Maori Warriors

Occult Stratagems to Plan Your CFA Success

The secret strategy toward passing your CFA exams!

In the past few years, I have been working and helping many students trying to pass various finance exams and I have been in that position countess times myself. This gave me the opportunity to observe patterns that lead to success on exam day.

In my opinion, there are two general categories of preparations for any exam: the “traditional stuff” and the “esoteric stuff”. These two groups have some degree of correlation so you should not treat them as separate entities although I will address them separately here.

The Traditional Stuff

The traditional preparation tools are discussed in great length in various sources such as Schweser Notes, various websites and even the CFA institute. These include the general planning guidelines in terms of:

  • Building a realistic studying schedule
  • Dividing your study into manageable chunks
  • Being flexible with your time table (if you fall behind schedule, adjust your time table rather than scrapping it!)
  • Take notes on your reading but keep them concise and tidy  so you can refer to them later
  • Focus on questions and practice exam to get a feel of the style of questions


There are many other “traditional” techniques used in planning your CFA success and we will post a tips sheet in the near future but I want to focus on the esoteric stuff since it is often overlooked and it has a significant impact on your success…

The Esoteric Stuff

Ok … I’ll be honest it’s not that esoteric nor mysterious but I have to admit I kinda like that term since it incorporates the concept of intangibility. In order to decisively introduce the concept, check out this awesome video:

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Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you perform a Maori war dance in front of the other CFA candidates before sitting for your CFA exam (although if you do, definitely send me a video I would love to see that!). The important thing here is the attitude and the warrior mindset.  Too often I see students heading for an exam with low confidence and it exudes from their body language.

My point it REGARDLESS HOW WELL PREPARED YOU ACTUALLY ARE, ADOPT A WARRIOR ATTITUDE and act as an assailant rather than a victim. The reason you paid almost 1k and spend countless hours studying is to defeat the exam not to suffer from it.

Most would agree that to succeed, you need to have a positive attitude and think positively. I don’t. You want to be determined and confident rather than positive or negative. In my experience, it’s not about positivity or negativity but about being in the zone or not.

One helpful way to think about it is to think of yourself as a professional athlete preparing for an important game. You would want to intimidate the enemy (the exam) and you will put your “game face” on. For inspiration on coming up with a game face, check out Kevin Hart’s video:

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Your body language should show that determination and confidence. Even if you are actually scared of failing and apprehensive, acting confident will help you.

There are two important points I need to make here. First, you cannot only adopt the warrior attitude on exam day, just like you cannot become a warrior overnight. I suggest you enter into the warrior zone every time you study so that you will train yourself to automatically enter the zone when you study, practice or take the exam.

My observations suggest that this is easier to do for guys and those with previous sports experience since they know better how to get pumped up to face adversity (thanks in part to testosterone). Unfortunately, I have seen many female students who have prepared extremely well for an exam only to break down on exam day due to lack of confidence and an overwhelming wave of self-doubt. The good news is both male and female can cultivate the warrior/professional athlete/aggressor attitude and eradicate the victim mindset!

My second point is actually a warning. Please, do not go too far with this and do not turn your confidence into cockiness. There is actually a fine line and it is very easy to step into the dark side. Confidence is “knowing you can succeed”, cockiness is smearing it on everybody’s face. I have worked in various fields and I noticed that finance has been plagued with a cockiness epidemic…My best advice is to limit your interaction with human beings on exam day so you can stay “in the zone”. However, if you do have to interact, please be respectful and don’t boast on your unlimited knowledge and credentials.

Lets wrap it up by pointing out that this esoteric stuff does not replace adequate exam preparation and putting the required studying hours… However, fostering a conqueror mindset prevents you  from squandering those painful studying hours by failing to raise up to the challenge on exam day!

Below is some footage of various CFA Level 1 candidates who followed my advice on “getting in the zone”.  You can actually see them in the process of adopting the warrior mindset prior to the exam!

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