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Setting Your CFA Sights on December 7, 2013

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CFA Exam Prep

The December Level I exam is right around the corner. My guess is you are probably viewing this looming date a bit like FDR’s "day of infamy." But if you created a study plan – and kept to it reasonably well – then December 7th does not have to be a day that makes you want to declare all-out war. So let’s see if you are on target.

 By the end of October, you should have:
  • Finished all your readings,
  • created your own study notes from the readings
  • reviewed your study notes, and  
  • created a second set of notes – a condensed version of the first that highlights your weak areas.

(For more information on this process, review Two Ways to Take Studying for the CFA Exam to the Next Level)

If you accomplish all the above steps by Halloween, you will in good shape. You will have a full month left to take practice exams and target your study time on areas that are still tripping you up.

That’s the ideal – but what should you do if you don’t measure up?

First– don’t panic. Instead calmly create – and commit to – a new plan using this approach:

1 – Assess what you need to do. Determine which readings you need to finish, what topics you haven’t reviewed, or where your study notes have holes. Then create a DETAILED list of your outstanding to-do's in a spreadsheet.

2 – Estimate how long each item will take to accomplish. Factor in how quickly you read and comprehend material. Allow more time for your weakest topics.

3 – Calculate the total available study time you have until the end of October. (Try hard not to borrow prime review time from November.)

4 –Compare total hours available to the number you need. If you're off a little, make slight adjustments by committing more hours to studying or reassessing your time requirement. If you're off by a lot, this may be a bit harder. But you’ve gone this far so don’t give up.

A few things to keep in mind if you need to rethink your time requirements:

  • Striving for excellence is not a good strategy. You don’t have to know everything perfectly.
  • Not all sections of the exam are weighted equally so put time in where it matters most. Consult this chart for topic weights.
  • Ethics is always important.

5 – Plug hard deadlines for each item into your spreadsheet. This document is your study bible. Refer to it often.

6 – Last, get an accountability partner. Enlist the help of a fellow candidate, friend, family member, or colleague. Share your spreadsheet and ask them to make sure you toe the line.

Goals are much easier to accomplish when they are written and shared. Putting a little time into planning your study approach can really help get you back on track. Remember the adage ‘Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance!’

–Linda Lam

Linda Lam has worked with a candidate review program since 2000.

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