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07/29/2014

CFA in 18 Months: 3 Crucial Mistakes You Must Avoid


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Just starting out on your CFA preparations and looking for some guidance? 

Many candidates aspire to aim for passing the CFA® exams in 18 months, as detailed in my Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 adventures just a few years ago. 

While hard work and effort are a prerequisite, here are a couple of mistakes I made but wished I knew beforehand during my CFA journey - I hope it helps  you avoid the usual pitfalls of taking on such a challenging qualification!

FAILING TO PLAN

You've heard of this old saying time and again, and it certainly applies to your CFA study preparation too. Many candidates fail because they just thought they could "wing it," and take their time studying the materials without sticking to some sort of a strict schedule. 

Or worse, some candidates even took time to do a simple study plan, but ignored them anyway during the revision and start to fall behind schedule. If you know you're behind, perhaps because you underestimated the work load or it took more time to understand a tricky concept, you need to make it up in your studies to ensure you catch up with your schedule.

Why? Because finishing on schedule, specifically one whole month before the exams (which I highly recommend), gives you ample time to do tons of practice papers, and contributes the other 50% to your learning and grasp of material. Yes, reading and covering the syllabus is just half of the work (and still very important), but the real test of your understanding of CFA concepts comes when you're tested under timed conditions. 

UNDERESTIMATING THE MATERIALS

I have a degree in Economics and when I first took December Level 1, I remember smirking when looking through the economics section of the materials. Guess what? I paid the least attention to that section and scored the lowest band for that topic. "Easy," eh?

Overconfidence can be a dangerous thing for the CFA exams. In fact, in a 2012 study, we found that candidates with no finance background (in prior education or work experience) significantly outperformed candidates who had prior finance education for the CFA exams. This tells us two things:

  • Complacency negatively affects your pass rates, which is common amongst candidates with prior finance education (but not working in finance currently). Skipping or "spotting" topics is not advisable, perhaps only when you're doing a last minute review (which shouldn't happen if you're learning from Mistake #1 above)!
  • Having no prior background in finance nor work is actually an advantage (yay engineers!)

Fail-CFA


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