- CFA Exams
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- Topic: 10 Tips for Passing the Level I Exam
|Author||Topic: 10 Tips for Passing the Level I Exam|
|Often, Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam candidates aren't sure how to get started studying for the test. Some may feel intimidated, while others underestimate the exam's difficulty - and the study time required.
Fortunately, there are straightforward steps you can take to improve your chances on the test. Below are ten CFA exam preparation tips to help you achieve results:
1. Know every relevant function on the official CFA calculator.
Familiarity with the CFA exam's official calculator (the TI BAII Plus) isn't enough: you need to know all of its important functions backward and forward.
2. Don't save practice questions until the end.
Some candidates wait until the end of their studies to work on practice questions. This can be a disastrous mistake.
The most effective way to study is to apply your knowledge continuously, checking how well you've learned the material at every stage. After each reading, go through practice exam standard questions, and then guide your further studies accordingly.
3. Understand how topics will be tested.
The syllabus provided by the CFA Institute is organized by Learning Outcome Statements (or LOSs), each of which has a corresponding command word such as 'Calculate' or 'Compute.' LOSs lacking these commands, for example, probably won't appear in the exam as calculation questions.
4. Don't spend time on non-examinable facts and formulas.
It's common for nervous candidates to try to go the extra mile and study material outside of the CFA curriculum. But this can be as big a mistake as under-preparing, wasting valuable time studying the wrong things. Stick to the CFA curriculum books. Which leads straight to the next tip.
5. Don't overlook the CFA curriculum books.
You need to actually use the CFA curriculum books. They're expansive, and the quantity of material discourages some candidates, but the material here comes right from the source. Attempt all questions and pay attention to blue box examples.
6. Don't study the curriculum in the same order as the Study Sessions.
Here's a tip: the Study Sessions in the curriculum are ordered arbitrarily, and not in a way most conducive to effective learning. Focus on Quantitative Methods first, then Financial Reporting and Analysis - these techniques are the building blocks for what comes later. Study Accounting early and often. Leave "wordier" topics like Economics and Ethics until the latter part of your studies.
7. Don't overemphasize the tricky parts.
It's natural to focus most on the areas you find most challenging. There's some sense to this, but make sure you're not focusing on the tough stuff to the exclusion of everything else. The exam will cover everything, so make sure you know everything - not just the most challenging parts.
8. Practice questions to reduce time pressure in the exam.
On average, you'll need to finish a question every minute and a half. It's absolutely possible to complete the exam ahead of time, but to do so, practice questions will need to be a major component of your study.
From the very start of your studies, work to complete practice questions in the right amount of time, taking no more than fifteen minutes for ten questions. If you complete thousands of questions at this pace from the start, you'll be well-prepared on the day of the exam.
9. Be realistic about the time it will take to study the curriculum.
The CFA Institute recommends you spend 300 hours on studying, and you need to use every one of those hours. That means evaluating your schedule well ahead of time and making a place for this major time commitment - the effort of studying won't be worth it if you're unable to allocate the necessary time.
Start about four months before the exam, and spend 15 to 20 hours a week on your studies.
10. Don't panic.
On the day of the test, even if your CFA exam preparation has been thorough, you may find the material difficult. Don't panic. If you're finding the test difficult, so is everyone else. You don't have to get every hard question right to pass. Instead, master easy to moderate questions, manage your time well, and keep a level head. If you can manage this, you'll be well-positioned for success.