Every year while I was studying for the CFA Program exams, I would see candidates at the mock exams and at study groups pulling out their shiny new flashcards.
The cards were impressive, detailed with problems and answers and professionally done by prep providers.
And every year I saw candidates continue to struggle with the concepts written on their cards because they did not understand them.
One of the best resources for CFA exam preparation is flash cards but not the ones prepared for you.
For real exam success, follow the process below to make your own cards.
Your fourth-grade teacher had a secret
Remember getting in trouble in grade school and having to write repetitive sentences on the chalkboard?
Ok, maybe many of you don’t but I got in trouble a lot and was perpetually doing math problems and grammar exercises out after class.
Years later, I realized getting in trouble so much actually helped me succeed academically.
Writing out about a million math problems over the course of a couple of years virtually guaranteed that I could do those problems from memory years later.
Our brains are wired to learn by repetition.
Writing something repetitively makes new neural connections and commits information to memory.
And this is why those prepared flash cards will never be as great a resource as writing your own cards.
Writing out a problem that covers a Learning Outcome Statement is a long way to memorizing the material.
Making your flashcards is pretty easy but there are a few things to remember.
Make Your Own CFA Program Flash Cards for Guaranteed Exam Success!
I would try to work through the curriculum once before composing any flash cards.
On the second time through, you will have a better sense for the difficult topics and where you need more work.
Putting flashcards together on the first read through the curriculum is going to eat up a lot of time on material that you would have gotten without the cards.
Writing your cards, do not simply write out an equation to solve.
Cards should be like mini-exam questions with information on a specific scenario.
Write out a short story with data that will be needed to solve a problem. You might even try putting in unnecessary information as will be done on the exams.
Then on the reverse side of the card, work through the problem completely. Write out every step and every calculation.
That will help you learn off your cards instead of constantly referring back to the curriculum if you are confused on how the solution came out.
Don’t think your flash cards are a static learning tool.
How to Create Your Own CFA Flashcards for Levels 1, 2 and 3!
As you progress, you may want to put some aside that you’ve mastered or make more cards on other topics.
After several runs through your cards, you may even try re-writing the ones that are still giving you problems for a little repetitive exercise.
Flash cards cannot be your only resource ahead of the exams but you certainly cannot neglect them.
Not only will the cards help you focus on tough material and are a good source of repetitive-type learning, they are a great resource for time management.
You can carry your cards with you and run through them anytime you have a couple of free minutes.
Those extra few study sessions can add up to a lot of extra time every week.
‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA