I’m writing this post in response to a comment left by thefreshinvestor on one of my posts. First up, the comment:

Any particular tips or resources you found particularly handy ? I’m still a while away cause I’m a 2nd year uni student but would be interested in getting a head start no matter how small

What I’m about to say is by no means a concrete study plan which guarantees that you would pass the exam. It’s just a collection of thoughts as someone who has cleared all the papers as well as having some training in pedagogy.

Format

First off, let’s review the structure of the exams (taken from CFA Institute website):

Level 1 (L1)

  • Morning session (3 hours): 120 multiple choice questions, covering all topics
  • Afternoon session (3 hours): 120 multiple choice questions, covering all topics

more details here.

Level 2 (L2)

The Level II exam has a total of 20 item set questions:

  • Morning session: 10 item set questions
  • Afternoon session: 10 item set questions

On the Level II exam, you will have a total of 120 items (20 vignettes with 6 items each) compared to 240 multiple choice items on the Level I exam.

more details here.

Level 3 (L3)

The Level III exam consists of item set and constructed response (essay) questions:

  • Morning session: Constructed response (essay) questions (usually between 8 and 12 questions, each with several subparts) with a maximum of 180 points. (The point value for each question is provided in the exam book.)
  • Afternoon session: 10 item set questions

more details here.

Tips

So, given the format of each level of the CFA exam, the first thing that you should notice is that every level’s exam format is slightly different.In L1, due to the sheer number of questions, there will be hardly any time to think through the question. Given the breadth of the syllabus as well as the fact that not everyone sitting for the paper will have an undergraduate training in every area, the questions are typically not meant to have lengthy calculations just to arrive at the answer. In short,

In L1, due to the sheer number of questions, there will be hardly any time to think through the question. Given the breadth of the syllabus as well as the fact that not everyone sitting for the paper will have an undergraduate training in every area, the questions are typically not meant to have lengthy calculations just to arrive at the answer. In short, practice to the point of muscle memory is key. Just head on over to the examples of questions in the link to details of L1 to see what I mean.

For L2, every set will provide some information that will help you answer the questions. The good news is that the question set is usually topical e.g. don’t expect to see questions from economics blended in with accounting. The bad news is that with fewer questions, the answers may not be too straight-forward. i.e. don’t just jump at the first answer you think is the right one. Once again, practice lots.

L3 is a whole different ball game. The ‘essay’ is typically not a full essay but more a few short and sweet paragraphs. i.e. Don’t beat around the bush and just get to the main points that will help you answer the question. If you ask me, rambling is a sign of ignorance. Once again, this entails practice.

Across all levels, given the sheer amount of information you have to learn, I find it easier to study hard, make notes and practice LOTS of questions. If you haven’t practiced to the point where you dream of questions and formulas (especially for L1 and 2) that you need to use, you haven’t done enough.

To make effective notes, use something like a Cornell note-taking strategy that you can use to easily test your recall of formulas and concepts anytime and place. You can start by practicing end-of-chapter questions (crucial for the section on Ethics) and then gradually move on to any question sets you might find online.

Lastly, know thyself. If you are a sprinter, you may not be able to push yourself to start early. However, that will mean cramming lots of information in a very short period of time. IF that works for you, good and fine. Note that education researchers don’t recommend this if you actually want to learn something but if you’re cramming for an exam, then desperate times call for desperate measures.

If you’re a marathon runner, start early and start small. At times, I started 8-9 months before the exam because I knew there would be some weeks where I wouldn’t touch the material due to me being lazy or other work/family commitments. Plus I started early and only used my weekends.No matter how

No matter what, you won’t be able to avoid the process of study, summarise and practice.

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