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224,640 Minutes

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You can’t squeeze blood from a stone.

Count from the first minute of 2015 until you get to the last one on June 5th, and you ‘ll have 156 days, 3,744 hours or 224,640 minutes. That’s all the time you have before the next CFA® exam. This result won’t change no matter how hard you try. Given this, your assignment is to figure out how to best use your time.

Create a Plan – Calendar it – Stick to it.

Whether you go digital or paper put everything on your calendar. As I said in a previous post, “Studying for the exam is a part-time job and you need to dedicate time each week to studying. Commit to it by blocking time off in your calendar and treat that time as sacred.”

CFA Institute gives candidates access to an interactive study planner, which displays study time for each topic. The estimated study time is based on pages in the readings, exam topic weights and days remaining until the exam. This tool also lets you indicate when you’ve completed a topic and it automatically adjust the remaining time to other topics. For every topic you mark complete, you also get a link to practice questions for that topic. Check it out and see how this may work for you. But note this is a generic estimate so it may be worth customizing the plan to fit you better.

What to Consider When Creating Your Plan

  • Realize the numbers above represent every minute in the day, so unless you can go without sleeping, eating, interacting with people, or all those other “annoying” things that clog up your time, you realistically have between 3 to 5 hours a day – and definitely not every day. Burn out isn’t one of the goals of this exercise. Build flexibility into your schedule.
  • Adapt your study schedule to fit your needs and learning style. Do you study better (or have more time) on weekends, mornings, or evenings?
  • Make an inventory of everything you have to study and assign priorities based on your strong and weak areas, as well as topic weights. This will help you allocate time wisely.
  • Then assign specific days and times for each topic.
  • In a study group? Definitely put that on the calendar and know what your group will be studying each time it meets. Plan your study time accordingly.
  • Create checkpoints to help keep you on track and test yourself along the way. (Consider using the CFA Institute planner practice questions for this.)
  • Don’t plan any new studying during the last four weeks before the exam. Leave that final month for review and practice exams.

To paraphrase “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent:

Two hundred twenty-four thousand six hundred minutes
Two hundred twenty four thousand moments, oh crap
Two hundred twenty four thousand six hundred minutes
How do you plan, plan your attack?

You have limited time. Plan wisely.

–Linda Lam

Linda Lam is the program manager of the CFA Review Program offered by the University of San Francisco.

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