Passing the CFA exam on first attempt is tough. I was fortunate enough to make it. I actually used a certain method for CFA exam preparation, which I want to share in this blog post.
The truth is that there is no magic formula. It is all about hard work and determination. In particular proper planning and execution of the plan is probably the most important factor in passing the CFA exam.
PHASE 1 (2-3 months)
1. Subscribe to this blog: Even though this blog did not really exist when I gave the exam, I will share all the tricks and tips I used to pass CFA. You wouldn’t want to miss those. don’t wait and write your email address on the top right space for subscription. Press the “subscribe” button and confirm it from your email inbox.
2. Register at Analystforum: Analystforum is the best networking platform for CFA students. I used this forum extensively for some much-needed motivation. That is not the end as people share great notes, help each other out on difficult topics, share questions and what not. Overall a great community to be part of.
3. Finish textbook once: Finish the textbooks once (either CFAI or Schweser). CFAI books are recommended, but I (and others) did pass all three levels with Schweser as my primary reference book.
4. EOC from CFAI Books: Finish ALL the end of chapter questions from CFAI text-book. Don’t bother with questions from Schweser or other 3rd party guidebooks. All questions that you were not able to solve in the first attempt or looks complicated (or you got correct on fluke) should be marked for future reference.
5. Formula Sheet: Make a comprehensive formula sheet and take a glance at it from time to time.
6. Mock Exam: Give your first sample mock and if required keep the formula sheet with you on the first attempt. Try to stick with CFAI mocks and avoid 3rd party mock exams. Tabulate all the scores by segment in an excel sheet. Check the answers and see where you went wrong. Highlight all questions you were incorrect in or got correct by fluke for future reference.
Now you have created a strong base. The next step would be to internalize all the concepts.
Exams are coming up soon. Do not miss this writeup on how to best utilize the last 30 days before the exam.
PHASE 2 (1-2 months)
1. The Mock-Revise loop: THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SEGMENT FOR MASTERING THE CFA. What you need to do is take a look at your scores and find your weakest areas. See where you went wrong by looking at answers.Then give another mock exam and repeat the cycle. Track your scores and see whether you are improving in your weak areas. I would recommend that you give at least 3 full mock exams.
2. Examples from CFAI textbook: The CFAI textbooks have excellent examples in all the chapters. Go through all of them and highlight the ones that look tricky or important.
3. Fill in the blanks if you used 3rd party guidebooks: One problem that 3rd party reference books users face is that these books sometimes skip important concepts to condense concepts. MAKE SURE you read the important chapters (like deferred tax) from the original book. Also Analystforum members sometimes make a list of topics that Schweser may have missed.
4. Memorize formulas from the formula sheet: Carry the formula sheet around wherever you go.
PHASE 3 (Last 30 days)
1. Go back to highlighted questions: Attempt all the questions you have highlighted or marked before and keep doing them until you can get all of them correct
2. Revise entire syllabus by LOS: Go through all the learning objective statements and make sure that you have mastered (not memorization. Memorization does not work) the concepts. Again use the elimination method here as well.
3. Give one last mock exam (Optional): You might want to give a final mock 1-2 weeks before the exam to see your scores. However don’t attempt one too close to the exam as bad scores might affect your confidence.
4. Relax: Don’t forget to take breaks and enjoy time off during the process. I read many novels during my CFA prep time. The key to success for me was proper planning and execution without trying to cram at the 12th hour.
I have also written another piece on ‘how to utilize the last 30 days before the CFA exam‘ which should have extra resources. Be sure to check that out.