It is extremely tough and demanding to pass any of the CFA Institute’s tests required to become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
A CFA exam assesses not just one’s knowledge but also their perseverance, diligence, innovation, and willpower. It is aimed to indicate a person’s dedication to becoming a CFA charterholder. The SAT, like many other standardized tests, is a good example.
The CFA program’s three tests are all designed to be self-study, but whether you choose to study on your own or with the help of a tutor or study course, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to prepare for the tests efficiently.
The first thing you should know is that the program requires a long and intense commitment on your part.
According to the CFA Institute, a CFA candidate can expect the following:
- The curriculum takes an average of four years to finish.
- Each exam requires six months of preparation.
- The minimum study period of 250 hours = 10 -15 hours per week (although candidates report studying 322 hours on average)
A genuine and internalized commitment to finishing the program is required for success.
Because the program is so demanding and necessitates so much of one’s time and energy, many people will find that completing it in order to meet the expectations of another person or institution will not give the drive needed to achieve the end goal.
Prepare A Study Plan
You must design a specialized test strategy that includes time management, skill evaluation, and several previous and practice exams in addition to specialized study abilities that must be established to pass the tests.
Time management refers to the amount of time spent studying and taking the exam. A three-hour exam with 120 possible points, for example, equals one point for every minute and a half. You should be on question 40 at the one-hour mark; any further time spent implies less time for other questions. However, since the exam starts with ethics questions (which need more reading), you shouldn’t be too concerned if you’ve reached question 45. Hundreds of practice questions will be required to gain this comprehension.
The goal of skill evaluation is to figure out which areas of your body are your strongest and which are your weakest. It’s critical to figure this out so you can devote more effort to studying the areas where you’re weakest and less time to studying the areas where you have the best chance of passing. You must learn which questions to skip and return to later if time is available on the multiple-choice sections of the exam. You must ensure that you just answer questions that you understand rather than wasting time on questions with which you are unfamiliar.
Taking exams on a regular basis helps you identify portions that require extra study makes your ability to manage time apparently and provides you a better sense of how to take the exam beyond merely answering the questions, in addition to developing greater confidence when taking the actual exam. Taking as many timed sample examinations (adjusted for a score) as possible throughout the study session is a good idea.
Consider Self-study, But Don’t Rely on It
Despite the fact that many people have passed the CFA tests by studying alone, it is by far the most demanding method. The amount of information that the candidate must process is enormous, and it can be overwhelming. This technique gives the applicant the most flexibility in terms of time and resource management; nevertheless, individuals who aren’t diligent about constantly studying for the six or so months leading up to the exam risk learning too much material in a short period of time.
The CFA Institute and third-party suppliers offer a wealth of study materials on a number of topics, including how to approach the exam. However, by employing this method, the candidate has responsibility for determining the information’s quality and the best manner to use it.
Enroll in a Study Program
From weekly classroom programs to short-term immersion courses, there are a variety of study-course alternatives available. Many local CFA societies offer exam prep classes, and third-party suppliers also offer comparable services. Taking a course in exam preparation has the advantage of forcing the candidate to focus on a certain area of the exam on a regular basis. 3 Many of the courses will also require students to complete timed practice examinations, which will help them identify their areas of weakness. Within these classroom environments, study groups also aid in the distribution of study obligations, allowing students to make the most of available resources.
The key to getting the most out of a study course is to conduct your homework before choosing a service provider. The strength of the local society courses is that they are usually taught by a group of CFA charterholders specializing in a particular field. Their flaw is that, though the teachers are knowledgeable in the content, the quality of their teaching skills might be inconsistent.
In terms of outside vendors, any school worth its salt will make public data such as student pass rates, their ability to predict the questions that will be asked on a given exam, and any other information that they believe distinguishes them from their competitors.
The most successful of these organizations require their teachers to take the most recent examinations as soon as they are released, ensuring that they are always up to date on new trends and test design innovation. These teachers are a great source of knowledge about how to take the examinations, what topics exam preparers may be focusing on, and what types of knowledge are likely to come up again. This additional information regarding the exam design and how to take the exam allows selected students to break out of the pack and keep them on track and provide them the information essential to answer test questions. Here are some of the places you can study from:
Compare how much time each course spends on the course subjects supplied if you’ve gathered information from a few different courses. You can select the course that best covers the topics you don’t know much about in the shortest period of time. The following is a list of the many topics covered in the CFA program’s three tests, along with the estimated percentages of time spent on each:
Area Weights of CFA Exam Topic:
|Topic Area||Level I||Level II||Level III|
|Ethical and Professional Standards||15||10-15||10-15|
|Financial Reporting and Analysis||20||15-20||0|
|Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning||7||5-10||40-55|
Finding as many CFA charterholders as possible to better grasp how to take the exam is another very effective technique for gaining marginal points on the CFA test. Every local society has a large number of CFA charterholders who are actively involved in some area of the test process. Following the completion of the tests, all CFA charterholders are invited to participate in the grading process. However, some students may only take graded tests once, if at all. Others do so on a yearly basis. CFA charterholders who evaluate work on aspects of the exam in which they are particularly interested or knowledgeable.
Following are some tips:
- The importance of readable writing in essay questions cannot be overstated. Graders look for specific words or phrases in the answers and assign points accordingly. Even if you have the correct material in your essay, you won’t earn any points if a grader can’t read it. Print your essay replies if you can do it quickly.
- Each question should begin with an outline, followed by the appropriate answer. In many circumstances, a well-thought-out outline is sufficient to get all of the points for the question, and your evaluator will be relieved that the complete essay was not required to be read.
- Never leave a question unanswered in an essay. Put in buzzwords that relate to the issue if you don’t know the answer. Write about how you arrived at the correct answer. In many circumstances, this will earn you a few points, which can mean the difference between passing and failing a test.
- Know your moral knowledge. Exams that are on the verge of passing or failing are decided using ethical principles. If you do poorly on the ethics section, you will almost certainly fail, but you will be awarded the green light if you ace ethics.
These are timeless instances, but there is a slew of others that alter as the tests progress. As new trends, tools, and approaches become mainstream, they are introduced and given increased weight in the exam. It is critical that you search out sources of the most up-to-date information in order to have a competitive advantage over other program candidates.
Each local society hosts luncheons with speakers on a variety of investment-related topics on a regular basis. For a calendar of these events and information on how to register, contact your local society.
In addition to being a wonderful networking resource, many members would be pleased to assist a CFA candidate with their examinations in any way they can. They’ve all been through it and know how critical it is to get the most competitive advantage possible.
Because of the CFA program’s length and rigor, passing any of the three examinations needs not just a passion for the content and a dedication to studying, but also knowledge of how to take the exam and the ability to predict what information will likely surface as exam questions.
Candidates must establish study and exam-taking tactics that will allow them to surpass the average. A big group of exam participants straddle the fine line between passing and failing, in addition to some introspection in determining what topics are strengths and which are weaknesses. CFA charterholders, especially those closest to the exam production and grading process, should be the best source for establishing the competitive edge needed to ensure success and the shortest path to getting your CFA designation, as well as opening up numerous new work opportunities.