CFA Exam Preparation Tips – Acing the Ethics Section

By Andrew Jones

Andrew delivers both CFA® exam preparation courses and non exam finance training for Fitch Learning. Having passed all three levels of the exam as well as gaining a wealth of experience as an industry practitioner he understands the pressures of studying for this prestigious qualification.

Many CFA exam candidates aren’t quite sure how best to prepare for the ethics section of the test. Sometimes, this uncertainty can cause it to become more of a stumbling block than it needs to be.

But not to worry. With a few straightforward tips, it’s possible to streamline your CFA exam preparation and ensure that you’re adequately prepared for everything the ethics section has in store.

So what steps do you need to take to get ready?

1) Study the ethics section last

The ethics section builds on everything that has come before, so it will make the most sense once you’ve reviewed the other sections. Spending time here before you’ve gone over everything else simply won’t be efficient, and is likely to give you an incomplete grasp of the material.

Since this is the last section you’ll review, you can take advantage of short term memory for this section. This strategy will help you use your time as effectively as possible.

2) Know the case studies

In your CFA exam preparation materials you will have an extensive number of fictional scenarios, with in-depth ethical explorations of those situations’ implications.

Make sure that you utilize this resource to the fullest. Spend time working through case-study chapters in detail, paying careful attention to the ways ethical standards are explored and applied in each scenario.

3) Familiarize yourself with the question format – as well as the source material

In order to answer questions in the ethics section effectively, you have to know what the test is going to throw at you. That means understanding which keywords to watch out for, recognizing and anticipating common traps, and knowing when to ignore irrelevant information.

The trick here is that ethical concepts aren’t tested individually. Instead, as the CFA levels progress, more and more of these concepts will be introduced into the exam questions. This is why case studies and sample questions are so important – you have to be familiar with how these concepts are applied in a range of different contexts. Practice sample questions extensively as you study to get a feel for how the exam approaches the ethics section.

If you study with these tips in mind, and you take care to build on a solid foundation of knowledge with the other sections of the exam, you should be ready to tackle the test confidently – and to ace the ethics section. Good luck!

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3 CFA Exam Preparation Mistakes — and How to Avoid Them

by Andrew Jones

For access to over 3,000 sample CFA exam study questions and 90+ hours of instructional videos, check out our Fitch Learning CFA Exam Prep app – now available for a free 7 day trial with unlimited access.

About the author: Andrew delivers both CFA® exam preparation courses and non exam finance training for Fitch Learning. Having passed all three levels of the exam as well as gaining a wealth of experience as an industry practitioner he understands the pressures of studying for this prestigious qualification.

Many Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam candidates carry serious misconceptions about both the test and the most effective ways to approach CFA exam preparation. Unfortunately, these common mistakes often trip up otherwise dedicated and qualified candidates, making the difference between a pass and a fail on the exam.

So what are these misperceptions, exactly? And how can you avoid them to make sure all your hard work pays off?

1) Don’t underestimate the test.

This one is key. All too often, candidates imagine that the exam is easier than it actually is — so they don’t put in the necessary study time. The CFA Institute guidelines call for 300 hours of preparation time, and that’s not an arbitrary suggestion. You will need to put in every one of those hours.

2) Leave yourself enough time.

Which brings us to the next mistake. Even when candidates aren’t consciously underestimating the exam, they often don’t leave themselves enough time to put in the study hours they know they need. Those 300 hours represent a major time investment — a significant sacrifice — and making them happen takes careful planning well in advance for most people, not to mention continuous motivation.

3) Don’t neglect what you already know.

“I’ve already learned this material — I can skip to the next topic.” Sounds reasonable, but it can spell failure. Many candidates decide they don’t need to study topics they’ve already learned, but CFA exam preparation isn’t the same as studying for a college degree. The CFA exam tests topics in specific detail, and the volume of information covered means it’s important to study what you already know.

Study Techniques

Now that we know which mistakes to avoid, how can candidates sidestep these pitfalls and achieve the best possible results on the exam?

First, start early. That means at least five months before the exam. Make sure you can dedicate 10-15 hours per week until you take the test. Otherwise, passing is simply unrealistic.

