Secrets of CFA Revealed!

Updated: May 4

In the introductory post on CFA, I asked two students of IIM Ahmedabad the basics of CFA preparation. The post received an overwhelming response and a lot of follow-up queries were shared by the CFA aspirants. This post will address some of those.

This time, I got in touch with a non-engineer female student of IIM-Ahmedabad, a CFA Level 3 Candidate to understand better about CFA. She is a commerce graduate and a fresher. From here on, she has been called A.


Me: Hi, thank you so much for taking out time to address the queries of students.

A: It's my pleasure, I've been in that place.

Me: So, can you start by telling us why did you think of doing CFA?

A: I was interested in finance and there were not many finance opportunities straight out of college. Being a fresher, CFA sounded like a good way to showcase my interest in finance to finance recruiters in any B-school. I didn’t have CFA during the summers but I made sure to clear some levels before the final placements.

Me: Without CFA, were you able to grab the finance shortlists?

A: Yes, I got 1 Private Equity shortlist and majorly the corporate finance shortlists. Most students with CFA L1 got some finance shortlists during the summer placements.


Me: Why do you say most of the candidates? Does a CFA not guarantee shortlists?

A: The competition at IIM-A is intense and many students have cleared CFA L1. Finance recruiters give a lot of importance to academic scores and hence, the students with low academic scores and CFA L1 sometimes aren't able to make the cut.

Me: In fact, this was the query of a lot of students. Can someone with, let's say, 70% in graduation get a finance shortlist by any chance?

A: There are two ways to look at it. Firstly, 70% in itself doesn't convey anything. You might have scored 70% and still landed as the topper of your batch. By good academics, I mean being in the top 1% of your batch. You can always mention your rank in the CV to emphasize on this. Now, if you don't have a good rank, then you should at least be CFA Level 2 to get the same shortlist. Secondly, if you don't get a shortlist in summers, the only resort is to score high at the B-school to get the shortlist in the finals. As per my viewpoint, a top ranker at IIM can get a finance shortlist in the finals even without CFA.

Me: That gives a lot of clarity. When did you appear for the levels and how much did you study?

A: I appeared for CFA level 1 just after the summer internships at IIM-A i.e. in December 2018 Then, I gave level 2 in June 2019. Honestly, it took me lesser time to prepare. But, in general L1 can take 1-2 months with 2 hours of preparation every day. L2 is far more difficult and may require 2-3 months of preparation with 4 hours of preparation every day.

Me: Can you tell us something about the CFA Scholarship? Did you have one?

A: Yes, so CFA Scholarships are of different kinds. I was eligible for two of them - Access and Women's. I was granted the Access Scholarship for Level 3.


Me: How much aid is given as a part of the Scholarship?

A: So, CFA Level 3 costs between Rs. 60,000 - Rs. 1,00,000 depending on the exchange rate and time of registration. After the Scholarship, I had to pay only Rs. 17,000 for Level 3.

Me: That's amazing! Can you help the aspirants by guiding on how to apply for the Scholarship?

A: You can go the CFA Institute's Portal and read the eligibility criteria of application. The Access Scholarship evaluates the candidates on three aspects mainly - the family's economic status, the candidate’s achievements and the inclination of the candidate towards the finance sector (career pursuit). The candidates are also required to submit an essay sharing their reason for the application.

Me: Can you share some tips on writing the essay?

A: It should broadly be divided into 3 parts: your past, present and future. In the past, you should write about your academic background and humbly describe your achievements. In the present, you should clearly express the reason for needing the scholarship. In the future, you should mention where you see yourself in the finance field down the line.

Me: Is there any other advice you have for the candidates based on your experience?

A: One thing I'd like to say is that candidates should apply for the Scholarship as soon as possible. There is no clear evidence about the same but sometimes the allocations are done on the FCFS basis. If the institute doesn't have funds left, they may not offer a Scholarship.


Me: Thank you so much. It was an insightful discussion and I'm sure many students will be able to benefit from your experience.

A: It's my pleasure. All the best to the applicants!

Hope the discussion gives you a flavour for CFA. As mentioned, CFA L1 shows interest of the candidate in Finance but CFA L2 takes it one step forward and increases one’s chances of getting finance shortlists, in some cases, also when the academic scores in the past are not good.


May this land you in your dream job in finance. Reach out to me if you have a similar query on Non-Engineers Facebook Page or message me directly on the blog and I should find the right non-engineers to get your concern addressed.

Please note that the views mentioned in the post are of one individual and shouldn't be taken as a proxy to predict the shortlists you'll get. A lot of factors go into that evaluation.


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