7 Home Stretch CFA Exam Tips That Won't Make Your Hair Hurt

Home stretch candidates!! June 4th 2016 is fast approaching.


I passed the CFA Level 3 exam and became a CFA charter holder last year and in a very, very, very small way, I miss the energy and excitement of the exam and the rigor of the exam process.

And whether this is your first exam or your fourth or fifth exam, there can be a lot of distractions and self doubt about what you should be doing in the last month.

I tried many successful and unsuccessful strategies as I endeavored to become a CFA charter holder and if I were taking another exam in a month, I would be doing these seven simple things.

1) Make and use flashcards. I used colored cards to correspond to the CFA volumes. I made cards for both concepts and formulas. If you have a doubt, make a card. I would review them occasionally leading up to the exam and extensively in the last two weeks. There are many formulas and concepts that you just have to find a way to make room for in your brain. Flashcards worked great for me.

2) Make a formula page or pages. I rewrote and reorganized my three formula pages several times. It helped with memory and recollection. I made two copies for exam day and it was the one thing I stared at until the final moment before walking into the exam room.

3) Stop reading the curriculum. In the last four weeks, just do problems. Read the text if you need to clarify something or to fine-tune an approach, but don't bother trying to re-review entire volumes or sections. Even the summary sessions and re-watching lectures weren't an optimal use of my time. Learning and mastering through problem solving is your best bet.

4) Study when you do your best work. Some people are morning people and some people work well after a workout. I work best after dinner, from 7 - 12pm. So yes, I would get tired, but I knew that was the window I do my best work. Try to do your studying in whatever your optimal window is.

5) Practice and know how to use your calculator. When you need a change of pace, practice on your calculator. Switch decimal places, learn the shortcuts, use the logarithmic scale, practice with negatives, practice with long numbers, practice with some of the lesser used functions and you won't get tripped up on an easy concept with an unusual mathematical twist. There is nothing worse than studying the material, knowing the concept and then being confused by a twist in the math. Mastering your calculator will help prevent that.

6) Imagine yourself as a CFA charter holder. Becoming a CFA charter holder is partially mental. The collection of all the mental gymnastics that you have to go through is part of the challenge. My personal image of myself as a CFA charter holder helped me through some tough times. It will be a reality for many of you, so use it as motivation!

7) Become an expert on one treacherous problem out of spite. For me, it was sort of like fighting back at the question writers. I picked pricing and valuing currency swaps. I remember a currency swap practice exam problem that was just diabolical. The first couple of times, I would get it wrong while staring at the answer key?!? You can't do this for every area and every hard problem, but mastering just one gives you the confidence that you can master others to a lesser degree and if that one does show up on the exam, well, you can smile from ear to ear as you hear the moans and groans of other candidates.

OK, break's over. Get off of social media and get back to studying!

Good luck!