When you prepare, it’s important to blend study techniques. Don’t simply read over the material, but take a blended approach so you can think through the topics from multiple angles and keep the material fresh. Read a chapter, then watch an instructional video, then work on practice questions. Those practice questions are particularly crucial.

By applying your knowledge, investing in CFA exam preparation time regularly, and continuously shoring up your knowledge, you can give yourself the foundation you need to succeed. It’s not easy — but the reward for all the time and effort you put in is worth it.

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CFA exam preparation – dealing with stress

Stress while dealing with CFA Exams - The Asif Khan BlogWith February coming close to an end the CFA candidates across all levels have only another 3 months for CFA exam preparation. This is usually the time when people start getting stressed. Depending on personality types this can both be positive or negative. I thought that it might be helpful if I gave a bit of general guidance during for this time.

1. Accept that stress is normal during CFA exam preparation: Whether you are a level 1, 2 or 3 candidate stress will definitely be there during preparation. It also would not matter whether you have just started the syllabus or finished it twice already. The CFA curriculum (mainly in level 2 and level 3) is so vast that it is bound to overwhelm people. While studying one topic you will surely feel that you forgot everything you read in the last chapter.

The reality is that this stress is quite normal and you need to accept it. Almost 90% or more candidates are going through the same thing to some extent or the other. Once you accept it, it becomes easier to handle.

 2. Modify your strategy appropriately: The next step is to analyze where you stand with regards to preparation. If you are following your targets then just keep doing that. If you are lagging behind make sure you put in some extra effort to catch up.

3. Do not give up: My last advice would be to not give up under any circumstances. You have already paid for the exam. So at least try your best even if you cannot pass. You will at least get some knowledge which you can use sometime or the other in your life.

Furthermore, the CFA exam can be quite puzzling at times. You might think that you are unable to remember or comprehend that material but usually it all comes together during the final two weeks before the exam when you are revising the material.

During my level 2 preparation I probably read Derivatives 3-4 times and still did not understand it. My AM session was horrible in the real exam and I was quite sure I would fail.

I ended up getting above 70 in nine topics and between 50 to 70 in one!!!

Photocredits: Freedigitalphotos/artur84

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Imtiaz Gadar on ‘How bull markets find their way into weddings’

Imtiaz Gadar, CFA is the Head of Public Markets at Bank Alfalah, Pakistan -The Asif Khan Blog

Imtiaz Gadar, CFA is the Head of Public Markets at Bank Alfalah, Pakistan. Previously he served as the Head of Research at KASB Securities (Partner of BOA Merill Lynch) as well as JP Morgan. He was ranked as the best analyst in Pakistan four times by Asia Money and the CFA Association of Pakistan. He also served as the Vice President of the CFA Society in Pakistan.

 

Since this is a finance related blog page, I felt it my duty to ensure that my friend Asif’s blog doesn’t run too dry. So here is some relatively lighter stuff.

If you are linked to the investment business (especially stock market), you might have had a similar experience, that, during bull markets, going to a wedding is like a deep-sea dive into the Pacific Ocean. The different breeds of sea-animals (investors, wanna be investors, speculators) that you come across is amazing.

People who are waiting for their cabbie or plumber to discuss stocks for them to conclude that the stock market is in bubble mode are way behind the curve. They should just go to a wedding and they will know the extent of the bubble.

At first I used to be amazed at the variety, just like a first time deep-sea diver but then I slowly started noticing a trend and categorized them in breeds.

Below is my personal classification of the breeds. Would be happy to hear any other variants you would have met.

Breed # 1: Frequent suspects: The ‘hot tip’ seekers

This is the most common breed and their pace of reproduction increases manifold in bull markets. Some of them are courteous enough to strike a preamble to the conversation before coming to the point, but you can sense it that they are just being nice. Some of them, however make you feel that even if you walked in limping and bleeding in front of them, their only question would be; So, what do you make of the stock market run these days, any tips?

Breed # 2: The penny stock holders

This is the guy whose interactions vary on how long he is holding that penny stock. If he has just gotten into that stock, he will drive you crazy with his bullishness on that stock. If he can have it his way, he would make sure you issue a buy report on it next morning or broke the stock to all your clients. He would actually prefer if you don’t wait for the morning and do something in the middle of the night, because the stock is just so damn hot.

Similarly, if it’s been some time since he has held that stock without the multi-bagger luck as yet BUT he remains optimistic that it will perform, it’s your moral obligation to tell him something good about the stock. Suggesting him to cut his losses and get out is just too inhuman. You have to have a heart and agree to his bullishness.

But if unfortunately the stock turns out to be a dog of a penny stock and the holder has already lost his hope, he transforms into guy#3 (see below)

Breed # 3: Those who think that the stock market is unfair

This is a breed that gets extinct in bull markets. But if you do find one, they are worth their weight in gold. Their once upon a time stories of losing their shirts and along it their belief that the market was fair, makes you realize how brutal corrections can be. Having said that the impact is not going to last beyond that conversation as you will walk away thinking either of two things: 1) this time it’s different or 2) I am not stupid like him. I will play it smartly and time my exit. You will rue those thoughts later, but that’s another topic altogether.

Breed # 4: Those who have nothing to do with the stock market

If you are lucky, this guy will talk to  you about something other than the market and you will finally feel that God exists and you are in an actual social gathering and not in a an extension of your work place. However if the bull market is really rampant and this guy regrets not getting onto it due to lack of interest, lack of risk appetite or because his father was Breed # 3, he will try to convince you that not investing in the stock market is a very well thought out decision (which can be painful as he talks about macro imbalances and what not)

Breed #5: The guy who knows the market better than you do

What do I say about Guy # 5? He has an air of arrogance around him and only two people can feel it. Him and you. Others around you might be oblivious but you can spot one in a crowd. Stand with him in a group and he will stay silent for most part, waiting to pounce at the right point and prove he knows more than you. Depending on your mood, you might find it funny or offensive but find such people you will, even if their bread and butter is running a tailor shop.

Key however is to beware the role reversal

You might hate Breed # 5 but what the heck, you play Breed # 5 to absolute perfection if someone is showing off his knowledge about stocks, don’t you? It’s just natural. We are just too proud of the profession we are in. But you know when we are really irritating. It’s when we turn into Breed # 1 once we see someone working for a company whose stock we have an interest in. We strike the normal pleasantries but our sole purpose is to know how the market response to their new product has been or how the organization is responding to change in management, the ONLY difference probably is that we are more desperate in BEAR markets, so in a way we still are unique, aren’t we?

Disclaimer: My only experience has been of an emerging/frontier market and the same might not be true for developed markets. In addition, this is my personal experience and written just for humour purposes. Just for Breed # 5 out there. I concede you can do it better than me, so please enlighten me!

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CFA Exam – CFA Level 2 Preparation

CFA L2

 

Fahd Niaz continues with his series on CFA preparation. If you want to see his earlier post please see his guide on CFA L1 preparation

 

 

 

 

Don’t be surprised if this is your reaction when you start preparing for Level II of the CFA exam. You may get the feeling that the CFA Institute has lured you in with a relatively straightforward Level I and then dropped the hammer on Level II. There is some truth to the popular notion that Level II is the toughest of all three. Personally, I found the course of Level II to be the most demanding, however the paper of Level III was much more brutal (but we’ll get to that later). Candidates will be living in a fool’s paradise if they intend on following a similar studying tactic as Level I (or even choose to throw in an extra 20-30% effort). This can the turning point of the program and it separates the men from the boys.

An IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER before we go ahead – these study methods are based on what I followed and may not be suited for every individual. The aim is to provide an outside advice on how to approach the exams, but the final word rests with you.

To start off, I’ll reiterate my advice that candidates should try not to jump the gun in the first review. Ignorance can indeed be a bliss and sometimes it’s better not knowing what lies ahead. The item set format introduced in Level II takes some time to get used to. While the paper will still be multiple-choice, the number of questions will be half, implying that you’ll need twice the amount of time to attempt one question. I opted to study from the curriculum and in hindsight it turned out to be the right choice. While you can always use Schweser for the CFA exam, I would highly recommend that wherever possible, try leaning more towards the curriculum as Schweser may not go into the same depth as required.

Be prepared to tackle another obstacle relating to the order in which the item sets appear. Gone are the days when you knew which questions (read bazooka) would be fired at you first. The topic weights are in fact ranges, and there is no prescribed order in which the topics will be tested. So if you were planning on ignoring some lower weight areas (like you did with Derivatives or Alternative Investments in Level I), I’d suggest scrapping that idea immediately.

