My C.I.F.A Journey

by Monicah Wangari
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Sometimes, preparing in advance for victory actually gets you the victory.

I wrote this article in my notebook during my December holiday. This was before I even knew the outcome of my exam.

Sometimes, we travel a journey we thought short, for so many miles. To the point, we feel like it is never-ending. We sometimes get discouraged and alight that bus.

It’s okay to quit if you feel something doesn’t serve you. It is not okay to quit if you still have even the tiniest willpower to pursue it.

When a course is close to my heart, I hardly quit. I will stop for a while when it gets weary then resume later.

The statement above defines my journey with a KASNEB (Kenya Accountants and Secretaries National Examinations Board) course. A journey known by many Kenyans.

How I begun my C.I.F.A Journey

I was a second year in Kenyatta University taking Bachelor of Economics and Statistics. We used to have long holidays of up to four months where we’d sit idly at home. So I figured, how about finding another course to pursue. I approached a lecturer who advised me to take the then CSIA (Certified Securities and Investment Analysts). My parents were in full support and so I began in 2012. I enrolled at Star College of Management Studies which up to date is the best CIFA (the name changed from CSIA) college.

CIFA (Certified Investment and Financial Analysts) has six sections each with three units making a total of 18 units. Exam sittings, which take three hours per paper, happen every six months, in May and November. The shortest period one can take to complete the whole course is one and a half years – by combining two sections. The longest period is indefinite as some never really complete.

How I hit rock bottom

The beginning for me was easy as I passed Sections one, two and three without much hustle. In section four, I failed one unit which I had to redo in the next exam sitting. Failing means you have to pay KASNEB again to sit for that exam. I passed then went on to sections five and six which to be honest, crushed me. I would fail, repeat, fail again, repeat until I decided to take a break.

Well, my break took four years. It’s crazy how fast time flies.

My comeback

Within the four years, it kept bugging me that I need to get it done. To update my CV that am done with CIFA. So, I set my mind in 2018 to finish CIFA in 2019. Since time had passed, I had to take the whole section six exams again. It’s a rule that if you don’t retake the failed exam for a certain period, you have to redo the whole section. I passed two papers and was left with Derivatives. I did Derivatives in November 2019. I’ve never been more hopeful about passing. And guess what, I did.

Thing is, the going might get hard, but if you are determined to finish, you will. No matter how long it takes. And you will feel so damn proud of yourself. Even if the world doesn’t notice, your closest people will and that is enough. 

Understand that there are people who will choose the same journey as you. Some will not finish, others will finish earlier and others later. And that’s just how life is.

I recall cussing at KASNEB sometimes when the going got hard, with me saying once done with CIFA am done with KASNEB.

The guy who said never say never was right.

I cannot wait to begin my next journey.

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christopher kinovi January 18, 2020 - 3:14 pm

What a journey,this is really inspiring congratulations.This reminds me of my CPA journey too,i have to keep going till the end.Never say never.

Monicah Wangari January 18, 2020 - 4:24 pm

Thank you Chris,
Glad you are inspired, finish we celebrate 🥂

Reagan January 18, 2020 - 9:49 pm

whoa its amazing the willpower one gets when you are completely enthusiastic by something. Hats off, for making it to the end may you receive the reward that you are deserving of.

Monicah Wangari January 18, 2020 - 9:57 pm

Hey Reagan,
Yeah, willpower is something!
Thank you 😄

Godfrey Mosomi September 8, 2020 - 5:07 pm

I am just planning to join and after reading this i am already inspired. However you havent highlighted the benefits that came after completing the CIFA course. Is it worth investing for!!!

Monicah Wangari September 9, 2020 - 10:07 am

Hey Godfrey,

Glad to be of inspiration and good question there.
I think the odds for any CIFA graduate are the same as any other courses graduate.
There are no guarantees and fate leads us all in different directions despite having similar qualifications.
Personally, I am yet to utilize the qualification. However, I just became an associate member of the institute (ICIFA) and hope to soon put it to practice.

