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Finance Bobcats Advancing Their Careers Through CFA Certification

Thursday, November 21 2019 01:10pm

Investing in the classroom and investing in their careers, College of Business students put in hard work and an extensive amount of studying to prepare for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams.

Tags: Finance

By Meghan McManamon

The CFA program is a three-level process that was created to demonstrate knowledge, experience, and coherence to ethical principles in the finance industry. Students’ dedication pays off in the end as they receive their CFA designation which is highly respected and widely considered the golden standard in finance.

Out of the 250,000 people around the world who sat for the Level 1 exam in 2019, only 45% of them passed. With such a high fail rate, Ohio University's College of Business works to ensure that students have the resources to pass and are confident the first time around. Extraordinarily, last year, 83% of finance majors from the College of Business who sat for the level 1 CFA exam passed.

The 6-hour Level 1 exam is held around the world in June and December each year (levels 2 and 3 are only given in June). The three main topics covered in the Level 1 exam are Ethical and Professional Standards, Financial Reporting and Analysis, and Quantitative Methods. These are all topics that fall into the core curriculum of OHIO's Finance Department.

Preparing for the exam is more than just a few hours set aside for review. The average time a candidate can expect to spend studying for the exam is 300 hours. Though these study hours seem long and demanding, students are not alone in this process — nor do they have to figure it out for themselves. Kaplan Schweser is an exam prep program that the College of Business provides to students which gives them over 3,000 sample questions. The program formulates a personalized study plan that helps students break down the 300 hours that they spend preparing for the exam. (The college's professors help too.)

“The #1 thing that helped me was having a professor that would stop anything and everything to make sure I was confident about the material,” said Robert Lipps, a 2019 College of Business graduate who passed the exam in June 2019.

Lee Wakeman, a professor in the College of Business, has dedicated much of his time helping students prepare for the exam. After sitting for the Level 1 exam himself, Wakeman helps students like Lipps by sharing his knowledge and experience with the process.

A strategy of preparing for the exam that Wakeman follows is known as the “learning pit.” He encourages students to immerse themselves in challenges so tough that they become resilient by the time of the exam. This differs from the common learning curve because it teaches students to cope with falling into a “pit” of confusion before feeling confident with the information.

The College of Business offers students a professional network that has been exposed to the exam, and also the resources that ensure they will be prepared. Offering a hands-on experience for students, all finance majors in the college are equipped with a steady understanding of financial principles, problem-solving skills, and experience with industry-standard analytical tools.

“At the end of the course, I remind students that in the days prior to the exam, they should review the Ethics and Professional Standards section and take the two mock exams that the CFA makes available. I followed my own advice and passed,” Wakeman said.

“My professor, Scott Freeman, sat for the Level 1 exam in December and introduced me to other students who passed the CFA level 1 exam,” said Lipps. “They provided me with motivation and advice on exactly how they prepared to pass. Even after I graduated, these people were in my network to help in any way they could.”

Get Ahead, Stay Ahead

Though OHIO’s curriculum is crafted for student success, there are also over 30 College of Business student organizations that can help further student’s education and skillsets.

For students preparing to sit for the CFA exam, organizations such as the OHIO’s Student Equity Management Group, Student Fixed Income Management Group, and The Ohio University Derivatives Management Group can help cover exam topics.