The buzzword for the Level II course is ‘Valuation’. You will be learning to apply many valuation techniques across different asset classes. Equity & Financial Reporting can potentially make up 55% of your total marks. Needless to say that these, along with Ethics, deserve greatest attention. The Code & Standards reappear here, so if you’ve aced them at Level I, that should boost your confidence. Few readings in Financial Reporting & Derivatives may seem repetitive, but they are in much more detail. Fixed Income can be tricky, particularly structured products and their various categories and characteristics. Portfolio Management will start to offer you a glimpse for what awaits you at Level III.

I would suggest writing out the calculations rather than performing them in your head. This will not only train your fingers on the calculator but also save you precious time on the paper as formulas can be complex (particularly Derivatives & Equity). So be ready for some serious number crunching. For remembering the formulas, flash cards always come in handy.

Befriend the practice exams as simple reading is not going to cut it. The volume of content is huge and the only way to retain so much is to constantly exercise your brain muscles to do exactly what you want it to do on exam day. If you’re attempting practice exams in April or so, the score should not worry you as there’s still a window for improvement. The point of attempting ten item-sets over three hours gets you in the groove of having to recall the entire course in one sitting.

There’s a plus point here as well – the more you practice, you can start to visualize a pattern while reading the vignette. You can end up anticipating which type of question will be asked, before reading the question.

Candidates can have a common (and genuine concern) over whether to read the item set first or the questions? Unfortunately, no one can help you there. It’s best to try both ways and see what works for you.

My approach in the last two weeks stays the same – start wrapping up and reduce the study hours as each day progresses. Don’t worry, your brain will not magically forget how to attempt the questions! One final piece of advice – under NO circumstances should you try to GAME the exam. This means that you should not waste your time pondering over which topics/questions can be tested based on some fancy regression model that you may have run or through an in-depth analysis of mock and sample exam patterns. Please refrain from calculating the chances of whether a newly included reading will be tested this year or not.

On exam day, you already know what to expect. I went into the paper blind and came out even more dumbfounded. Majority of the candidates can feel that way, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re in that list.

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CFA Exam – CFA Level 1 Preparation

CFA Level 1, CFA Program

Fahd Niaz works as an Equity Research Analyst for Credit Suisse based out of Singapore. He previously worked at KASB Securities Ltd which is the JV partner of Bank of America Merill Lynch in Karachi, Pakistan. He is one of the sharp young analysts that I have met in my career and I am grateful that he agreed to write for the CFA Candidates. Now let us read what Fahd has to say about CFA prep.

As a guest blogger, I thought I’d offer my two cents to address the common question on ‘How to prepare for the CFA exams?’.

Regarding the CFA program, I am a strong proponent of it as I believe it provides a competitive edge in your professional career. I completed the exams in Jun-13 and was fortunate enough to clear all three on my first attempt. However I am still in the process of fulfilling the work experience requirements before I can apply for award of the CFA charter.

This particular blog is intended for Level I candidates. An IMPORTANT disclaimer here – these methods are not set in stone and what worked for me, may not work for others. I believe everyone has a unique study approach and you should follow what suits you best.

Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge for the CFA exams, it is best to start early and space out your study schedule.

The Schweser guides do a good job of explaining the concepts in a concise way and they were my primary source for Level I. However do not underestimate Ethics! The curriculum is by far the best source for this section and I would suggest staying away from Schweser on this one. The level of depth, range of examples and difficulty of the questions are very exact. Granted yes, the readings will be boring at times, but you have to tough it out. Regardless of how ethical you think you are (morally and professionally), the CFA curriculum has very fine margins.

The monster of the Level I exam is Financial Reporting, holding 20% of your score – give it the respect it deserves! The readings can be much more complex as compared to the general finance courses you may have studied at the undergrad level. Topics such as Deferred Taxes were a nightmare for me.

I would recommend going through the entire course at least twice. Complete one reading and hit questions of the Schweser guides. This should build up some confidence for the blue-box examples in the curriculum and the EOC’s. The curriculum EOC’s will be the most accurate reflection of where you stand. To some degree, you need to be harsh with yourself – questions that you guessed correctly on, should be clubbed with the incorrect ones. Regardless of how lucky you have been in different spheres of life, or even if the stars have aligned for you recently, you may not be as lucky on exam day.

