM?
If you pass, you have plenty of time to register within the first price break, so you will save money. Registering that early also gives you a leg up on all those taking the December exam. You have at least five additional months to study for that brutal Level II exam. And you don’t have to start studying right away. You can take a little time off to recharge. That is definitely not a luxury you have if you take a December exam.
If you fail the June exam, you have missed the first price break, but there is a ‘benefit’ to retaking the exam in December. Because the next exam is in the same calendar year, you do not have to learn any new material. You can use the same curriculum you used to study for the June exam.
Before you embark on the path to your CFA designation, take time to think about which is the best path for you. Feel free to tell us in the comments below if this information has changed your exam timing strategy at all.