Put Down that Drumstick: Last Minute Resources for the December Exam

Two weeks left to the exam, time to start studying right? Ok, while the majority of your studying for the level I CFA exam should be firmly behind you, there is still time to get those incremental points that will mean the difference between passing and a band 10 letter.
I always used to take the last week before the exam off from work and devote myself to review. Whether you are able to do this or not, many of you have the advantage of having the four-day Thanksgiving weekend to put in some last-minute studying. Long weekend or no, I thought I would share some of my last week strategies for studying.
So kiss the family, tell them you had a great time and will see them next year. It’s time to pass the CFA exam!
Mock exams are your best friend right now. These need to be completed in two separate three-hour portions in an environment that mimics the exam room. Don’t think that you can do 120 questions spread throughout a day or two and get the same experience. I liked to complete at least 6 mock exams before going into the real thing. Mock practice serves three functions.
First, it further helps to learn the information. Make sure you go back through the exam and study the answer and reasoning for any questions missed. It does no good to ignore missed topics unless you want to miss them on the real exam as well. Second, taking mock exams helps you ready your mind for a pretty intense six-hour session. Don’t underestimate the stress and fatigue the CFA exam entails. Getting used to the mock exams will dramatically increase your confidence on test day. Finally, taking mock exams helps you to track your progress in each topic area. You don’t have a lot of time left to study, but you have enough time to hit some of the problem areas uncovered by practice.
If you have not made a set of flash cards yet, now is the time. Writing up your own cards can be a tedious process, but you will learn so much more than by just buying the pre-made sets. Flash cards should be used for any difficult list or formula with which you are having trouble. The best part about cards is that they can be carried around pretty easily and studied in any time increment available.
Beyond a mock exam every day or two, I would try to hit one study session as well. Study guides and quick notes are going to be necessary here because there is just not enough time to work through the curriculum again. Focus on the core topic areas for the exam like Ethics and FRA with attention to topics where you are not scoring well on the mock exams. I would set a bar of around 80% on core topics and 60-70% on everything else. If I am not within this range consistently on the mock exams, I would devote a little more time.
Whatever your study schedule is these last two weeks, I would highly recommend finding a quite, test-like environment to study. This means NOT STUDYING AT HOME! Candidate’s homes are usually either too noisy and distracting or too quite. You need to get used to seeing the information in a place that is, for the most part quite, but with occasional noises (libraries are great). Studying somewhere other than home will also help keep you committed to the task. Studying for the CFA exam is your job for these last two weeks, not something you do in your spare time at home. Find a desk, organize your work and treat it as such.
It’s been a long run already. You’re tired and just want to take a break. The finish line is in sight. Dig deep and push a little further and you’ll be rewarded.
Next week, we’ll cover last minute do’s and don’ts  for the exam.
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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