Remember the great training montages in the Rocky movies? Where the champ could come back from a defeat to overcome a stronger boxer by just going through three minutes of training set to some kick*#@ music.
Ah, if only studying for the CFA exams were like that. You could slide through the first four and a half months of the year with your mind decidedly not in the game and then crank out a hardcore two weeks to beat the exam! Epic!
While you can’t expect to pass the exam with just two weeks of studying, what would your montage training program look like?
Eye of the Tiger
Picking up on the montage scenes in the movies where Rocky turns everything he can find into an exercise, you really need a diversity of study resources. Rocky’s montage may only last three minutes but yours will be two weeks and only doing practice problems is going to get boring. You need to be using flash cards, condensed reviews, practice problems, and single-sheet summaries. Just as you can’t expect to get well-developed pectorals from just a bench press, you need to hit the CFA curriculum from different angles to assimilate it.
Do you see Rocky taking it easy during the montages? No, he’s sweatin’ and pushing the limit lifting a 500 pound cart with Paulie in it. You can’t take it easy in your montage either. By now you know which topic areas are your most difficult. While it wouldn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time on something worth less than 10% of your score, you can’t afford to neglect any one section. Be realistic here and divide your time between those topics that carry a lot of weight and those in which you need the most work.
The beginning few sequences in Rocky’s montage sometimes start with him attempting a really heavy lift or exercise and not quite being able to get it, only to succeed with the same lift later on. For your montage, this means looking deeper into those practice problems or mock questions which were missed so you can answer them correctly if they come up again. It does you no good to just take a mock exam and look at your score. You have to actively study the questions you missed and understand what material you need to work on.
If you haven’t already, you absolutely need to take a practice exam now. Better yet, take two exams to make sure that your score in any particular topic area in the first practice wasn’t just luck. This is going to give you a good idea of where you stand for your grasp on the material.
Once you know how well you are doing on the material, start your two week montage hitting those practice problems, flash cards and review sheets.
At the end of your montage, maybe Wednesday/Thursday of next week, take another couple of practice exams to see your new, improved score.
Then get ready for the big day!
If the exams were a Rocky opponent…
Level 1: Apollo? Many Level 1 candidates are surprised the first time and fail but then come back for the win
Level 2: Mr. T? For most, the hardest exam and many candidates get overconfident after a passing Level 1 score. I pity the fool that don’t take Level 2 seriously!
Level 3: Ivan Drago? Still a tough exam but at this point, we all know that you are going to beat the exam though it may feel like you’ve got brain damage afterwards.
Ah, if only Stallone could live forever, “Rocky XXV: Clone Wars”
‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA