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The Finest Tips and Advices for Your CFA Conquest!

A collection of the best advices to put chance on your side on exam day!

We mentioned in a previous post how there is a wealth of information online on some time tested tips and techniques that increases your odds of succeeding in your CFA quest. We assembled here some of the best tips based on categories. Please note however that there are different routes toward success (and to failure unfortunately) therefore some of these tips may not help you. Also, as with any tips, you must exercise your judgment. I use to have a policy of systematically rejecting tips and advices people were throwing at me. I have now a more nuanced approach and I mentally filter all advice through a rigorous and sophisticated analytical system to determine whether I will implement it or obliterate all traces of this advice from my memory. Needless to say the advice listed below all successfully passed that stringent test and should therefore be useful to all CFA hopefuls!

Physical tips

  • Eat well: Healthy eating habits can boost your energy and increase your concentration level. We shall dedicate a post to nutrition in the near future.
  • Sleep and get up early: If you are like me, you are at your dumbest in the morning. Guess what, the CFA Institute doesn’t care! That’s why if you are not a morning person, get use to get up early to get your brain started early!
  • Be physically active: There has been a wealth of studies showing the connection between physical exercises and a sharp brain.
  • Do not eat too much or something unusual prior to the exam: Don’t let a bad burrito ruin your exam. Time is precious; don’t waste it in the bathroom.

Mental tips

  • Have a winner/conqueror attitude: We call it the warrior mindset. Don’t be a victim, be a conqueror.
  • Don’t study too much: This may seem like a weird advice but craming and studying to close to the exam will only increase your stress level.

Exam taking tips

  • Do the ethics questions last: Ethics questions are typically long and time-consuming. Start with the topics you know best to boost your confidence early on.
  • Watch out for double negatives in the questions: The CFA Institute is very fond of them.
  • Make sure it makes sense: Very often, we rely too much on our calculator but pause to make sure the answer is logical before answering.
  • Manage your time effectively: Don’t waste too much time on a question, if you cannot find the answer, take a guess and come back to it at the end.

Studying tips

  • Study time should reflect exam weight: The time spent on studying a topic should be proportionate to the weight of that topic as given by the CFA Institute.
  • Understanding vs. Memorizing: Although it is always better to understand the topic, there are many concepts and formulas that should just be committed to memory.
  • Do not assume some topic to be unimportant: Even if a topic seems relatively unimportant, don’t just skip it thinking it will not come up on exam day. I fell into that trap myself…
  • Most humans cannot concentrate on something for more than 90 minutes: take at least a 15 minutes break after studying for 1.5 hours. This Huffington Post article will give you more information on increasing your productivity by working for 90 minutes intervals.
  • Take “quality breaks”:  Break should allow you to focus on something completely unrelated to the studying material. My personal favorite is exercise. It can just be doing some push ups to shadow-boxing (though if you study in a public place, it may freak out some people).
  • Break-up the curriculum in small chunks
  • Free yourself from distractions: The main one being the computer and mobile phone along with the social media. The best advice is to “go offline” while you study.
  • Frequently explain the material out loud: As if you were giving a lecture.

There are much more tips and techniques you can implement that will help you achieve success in the exam. Feel free to share with us what works for you by posting a comment of sending us an email.

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