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My CFA Exam Study Strategy

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I think that pursuing a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation requires commitment from the candidate along with support and understanding from their family, friends, employers, and colleagues. As a Level I CFA candidate, I started to study for the exam at the beginning of August 2011 by enrolling in the CFA preparation course offered by New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA). I find the course helpful and interesting because my instructor was very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor. Three and a half hours each Monday fly by. I know that all of us candidates worry, and may be nervous ahead of the exam. There are many strategies available, and a large part of them have been covered previously, but here are a few of the study strategies that I am using to get through the CFA® exams.

Start studying early.

Avoid waiting until the last minute to cram all materials. It is better to understand the concepts and know how to apply them well, rather than try to memorize without understanding the material. This technique is benefiting me greatly because Level II and III exams are built upon concepts from the Level I exam. For my prep class, I also study ahead of time which helps me to review the material and do some practice questions; studying early also helps to reduce stress.

Be consistent and study on a daily basis.

I feel that the more often I study, the better off I am, with regards to exam understanding and preparedness. I try to block off at least two hours per weekday and five hours on the weekend to study for the exam. I recommend that you have your study materials whenever you are on the go so you can utilize all the time that is available to you. For example, I study on the train during my commute to work every day, or I study if I have to wait at the doctor’s office.

Remember to relax.

Study hard but do not forget to find time to relax and recharge your energy. Daily exercise is my way of trying to stay healthy and relax after a long day of work and studying. If you do not like to exercise, find other activities that you enjoy doing so you still have some balance in life while you are in the CFA program.

Communicate clearly and ask for support.

You will need support from your family members, friends, and colleagues since you will not have a lot of time to accommodate them like you used to before you started studying for the exam. Learn to say no to friends’ birthday parties, happy hours after work, Halloween parties, Black Friday shopping, etc–since you need that time to study.

Stay motivated.

Think and remind yourself about a brighter future and the knowledge that you gain after you achieve the CFA designation to keep you going, because there is no doubt that there are moments you will feel less motivated and want to drop out of the program. It is a challenge when you have work responsibilities, families, and other commitments in life. However, remember this is just a short-term loss for a long-term gain.

I hope that you find these pointers are helpful in preparing for your exam and best of luck to all December 2011 candidates.

–Vy Bui is a Level I candidate. She currently works full time as an auditor. She decided to obtain her CFA charter after she completed her MBA in Financial Management. She started CFA Prep classes with NYSSA this year, and hopes to obtain her charter by 2013.

Want to share your experience, or have questions about the CFA exams? Contact the editor.

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How is Vy Bui going to obtain her charter by 2013 working as an auditor? The work experience required is very specific. Does she have 4 years full-time experience making investment decisions? This was the reason I dropped out of the program. I am very interested in the material and find myself able to grasp most of it fairly easily, some of it took a little more work. I don't, however, have or see myself getting the specific work experience required.

Brian, I am a level 1 candidate so take what I say with a grain of salt. However, I have done research regarding the required work experience and it seems as though the CFA Institute will accept finance professionals with experience in fields other than solely investments. For example, credit analysts or accountants would be eligible because they study the financial statements of publicly traded companies. I'm not sure in what field you are currently employed, but if you work in finance in any sort of analyst capacity then I would encourage you to get back into the CFA program!

Brian, please see the below link for more information regarding the work experience required to obtain CFA charter:

Thank you Ben for your input.


Great, motivational article. Thanks for sharing your experience!

This is the working link:


Thanks Daniel for the link!

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