|Topic||Some advice for the Dec L1 takers|
|Just a few things that I have learned from my experiences in L1 and L2 that I thought might be worth sharing.....
1. It usually doesn't pay off to mess with the order of the curriculum. People sometimes get rather creative with this, but personally I think it's best to start with Quant, then work your way though to the end - Ethics is the one area that I would always recommend leaving until the end (otherwise you will have forgotten all of it).
2. Personally I found AnalystNotes very useful for L1, particularly the mock exams - I highly recommend you get this!!!!! I only used CFA required readings for those areas where I had problems understanding the AN text and went through some of the EOC questions towards the end of my studying.
3. The methodology of studying that worked best for me: read each chapter (or several if they are short), take notes (this really helps to reinforce what you have just read), do all of the questions at the end of the chapter. Don't get hung up about every tiny detail, but don't move on unless you feel that you have understood the material! This took me about 2 months for L1. I then spent another 1-2 months re-reading my notes, doing basic and review questions here like crazy, filling gaps. The last 4 weeks I spend on the CFA sample and mock and the AN mock exams (I finished 7 out of 10 mock exams).
4. When you are doing practice exams, make sure that you go through ALL the questions afterwards, not just the ones that you got wrong! You may have answered questions correctly out of sheer luck, so it's key to really go through all answers carefully. Take your time with this, if you rush through this the learning effect will be a lot less!
5. Don't panic! There will be times (with me usually when I hit study session 8 or 9) when you start feeling that you will never be able to retain all this information. We all go throug this. Just keep plodding on - if you have timed your studying well, you will have plenty of time to memorize.
6. Formulas: there are tons of forumlas to memorize (and if you think L1 is bad, wait until you get to L2!!!). The best way to remember them all is to a) write a formula collection, b) read it through regularly, c) practice, practice, practice. Some forumlas will inevitably remain elusive, but if you do enough practice questions you will eventually know many of them blind. The CFA EOC questions give you a pretty good idea what the exam will focus on.
7. US GAAP and IFRS: this is a bit of a nightmare for most people. For every accounting rule, there seems to be a US GAAP and an IFRS version. I set up a small spreadsheet with the rules and the different treatments, that helped (and before anyone asks, I don't actually have it anymore - but believe me, it makes a lot more sense to do this yourself rather than just using someone elses).
8. FSA: This is the most difficult area for most people. Lease accounting, long-lived assets, income taxes, and the dynamics of the cash flow statement are all not easy (unless you have prior knowledge). Here it is definitely a good to take a closer look at the CFA text in addition to An or Schweser. Given the heavy weighting of FSA in the exam, spend a good amount of time on this. You have to know this stuff....there are no short-cuts here.
9. Be precise: the CFA often tries to tripp you up in the exam. They will give you a seemingly easy question, but there is going to be snag. Some little detail that you are going to overlook unless you pay close attention. So be precise, take no short-cuts when you are doing the calculations, and double check (if possible) whether the result makes sense.
10. There are usually a lot of discussions about when to start studying. I feel that there is no formula that can be applied to everyone, so make your own choice. You probably need to schedule roughly 250-300 hours of studying in total (just a general guideline). When you set your study schedule (a MUST!), consider the following: how many hours a week can I REALISTICALLY dedidate for a prolonged period of time? The CFA is not a short sprint but a full-blown marathon. There is no point in planning 15 hours a week if you can really only manage 10. I would go for a conservative estimate - in case you notice that you are ahead of schedule you can always treat yourself to an extra day off. Better than rushing like mad at the end. Also, do leave room for about a week off before the final stretch. Many people start feeling burned out at the end (I took L1 in Dec 09 and L2 in June 10 - one year of non-stop studying, talk about burning out!!!), so it's nice to be able to take a break before hitting the final 4-5 weeks.
Overall, the Level 1 material is not necessarily difficult, but it's a lot and the CFA is definitely not in the business of providing a free lunch for anyone. This is about dedication and discipline. If you have half a brain and put in a decent amount of time studying, you should have a good chance of passing, but you HAVE to put in the time. There are always people who will tell you that they studied for only 3 weeks and passed - don't let yourself be distracted by that. Half the time it's probably not true, and in cases where it is we are probably taking about Economics and Quant Phd's with accounting degrees on top of it :-)