The CFA programme was originally designed as a self-study course. Both the CFA Institute and other institutions offer online self-study courses consisting of notes, study guides, examination questions and answers, videos and CDs. However, despite these self-study courses, candidates often had difficulty passing the three examinations within three years, and there was demand for a more thorough method of preparing which included structured classroom tuition. This is exactly what the programme at VU Amsterdam provides.
The CFA is based on a concentric approach whereby subjects are repeated at the successive levels. However, the emphasis and the level of abstraction vary across the different levels. The curriculum aims to provide working knowledge on a number of themes that are important in professional practice. The CFA Institute itself uses the following classification for the subjects covered:
• Ethical and Professional Standards
• Quantitative Methods
• Financial Reporting and Analysis
• Corporate Finance
• Equity Investments
• Fixed Income
• Alternative Investments
• Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning
Evening classes. During the regular evening classes, the examination material is discussed under the guidance of expert teachers with practical experience.
The opportunity to practise answering examination questions is another very important aspect of passing the examinations. The lectures include practice answering example questions about the materials covered.
The VU CFA programme involves lots of practice with examination questions. Every final lecture of a module in the VU CFA Level I programme concludes with a practice test.
The test is taken in the first hour. After a short break, the lecturer will discuss the questions from the test.
Three-day examination training.
A few weeks before the exam, there is an intensive three-day course (‘crash course’) including a full examination in line with the standards of the CFA Institute.Over the two days that follow, the examination is discussed with a particular focus on areas of difficulty.
In order to do justice to the curriculum and to provide practice with sample questions, VU Amsterdam uses the tools from the Schweser Study Program: SchweserNotes and SchweserPro QBank: a digital database in which practice tests can be completed in various ways.
CFA level I focuses on the basic techniques and concepts of valuing the various asset categories, the asset allocation process and portfolio management. It provides a broad foundation in areas such as corporate finance, accounting and quantitative methods. Ethics and regulation are also covered.
The CFA level I examination consists of two multiple choice tests lasting 3 hours each.
The emphasis is on the pricing process for different asset categories and on business valuation. The analysis of returns and risks is also covered. For the CFA level II exam, the student must, for example, be able to compare different shares and fixed-income products and to provide advice on them. The level II exam consists of two parts of 3 hours each, with mini case studies and multiple choice questions.