Six Weeks Left! Where did the Time Go?

I am in a very happy place right now. There are six weeks left before the 2012 CFA exams and I don’t have to worry about it! I can guarantee you, this will be a very good Memorial Day (May 28th here in the U.S.) for me.
You, on the other hand, need to assess where you are in your test prep and kick it up a bit if needed. You should have taken at least one practice exam, but preferably more to see in which topics you need more work. You need to be above 70% consistently before you go into the exam so averaging less than 60% in a topic at this point is a problem.
Depending on where you are at in your preparation, you may need to step up the hours spent each week and focusing on the resources that are going to get you the most points with less time commitment.

  • Study guides are still going to be your ‘core’ resource. Hopefully, you don’t need to re-read all the material but you should try to get through your problem areas again.
  • Flash cards! I’ve covered these in a previous post. This is one of the most useful resources at this point because you can carry them around easily and focus on specific questions/formulas.
  • Topic area summaries are worth the cost for their portability. Not quite as useful for formulas (practice is best) but you can easily review a summary page a few times a day and get core concepts down.
  • I would be spending the majority of time on practice problems and mock exams. Don’t just grade your answers but study the guideline answer for those you got wrong. I cannot think of a better way of focusing in on the stuff you don’t know yet.

If you are not feeling comfortable with your level of preparation, or aren’t scoring well on mock exams, you need to find some extra time each week to ratchet up the studying. This may be tough for those that waited too late to begin and are already studying 20+ hours per week. Either way, you need to find some extra time unless you want to be in a very unhappy place around August.
Finding more study time:

  • Try writing out a quick outline of how you spent your time over the last few days. How much TV did you watch? Did you meet up with friends or family? What did you do for lunch? The idea is not to account for every minute but to see where you might be able to get in some extra time for studying. Be honest and realize that a six-week deadline means cutting back on everything but the essentials.
  • If you need to, cut back on sleep in 10-30 minute increments per week. I usually get between 7-8 hours but was able to cut back to 6 hours during my last few months of exam prep. I would not recommend less than 6 hours for an extended period of time (your brain won’t be working right anyway so what’s the point). Don’t try to cut back all at once either, just shave off a half hour each week or so.
  • Those flash cards and summary pages are great for carrying around and using during lunch, waiting in line, or any time you have more than 10 minutes free.

Most of all, you are going to need to understand that sacrifices need to be made. If you need to go out with friends and family less to be able to pass the exam, then do it. It is only for another 6 weeks, then the party begins!
Use the comment box below to let me know where you are at in your preparation. I’m interested in hearing where the average candidate is right now. Thanks.
‘til Monday, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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