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More CFA® Level 1 Study Materials

April 30th, 2012
A typical CFA Candidates desktop

The CFA exam(s) are approaching and that means more traffic for some old blog posts I wrote, it also means some folks are likely in for a rude awakening when they sit their first practice exam or on the actual exam day. Since most people are lazy and impatient here is the direct link to my updated problem set. Here is the direct link to my even more useful sample problem generator. Both are Excel files, the latter requires macros to be enabled as it uses a random number generator. Eventually I typed up some hints on solving 30 of the harder types of CFA Level 1 calculations.

I’d previously uploaded these to my personal domain and tried to explain them in more than one blog post. In brief though there are just over 120 practice problems they are in no way weighted like a practice exam. They are in the style of CFA Level 1 exam questions and they are based on practice problems and examples I encountered previously, there is no guarantee of accuracy and doubly no guarantee these questions will appear on the upcoming June 2nd examination.

Pretty much all these practice problems will require a calculator, thus most of them deal with accounting, corporate finance, or asset valuation. Economics, portfolio management, and miscellaneous mathematical concepts are also covered. There are zero ethics questions obviously. You should most definitely review the official materials and sit an actual practice exam if possible.

There is a lot more CFA exam related websites than there were five or six years ago. Analyst Forums seems to have become a sales brochure for 3rd party study materials. I don’t have much experience with various commercial products, but I do know they are ‘shared’ excessively online.

I try not to, break the law.

When I was trying to improve some of the answers and explanations in my Excel files I discovered that Investopedia now has a very lengthy and thorough CFA Level 1 Study Guide. I haven’t read it in its entirety, but I did read the entire Ethics and Standards section. It was not brief and was written in a more frank manner than the official material. Although it can be good to get another explanation of some concepts such as how convertible bonds are handled when calculating diluted earnings per share, my fear with any non-official material that you may download online, including mine, is it will not 100% accurately reflect the material being tested or that it will contain errors.

I make no guarantees about my own study materials, I’m just a blogger. Investopedia is an ad supported website but it definitely isn’t infallible. Hopefully Investopedia actually does fix their examples when web surfers find mistakes and they do try to keep their online study guide somewhat up to date as it is a nice, free, legal resource. One advantage to a study guide that is a website is you can use Google to search it, they have official and unofficial study materials that are digital and thus search-able quickly and easily, the tradeoff being of course eye fatigue in reading 100s of pages of text on a computer screen.

By sticking exclusively with calculator style problems, there is less risk they become outdated. The CFA Code of Standards and Ethics does change and the Investopedia study guide reflects the changes at least up until 2010 based upon my reading. Accounting standards also change, whereas explanations of key mathematical or economics concepts are unlikely to ever become outdated. I might add one or two more practice problems to my Excel spreadsheets, but you need to learn a lot more material than just what is covered in my 120 plus practice problems.

Good luck and if you find any mistakes in my materials let me know and I will try and fix them.


Once again personal and health problems are getting in the way of my studying for the CFA exam. I did learn of another free and apparently quite extensive online study guide. Hopefully all the material posted doesn’t violate copyrights. They also recommend an iPhone App which I’ll have to check out.

Update 2

People occasionally write me looking for study notes. If you’re too lazy to Google for study notes yourself, or you can’t understand the study notes you steal off the Internet, the likelihood of you passing all three CFA exams is approximately raised to the power of the product of pi times i added to one. I occasionally search the Internet for a second opinion when the official CFA books leave me wanting greater clarity or a briefer explanation that I can then put on a flash card. Today I turned up Apple Li’s CFA blog, which has her notes from a previous Level 1 exam. They can be difficult to navigate, I even tried a second web browser, same frustration. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of Blogspot…

Update 3

While reviewing and making yet more flash cards I discovered again via Google a blog called CFA Glossary. I don’t know if the writer took the glossary from one of the official CFA Institute books or what. Now it is possible to get a digital copy of the official books and even carry them on your iPhone should you want to read hundreds of pages of text on a really small screen. Or you can use Google when you come to a conundrum like the difference between mortgage backed securities and collateralized mortgage obligations.

More Online Resources

I keep finding material that wasn’t online half a dozen years ago, such as these sites:

I can’t say I recommend blogging about the CFA program at least not until you have passed all three exams.

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