CFA Preparation: Crunch Time

There are countless ways to prepare for an exam like the CFA and each individual probably has his or her methods. That being said, I always found it useful to hear about other ways in order to improve my own. I think that one of the fundamental ways that my preparation differs from many others is through the effort level. What do I mean?

Constant Effort Candidates

Many candidates make a choice to put an equal amount of time for more or less the entire exam period. This could have different meanings but one example would be candidates that study 1-2 evenings and a weekend day for the 3-4 months prior to the exam. That would certainly help in a few different ways:

-Progress is constant
-Less pressure felt (you know that you are on pace early on)

My Method: Exponential Effort Candidate

My method was very different however. While I looked at my books in the first few months, I would say that over 80% of my studying was done in the last month, probably over 40% in the last 2 weeks alone! For those who are taking the level #1 exam in December, you are now at the point where you should be putting most of my energy. So while I put 3-4 hours per week in the first few months, I basically took away all other aspects of my life in the last month. Why? Here are the main reasons:

-I felt like studying time was more efficient in the last few weeks
-I felt the pressure at the end so I focused on the critical material
-I did get tired of the material months before
-The great intensity generates significant progress that is very encouraging

It’s not a perfect method and there are some flip sides to it:

-You probably could not take one more week by the time of the exam
-You need extensive support from family and friends as they are more or less ignored for a few weeks
-Physically, it takes a toll.. especially if you have a full time job to worry about.

What The First Two Weeks Of The Final Month Look Like

I will write another post regarding the last weeks because they are the “hit or miss” part of my studying time. But to give you an idea. The first two weeks before the exam would be something along the lines of:

Monday-Friday: Assuming that you have a full time job, spend 3-4 evenings either at home or at somewhere quiet. You will basically review a different part of the material every day. How? I would typically do practice questions for that section for an hour, review the books to look at material that I do not understand, and then repeat those 2 steps.

Saturday: Practice exam! I would do a practice exam, correct it carefully, and try to understand the mistakes. It’s important by now to look at the time that you are  spending on the exam to stay within the limits. Ideally, you can get to a pace where time does not stress you out. I would spend close to 3 hours doing the exam (well half exam in fact). Then, add those results to everything else that you’ve done and make a plan for the upcoming week.

-What sections do you need to spend most time on? Are any of the big sections still a problem for you?

Sunday: I would spend some time (not all day because you do need to relax a little) over your weakest “important section”.

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