Samuel October 5, 2020 - 8:06 pm

I guess everyone has a struggle with CIFA… I registered for the course as a joke,my intention was to do CFA, so coming from an accounting background I thought I would easily sail through this. I challenged myself to finish it within one and half years, self studying and so decided to combine them sections. Part 1 I already had my doubts with that Financial Institutions paper cause I didn’t have any reading material. I remember doing that paper within 30 mins having accepted my L and moved on to read for next paper. Interesting part once I discovered all the material was sourced from CFA books, cleared part 2 in one sitting. Almost made it also for part 3 in one sitting but remember derivatives paper doing a number on me, I just had to be humble and take another L on the chin. I did the refer paper all along smiling knowing I was getting a pass..even had time to chat with the exam supervisor. The biggest benefit of doing CIFA is that it has made doing CFA very easy.

Monicah Wangari October 6, 2020 - 9:26 am

Hey Samuel,

Thank you for sharing your experience

Oh wow! I applaud you for completing it so fast (yes, derivatives is quite a beast) and congratulations on beginning CFA

Isaac December 27, 2020 - 12:56 pm

Wooow I have enjoyed this. Am currently waiting for the November 2020 results and see if I will be done with it.

Monicah Wangari December 27, 2020 - 1:06 pm

Thanks Isaac
All the best🙏

Marc January 10, 2021 - 6:36 pm


I am CPA finalist, I want to enroll for CIFA, which part will I be exempted. Or, which part and section will I begin with? Thanks

Monicah Wangari January 14, 2021 - 8:54 am Reply
Emma kiama January 22, 2021 - 8:54 pm

Wow i feel inspired by your blog, am too taking economics and statistics and am thinking of starting my cifa course. I hope it won’t be very though thou. I too want to start my journey see how it will take me

Monicah Wangari January 26, 2021 - 2:08 pm

Hey Emma,

Glad I inspired you. Go for it! And put your best foot forward 🙂

Kev February 2, 2021 - 5:32 pm

What a journey! Congratulations. I would appreciate if you would shed some light on membership and annual renewal fees.

Monicah Wangari February 4, 2021 - 9:56 am

Hi Kevin,

Thank you.
For information on fees, kindly visit their website which I’ve put in this comment;

Sarah March 5, 2021 - 3:14 pm

Congratulations are in order. I also took Economics and Statistics and sometimes wonder what I can do with it or improve it.

Monicah Wangari March 7, 2021 - 3:23 pm

Thank you Sarah. I guess CIFA would be a good start 🙂

Amne shee October 3, 2021 - 9:11 pm

Hi Monicah so inspired by your currently doing bachelor in BCOM in my 1st year sem 3 but i decided to take an academic leave for this sem 3..I feel like i need to sit down and make up my mind cuz i have been thinking of starting CPA and i researched on the course and everything i need to know before i start..i feel like i wanna leave my bachelor course and take up CPA cuz i think it is of more benefit in future to be a CPA-K holder as it is more marketable…please advise me on what to do..

Monicah Wangari October 5, 2021 - 10:08 am

Hey Shee,

Here’s my honest feedback based on what I have observed over the years.
Different paths will lead you to different destinations. It’s really admirable that you are taking your future seriously by taking some time off to reorganize and restructure. I like that you understand that your future is your responsibility and that it is in your hands.

See this time off as an opportunity. An opportunity to really dig into who you are. A chance to sit still.
Ask yourself “what do I like?”

This is how I see the opportunity to study in a university. A university is a hub of knowledge and experiences. I believe you should grab at every chance you get as long as it grows you. Explore to learn life skills and add on to your knowledge. Join recreational clubs like Rotaract, Sports Clubs, Red Cross, Presidential Club. You are going to grow as a person when you do.

I believe it’s possible to pursue both the BCOM and CPA. Whereby you attend CPA classes during your long holidays.
Remember good things take time so be patient with yourself through this whole process.


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