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When Should You Be Entering the CFA Program: December or June?

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Now that CFA Institute will be holding December Level II exams starting in 2014, this question is much easier to answer.

What? You hadn’t heard about this new December exam development? 300 Hours broke the news this past April in their blog. They also reference the related press release.

But before you start celebrating, you should be aware of a couple of things:

  • First – the announcement is nowhere on the CFA Institute website.
  • Second – the blog was dated April 1, 2013.

Yep - It was an April Fool’s joke. There will be no December Level II exam in the near (or foreseeable) future. If only it were true, the June vs. December exam decision would be much easier. I wrote about this topic last year, but with a new crop of people entertaining the idea of pursuing their CFA Charter, it seems an appropriate time to dust off this topic.

Start in December

It’s June, so it seems reasonable to register for the next exam in December rather than wait for the following June, right? After all, time is money. Well maybe. But before you register, think about this:

If you pass the December exam, you have very little time to prepare for the June Level II exam. Why? Because you can’t register for the Level II exam until you get your December exam results – usually the third week in January. That also means you won’t receive your curriculum until some time in early February – less than four months before the June exam.

On the other hand, if you take the exam in June and pass, you can register for the Level II exam as soon as registration opens (end of July/beginning of August). That means you have almost five more months to prepare than if you took the December exam route. And, you can take advantage of the lowest price as well. So in this case, hurrying to take the first available exam may not support the adage that time is money. 

Start in June

Having more time to study and paying lower costs aren’t the only advantages to starting in June. If you don’t pass the June exam, you have the opportunity to take it again in December. There is an advantage to this. Exams given in the same year use the same curriculum which means you won’t have to learn new material.

Another thing to consider:  Since the June 2014 exam is a year off, you have time to brush up on the basics (accounting, quantitative analysis and economics). In fact, if you wanted, you would have time to take community college courses to get up to speed. This is especially important if you do not have an academic background in those topics.

December or June: The decision is yours.

It is possible to pass the December Level I exam and then successfully tackle the following June Level II exam, but it isn’t the easiest path. Carefully consider these points; additionally, take into account your personal situation before hitting the submit button on the exam registration page.

–Linda Lam

Linda Lam has worked with a candidate review program since 2000.

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