In order to qualify as a chartered financial analyst (CFA), you’ll need to overleap the obstacle that is the all-important CFA exam.
This test is designed to ensure that your understanding of the ins and outs of investment analysis is second to none, and that you are thus equipped to serve your clients effectively.
Of course it’s one thing to take the CFA exam, and quite another to actually pass it, so the following tips are worth taking onboard as you begin your preparations if you want the best chance of success.
Understand how each different level is structured
Unlike some other professional certifications, the CFA exam is actually broken down into three different levels, each of which has its own requirements, format and focus.
You’ll therefore have to get to grips with what each level involves, and adjust your preparations accordingly, depending on which you need to tackle next.
It’s easiest to read up on the various CFA exam levels here and appreciate the differences between them, so that you aren’t caught out.
Get your priorities straight
It’s impossible to cover all aspects of the topics covered in each level of the CFA exam, and to pass you won’t actually need to. Instead, aim to focus on those which are more heavily weighted in the official curriculum.
Questions on ethical and professional standards are going to appear in greater numbers than those on portfolio management, for example, so tweak your schedule to accommodate this.
Be realistic about the time you’ll need to prepare
There’s no point going into a CFA exam if you aren’t appropriately prepared for what you’ll face, and that means recognizing just how much time has to be dedicated to studying.
It’s not unusual for each level to take candidates 200-300 hours of prep on the road to achieving a pass. You can reduce this if your study schedule is well managed and you make optimal use of your time, but even so you’ll still need to make sure you’ve got the time available to tackle the various topics in enough depth.
Build a balanced schedule
Exam prep burnout is most likely to occur if you don’t spread your studying out over a long period, and instead try to cram everything into the last couple of weeks.
Candidates that carry out CFA prep over the course of six months will find it much less of a burden, and they’ll also have enough wiggle room available to up the ante as the big day draws near if necessary.
Complete mock exams
Every level of the CFA exam has a duration of six hours, which is a sizable chunk of time that needs to be managed carefully so that you don’t find yourself rushing as the clock ticks down.
This is where participating in mock exams as part of your prep is always advisable. Doing so will bolster your time management skills, and will also leave you feeling less stressed during the actual exam, because you’ll have a familiarity with the structure as well as the format of questions.
Last of all, don’t allow your CFA exam studies to overwhelm the rest of your life, or monopolize every waking hour of your day without end.
Breaks are just as important to success as the actual studying, and you have to give your brain time to absorb the information you’ve fed it, as well as to minimize stress.
All of this comes down to making the CFA exam process less intimidating and more manageable, so combine hard work with downtime to reach your goals.
Brought to you by Cristina Par