The number of formulas to memorize are significant and the best solution for these are flash cards. Questions that require using formulas in a simple manner are brownie points – don’t waste them! I would recommend making flash cards once you’re in the final month and keep reviewing them on and off.

I followed a self-imposed which said ‘never jump the gun’. I took it one reading and one book at a time and went with the natural flow of the curriculum. In this way you can ensure complete focus on the material in front of you. If you look ahead, chances are that you may not like what you see and that can play on your mind.

Finally practice, practice and more practice! Unfortunately this is the harder route and one candidates generally tend to ignore. However this is the only route to get through these exams and the importance of this will grow over Level II & III. Mock exams should be a part of your preparation and I would strongly recommend attempting the first one at least one month in advance of the actual day. Choose a nice quiet environment and time yourself. You may start to feel mentally exhausted through this but do not throw in the towel. Over several exams you should be able to get used to the serious mental gymnastics needed over six hours.

It is natural for candidates to also debate over the order in which questions should be attempted. During the practice exams, run some permutations and try to firm up an order which suits you. Use this in the real paper also!

Repeat the practice exams if you have to. Over the last two weeks , I would recommend a gradual phase down. Study lesser and lesser as each day progresses – yes you read that correctly! You need time to recharge your batteries before exam day. I firmly believe that if you’ve put in the hard work over the previous months, you should be confident in your own abilities to do well on the exam.

On exam day, get to the venue early. It’s best to acclimatize yourself to the surroundings. Also, keep a provision to dress warmly (a jacket maybe) since the exam hall may be colder than you think, regardless of the blazing sun outside!

Finally, try to stay in the present. Think of the question in front of you and nothing else.

Hope this was useful to all readers. Any follow-up questions are more than welcome. I will address the Level II and Level III exams in the later blogs.

Editors Note: Fahd will be back here with his advice for level 2 and level 3. So keep your eyes glued to this blog.

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CFA Exam Preparation: My Foolproof Method to Pass the Exam

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 AnalystforumAnalystforum 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.

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CFA exam : the last 30 days

Preparation for any exam is somewhat of an art and people use different techniques. Nevertheless, there are some methods which work better than others. In this post I want to mention the method I applied for having a rock solid preparation in the CFA Exam.

General Tips for last 1 month
Mock Exams
• I usually used the final month to give 3-4 mock exams in the first 15-20 days or so. After every exam, I put in my scores in an excel sheet to see topic wise scores.
• While giving the exam I usually marked the questions which I found difficult and the questions which I just answered on guess work.
• Next, I identified my mistakes by looking at the correct answers for not only the mistakes but those I got correct through guesswork. When I was unable to understand the answer, I went back to the text book.
• When I scored poorly on a topic I revised that topic and then went for the next mock exam. I repeated the same thing for the next exams but also observed whether my scores are improving or not overall and my weaker segments. Usually I put a lot of emphasis on my ethics score.

Revision
• In the last 10-15 days I usually went for a revision of the whole syllabus. Usually I went LOS by LOS. The objective was to see whether I could understand the concept crystal clearly for all the LOS. Once a LOS was mastered I crossed it out.
• I constantly revised the formulas. I usually made my own formula sheet and used to carry it wherever I went.

Things not to be missed 
• Make sure you have done ALL the end of chapter (EOC) questions from the original book. I would suggest that people do not waste time on questions from Schweser as real exam is very different from Schweser questions. If you have completed everything else and still have time then do Schweser exams.
• Some of the EOCs are quite complicated. I usually marked them to review them over and over again until I mastered them.
• Go through all the blue box examples from original book.

Planning for the 30 days
• I used to make a 30 day plan specifying what I will revise or read in the last 30 days. Sometimes I fell behind my plan due to family obligations or work pressure but by studying more on other days I used to cover it up.
• Normally I suggest that people try to beat their own plan and stay ahead.

Notes
• Some people make their own notes. I usually only made notes for the most critical chapters. However, notes are supposed to be made 3-4 months before exam. Trying to make notes at the last moment is not advisable as it will eat away time.
• If however you already have own notes then instead of reading the book you can just read your notes (depends on the depth of the notes).

