CFA UK undertakes an annual candidate experience survey – in 2015, over 1,800 candidates responded to this survey. We distribute the survey to candidates after the completion of their examinations but before results have been released. Candidate responses are then subsequently aligned with their results and the data analysed for trends and relationships. Nick Bartlett, CFA, ASIP, director of education at CFA UK, highlights five key findings.
IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE WORK EXPERIENCE PRIOR TO TAKING THE CFA EXAMINATIONS?
When the CFA program was first examined in 1963, the youngest candidate was 42 years old. Candidates are now at a very different place in their careers. The median range for a Level I candidate is one to two years’ experience, with 35% of candidates having no work experience at all. A quarter of candidates taking CFA examinations in the UK are university students. At Levels II and III, we see the amount of work experience increasing.
Does this relative lack of work experience impact on exam performance? We find little support for this. In 2015, candidates with one to two years of experience were the best performing. However, no particular trends emerge from analysis of prior years.
Survey respondents pass rates
|Years of work experience in the investment profession||Level I||Level II||Level III|
|More than 7 years||50%||49%||76%|
WHAT SUPPORT DO EMPLOYERS TYPICALLY PROVIDE AND HOW BENEFICIAL IS IT?
The majority of employers provide some level of support to candidates. This typically comes through paying for candidate enrolment and registration fees (57%) or providing paid study leave (58%). Approximately 40% of respondents said their employers paid for courses with training providers paid for. Only 25% of employers provide no support at all. It is most common for employers to provide three to five days of study leave, separate from any time employees may spend on training courses.
A consistent finding is the positive impact of study leave on candidate performance. Having time off before the exam to focus on exam preparation is one of the most supportive actions employers can provide.
WHEN SHOULD I START STUDYING AND BY WHEN SHOULD I HAVE COMPLETED THE CURRICULUM?
For the June 2015 exams, the majority of candidates started their studies in January and February. There is some evidence that those starting their studies very early perform less well. This may be a function of candidate quality, with less able candidates starting earlier. Alternatively, it may relate to the nature and quality of the study undertaken.
The data indicates that candidates should aim to complete reading the curriculum by the end of April. This allows one month focusing on targeted revision and question practice.
HOW MANY HOURS SHOULD I STUDY?
Not surprisingly, there is a positive correlation between self reported hours studied and pass rates. In general, we find that those candidates studying between 300 and 400 hours tend to perform best. Little benefit seems to be obtained from studying more than 400 hours. This may indicate that quality of revision rather than quantity is key.
Approximately how many hours do you believe you studied for the recent CFA exams?
WILL TRAINING PROVISION HELP ME?
The CFA curriculum is designed as a self-study programme; however, many candidates in the UK support their studies
with training provision. Candidates using well-established UK training providers performed better than those not using
training provision. This was found across all three levels of the qualification.
Our research did not differentiate between the levels of support a candidate obtained from the training provider (for
example, between those who simply purchased some additional distance learning materials and those who undertook a full
training course). Nor does our research seek to differentiate to what extent this effect is being driven by better quality
Training providers differ in the range and nature of the products and services they offer and we stress the importance of doing due diligence to assess that a training provider is going to be able to meet your needs.
SOURCE: CFA Candidate Experience Survey. Respondents represent a sample of the candidate population in the UK. Sample size varied between 1,486 and 1,805 respondents.
Read more from our report in the Summer 2016 issue of Professional Investor [login required]