Chalk and Board

What Do People Look for Today? One Word: Experience

What Do People Look for Today? One Word: Experience


Ever ask your boss a question and find them struggling to provide you with guidance? You become further dismayed when their response lacks depth and critical reasoning. You fear probing any further lest you make them your enemy come bonus time. In fact, the next time you solicit their perspective, it seems they find ways to make themselves unavailable to you. You start wondering why your “mentor,” the person you thought would be taking you under their wing and grooming you, is unable to give you the attention, nurturing and perspective you crave. The answer is EXPERIENCE. Your boss may not have been part of the company fabric for long or doesn’t know the business landscape as well as they should. Therefore, they have not honed their skills or developed a level of experience that inspires confidence.

The CFA exam preparation process isn’t any different. Candidates worldwide enter the CFA program, but once they begin putting in hours and hours of study, many feel overwhelmed and question their ability to pass. Then they question whether they have the discipline to stick it out or wonder if they really need the CFA charter at all. Passing any CFA exam level is a major commitment of time and effort. It requires motivation and discipline. Fear that they don’t have what it takes is what keeps many candidates from completing their journey to securing the charter.

How can you avoid this spiral of helplessness? I recommend not going through the process alone. Although the CFA program is self-study, you should seek help from a seasoned instructor. What constitutes a seasoned instructor? EXPERIENCE.

The following is a list of qualities that I witnessed and appreciated in my own CFA program instructor and that I believe are crucial to effective instruction for all candidates:

  1. My instructor was a charterholder and had the letters “CFA” after their name. Why seek guidance from someone who has not completed the rigorous CFA journey themselves?
  2. My instructor did not rely on a deck of slides with bullet points to teach. An experienced instructor knows forced memorization does not foster the understanding and application that are needed to pass each exam level. Besides, I can read PowerPoint slides on my own.
  3. My instructor was easily accessible and answered questions promptly. An experienced CFA program instructor has the knowledge to answer questions with the right amount of depth and stays focused on what the candidate needs to understand. They have a vested interest in their students’ success and don’t make anyone wait a week for a reply.
  4. My instructor was engaging and kept my interest. After a full day at work I found it challenging to remain focused for three hours in a live or virtual classroom environment. An experienced instructor can gauge their students well and knows how to strike a good balance between review and practice. They also have a sense of humor and can add levity in the live or virtual classroom.
  5. My instructor added value. Experienced instructors do not waste time going over basic material, nor do they explain the obvious. They explain the underpinnings of essential concepts and how to apply them to exam questions.
  6. My instructor (or the company he represented) was not the cheapest on the market. An experienced CFA program instructor focuses on being the best at teaching and helping students pass the exam, but prices their services fairly and competitively. Selecting the least expensive instruction source may not pay off in the long run—sitting for any exam level more than once is more costly in both money and time.
  7. My instructor inspired me with the confidence I needed to pass the exam. Studying and taking practice exams is important, but so is self-confidence. An experienced instructor knows that many candidates have moments of self-doubt during the study process and can empathize because they have been through the CFA journey themselves.

While there is no instructor that is a perfect match for every candidate—teaching styles and learning styles differ from person to person—the qualities above are what I offer as an experienced instructor because I believe they create the best formula to increase each student’s chance of success. If you think this program is the one to help you on this journey, please visit

       – Nathan Ronen, CFA, is a cofounder of Chalk & Board, a CFA test-prep company located in the greater New York City area. Nathan has over 22 years of CFA teaching experience and is recognized as one of the top instructors in the world. 


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