Day before the exam
• This day is very important. Confidence level is as important as the preparation itself. To cool the nerves remember that you have studied hard and given your best shot. After this it does not matter whether you pass or fail.
• Try to go to sleep early. I had insomnia problems on this day on almost all three levels and as a result on the exam day I felt weak. If you see any such problems take a sleeping pill on the night before the exam.
• Check your admit card, pencils, eraser, pen, passport, calculator. Check your calculator settings and go through the important functions in your calculator. If you can borrow an extra calculator then borrow one for emergency purpose. Also carry batteries and screwdriver.
• Go through the formula sheet quickly. See if you correctly remember the notations and symbols used in the formula.

Exam day  
• Wake up early in the morning and take a shower. Go to the venue as early as possible. Do not try to study just before the exam. You can off course take a look at the formulas.
• When the exam starts, go to your favorite topic and start answering. THERE IS ONE GOLDEN RULE I FOLLOWED. IF I COULD NOT ANSWER A QUESTION ON THE FIRST ATTEMPT I SKIPPED IT. I GOT BACK TO THEM LATER ON. Please do not waste time on any questions. All questions carry the same marks. However some of them can make you lose a lot of valuable time. TIME MANAGEMENT IS ESSENTIAL IN ALL 3 levels.
• Read all the questions carefully and understand what is being asked. The worst thing that can happen is failing due to silly mistakes.
• If the AM session feels exceedingly hard do not lose hope. In that case PM will be easier. I remember coming out of the Level 2 AM session with the feeling that I will surely fail. However the PM was much easier and I actually scored >70% in 9 segments and between 50-70 in 1 segment.
• While filling out answer boxes please make sure you are answering the correct question. A mistake in answering sequence could change your grade absolutely.
• Even if you have finished the exam with 1 hour extra please recheck all the answers.
• Fill out answers for each and every question as there is no negative marking.

CFA Exam Level 1
• In level 1 you just need to go through the entire syllabus. The actual exam is usually quite easy and has more focus on theoretical questions. The quantitative questions are also quite simple.
• Normally, you would not even have to think for many of the questions. Also, some of the quantitative questions can be answered without even calculating anything.
• Focus on the ethics segment which is very crucial.
• Overall you can expect to finish both AM and PM within 2.5 hrs. But like I mentioned earlier, please use the whole time and recheck.

CFA Exam Level 2
• Level 2 has the largest syllabus, highest number of formulas and much tougher study material compared to level 1.
• Even though the focus is on asset valuation and FSA, I found derivatives to be quite complicated. In fact, I probably had to read the derivatives chapter 3-4 times to get the basic essence of it. In spite of that, I found the actual derivative questions to be exceedingly difficult.
• Unlike level 1, the portion of quantitative questions is larger. Also the questions are not that straight forward. CFAI throws some curveballs from time to time. After reading a particular vignette the questions might look absolutely alien to you. Use your common sense in answering in those times.
• Put strong emphasis on formulas. Also notice whether questions states annual, quarterly or monthly compounding etc. These can be tricky while doing Swaps, Forward Rate Arrangements etc.

CFA Exam Level 3
• Level 3 syllabus is slightly smaller than level 2. It is not as difficult as level 2 to understand but the trick is to apply the knowledge in the actual exam.
• To pass level 3 the candidate must know the concepts like the back of his/her hand. Even the simplest topic can be made very difficult by structuring the question in an obscure manner.
• The key to succeeding in level 3 largely depends on managing time for the AM (written) section. I would recommend that candidates practice as many AM sessions as possible. CFAI website has a lot of such practice exams.
• Just because AM was difficult do not expect PM to be much easier. Some questions had a lot of curve-balls which many candidates did not even realize existed. However it is easier to score more in the PM compared to the AM section.

Final Words
Give your best shot and study as hard as possible. However, success or failure also has a bit of luck in it. Know that you can pretty much pass if you get 70% on average. So even if you get 50% of the questions right, eliminate one wrong answer on 25% of the questions and blindly guess the rest 25% you can score about 70.75% statistically. Also the pass marks for level 3 is definitely set at a lower level. The CFA Charter is a wonderful accomplishment and visualizing about the certificate helps keep motivation up.

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