There Are No Shortcuts to the CFA Exam

Shortcut to the CFAWhen studying for the CFA exam, everybody wonders whether there wouldn’t be a faster, more efficient way to prepare other than slowly reading through the required study material and painfully learning learning objective by learning objective. The phone books we receive with our exam registration from CFA Institute are not exactly encouraging, nor is the recommendation to spend at least 250 hours per level in preparation for the exam. Unfortunately, there really is not much you can do to take shortcuts in your learning process. Certainly, third party learning material providers make their money with the promise of a quick fix, but this is really mostly snake oil, in my opinion. You need to work hard in order to be awarded the CFA charter, period.

The number one thing you can do though is improving your learning efficiency and preparing smarter. I already wrote an article about this subject (How To Master The CFA Exam In 10 Steps), but here are the no-frills cornerstones of effective CFA exam preparation:

  1. Start early, at least six months before the exam. If you have started way too late, you will scramble just to read the material, let alone practice it. Sure, you may be able to somehow wing it, but if you have to honestly  admit you started too late, then delay the exam by one period. This will save you a lot of headaches.

  3. Read the original books from CFA Institute, and don’t bother with other regurgitated material that simply restates what’s already written in these books. Most of you will know what I mean, and which learning provider is addressed here.

  5. Take notes while you read that you can look at later in your review phase.

  7. Make your own formula sheet while you read.

  9. Solve all the practice questions in the original books. The exam questions will be similar, so if you completely master these questions, you will be prepared well for the exam.

  11. Regularly review your notes, the practice questions, and the formula sheet in the last month before the exam. If you’re unclear about some of the questions in the book, solve and re-solve them again until they become clear. you really need to understand each learning objective to do well in the exam, and this is how you can ensure that.

That’s it! I followed these steps and did pretty well in each of the three levels of the CFA exam. It’s by no means easy, but if you systematically approach the exam, this is how it can be done. I wish you all the best for your CFA exam reparations.