A Scientifically-Proven Way to Study for the CFA® Exam

The phrase ‘study smarter, not harder’ is thrown around a lot but candidates may not be taking the advice to heart. Studying upwards of 300 hours for the exam is hard enough but even that may not get you closer to the designation if you’re not retaining the information. You truly do need to master the material in order to recall it on the exam and you won’t be able to do that by just reading through study material.

Ebbinghaus published his hypothesis on the ‘curve of forgetting’ in 1885, describing how we learn and forget information.

How to study for CFA exam?

The idea is that you learn everything you can about a topic through a study event or lecture but then start to lose the information over time if it’s not reinforced.

If you do nothing to remember the information, you’ve lost up to 80% of it by the second day and retain just 2% in a matter of 30 days.

The solution is to reinforce the material and commit it to long-term memory by reminding yourself of the key points.

Spending just 10 minutes studying the material the day after a lecture will help boost your memory back to full comprehension.

After that, it takes less time revisiting the material to remember the bulk of the topic.

Using this idea in your CFA examination study plan means reviewing the material you study the following day and each week for the next month. Use study notes to review the key points and then do 15 or 20 minutes of practice problems.

Work published in Psychological Science by a Washington University professor on a 2009 study shows that students remember material better when they actively recall it after studying. Instead of just reviewing notes or rereading material, close your book and verbally recite the key points to a topic. Do this just after studying and before reviewing the material.

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