Study Strategies General

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High Level Recommendations:[edit]

  • 300 hours
    • The general recommendation for duration of study time.
    • Start studying early, develop a game plan, and hold yourself to it
  • Ethics is important
    • Ethics is not a compliance topic. it is a big contributor to passing (ethics adjustment[1]), and if you master it pays dividends across all three levels.
  • Practice makes perfect
    • Become familiar how the CFA Institute structures questions
    • Be sure to take at least one mock exam with the same format as exam day (two three hour sessions)
  • Become familiar with the calculator
    • There are various functions that will save valuable time
  • Understand the "why"
    • Recalling the correct formula to use or concept to apply is easier with a true understanding of the topic
    • Memorizing the vocabulary and formulas is only half of the battle
  • Different approaches across levels
    • Level 1 usually is regarded as the easiest
    • Level 2 has more material and is more in-depth - budget more time and effort than what worked for L1
    • Level 3 focuses on concepts and investment portfolios. Also focus on familiarizing yourself with the essay format. 96% of candidates do worse in the essay session, and score 20% less points.[2]

Study Planner[edit]

r/CFA study planner[edit]

Developed by: kinetic_energy and Iz177

Original Post

Link to Study Planner

This excel sheet suggests how one may want to plan their studies ahead of the June 2020 exams. After a few user inputs, the calculator will tell you what date you should aim to complete studies for each subject, how much time you should dedicate to each area and how many hours you'll need to put in to hit your 300 hour or more target as well as when you should go back and revise the material.

300Hours study planner[edit]

Link to Study Planner

Based on Google Sheets, this study planner aims to:

  • Track all your study efforts
  • Map the curriculum you've covered, identify weak spots and auto-prioritize
  • Benchmark your mock scores against historical candidate data
  • Predict your CFA exam score

Fill out a few parameters and your personalized sheet will be generated for you.

Common Study Methods[edit]


Study Method Explanation CFA Utility
Practice Testing Self testing through practice tests High
Distributed Practice Implementing a schedule of practice that spreads out study activities over time High
Self Explanation Explaining steps taken in problem solving, or how new info relates to known ones High
Elaborative Interrogation Explaining why a stated fact or concept is true Moderate
Summarization Writing summaries of texts to be learned Moderate
Interleaved Practice Implementing a schedule of practice that mixes different kinds of problems, or a schedule of study that mixes different kinds of materials, within a single study session Moderate
Rereading Restudying text again after initial reading to increase retention Moderate
Highlighting / Underlining Marking potentially important texts when reading Low
Keyword Mnemonic Use keywords or mental imagery to associate verbal materials Low
Imagery for Text Form mental images of text materials when reading or listening Low

Test Centers[edit]

The 6-hour exam is administered in exam centres. Exams are offered in over 170 cities in June, with over 70 cities in December across the globe.
To enter the exam room, you need to have your exam ticket with approved identification. Visit the CFAI website regarding admission tickets here
While every exam centre is slightly different (size, noise, traffic etc...) they all have common characteristics.

  1. Staff who sign you in
  2. Staff who confirm your seat
  3. Room to store your belongings
  4. Large amount of Protors who follow strict CFAI exam policies and who will not hesitate to enforce them.

Exam day[edit]

Written by: paul101111
Original Post

As someone who took the level 1 exam this past June (2019), I'll make a shortlist of things you cannot forget. Your exam is coming soon and you don't want to make any of these mistakes and have it cost you. The list may not be exhaustive so others can/should chime in if I miss something.

  1. Bring the appropriate calculator, spare batteries, erasers, passport, exam ticket, pencils, etc.
  2. Don't write on your exam ticket, or you'll die immediately.
  3. Pack food for the 2-hour break in between.
  4. Get to your exam location/room as early as possible.
  5. Get seated and comfortable in your seat as early as possible.
  6. Be polite, clear spoken, and respectful to the proctors. Give them no reason to dislike you.
  7. Don't stare at any other exam taker during the exam. Not their head, shoulder, pants, nothing. Pretend you are there alone.
  8. You will need to stretch, feel free to look straight UP at the ceiling, or straight down at your paper. Looking left to right is risky and not worth it.
  9. Slow down the cramming now. The studying process should be 99.99% complete by now. Do light review for the next 24 hours and then focus on ethics the day before the exam. Its a light topic and will pay dividends (finance pun i#tended)
  10. Take a melatonin the night before and get to sleep at around 8pm if you can. Set multiple alarms.
  11. Don't get suck on any one question. If you feel stumped, move on and get back to it.
  12. Don't be too afraid of guessing a few, 1/3 chance of getting it right and usually you can abolish one option making it a 50/50 chance of choosing correct.
  13. Don't start before they tell you to, and try to finish a few minutes before they call "time". Every year hundreds of candidates globally get their exam voided for writing after the time limit, or worse, having a proctor *think* they saw you doing so when you didn't. Finish with a bit of time to spare so there's no question.
  14. Bring a watch that you can take off and leave on your desk. Don't look around the room trying to find a clock.
  15. Don't study during the 2 hour break between exams. Eat and do something light. You're writing an exam for 6 hours... give your mind a break.

Remember, even if you feel intimidated looking at the exam, take a deep breath and focus. I walked out thinking I absolutely bombed the exam, and I passed with a pretty large margin. When you pass the exam, you get to share the news with your family, significant other, your kids, your neighbor, everyone! It's a great feeling. If worst-case scenario you have a bad exam, then it's NOT the end of the world. There will be another in June and you'll destroy it that time. Then it's onto level 2 where the material really skins you alive ;)

How to avoid exam-day violations[edit]

Written by: paul101111
Original Post

Every year there are hundreds of candidates globally who get their exam voided because they violated one of the rules during the exam, and didn't even do it on purpose. Sometimes, the proctor might *think* they saw you doing something you aren't supposed to, and that's all it takes. Follow these few guidelines closely and you'll be fine. They are all obvious, but the CFA's adhesion to these rules is VERY strict. The proctors are not on your side so give them NO reason to give you a problem.

  1. Don't EVER glance at someone else, or their paper during the exam. In university, this rule is enforced but not nearly as intensely as the CFA. You may be used to exams where you have the freedom to look around, stretch, glance for a second, etc. If you do it once, even for a fraction of a second, a proctor may quietly write you up and you'll find out about it a few weeks before results come out. Just look DOWN, or straight UP. Don't risk it.
  2. Follow the announcement of the rules PERFECTLY. Do not break the exam seal before they tell you to. Do not open the exam booklet before they tell you to. Do not pick up your pencil before they say start. This violation is the most "popular". People getting violations because they started half a second too early.
  3. Try to stop writing 5 minutes before the official deadline. Again, this violation is one of the most popular. Hundreds of candidates get a violation for writing after the time limit. To make it abundantly clear that you didn't write after the limit, finish the exam with a few minutes to spare. In this time, shut your exam booklet, turn it face down, put your pencils away, and look down until the time ends.
  4. Don't write on your passport or exam ticket. The proctors will gang-bang you on the spot if you do, right in front of everyone.
  5. Don't get caught with your cellphone on you. It isn't worth it.

The proctors are anal-retentive. I'd rather you find out what's expected of you here rather than in a letter by the CFA violation review committee. You studied a long time, paid a lot of money in fees, and sweat blood for this exam. Adhere to these rules without fail, and you'll be fine.

Lowering the MPS by showing up fallacy[edit]

Written by: LBJDL
Original Post

I just read constantly people advising other candidates to show up because that will lower the MPS. I did some research on this topic here on r/CFA and there are 2 interesting posts made in the past: Post 1 and Post 2.

I also tried to read some articles on this Angoff Method and what it seems to be the case is that a given number of graders (i.e. experts, which are called "subject-matter experts" (SMEs)) "examine the content of each question and then predict how many minimally-qualified candidates would answer the item correctly". Source

Then, after each grader assigns a given prediction for a given question, the average of those predictions becomes the predicted difficulty for that question.

Minimum Passing Score: "the sum of the predicted difficulty values for each question averaged across the judges and items on a test is the recommended Angoff cut score".

So, in other words, each grader assigns a % of candidates that should answer that question correctly, and then the average is taken. For example, imagine for question X on the exam we have:

- Grader 1: 65%

- Grader 2: 60%

- Grader 3: 64%

- Grader 4: 75%

- Grader 5: 70%

Then, for this question, it is believed to have a "predicted difficulty" of (0.65+0.60+0.64+0.75+0.70)/5 = 66.8%.

This is done for every question on the exam and that is how the MPS is calculated. Now, I assume this is done BEFORE they grade the exams, and thus the graders are not influenced by the actual % of correct answers.

Conclusion: showing up for the exam and getting all the answers wrong will not "lower the MPS and help others pass", because that performance has no impact on the decision of the graders.

Please let me know if I've made a mistake or if I'm thinking this correctly. I just want to clear everyone's minds about this process.