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Tips on How to Pass Your CFA Exams Just Like That!

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If you are planning to take the Chartered financial analyst (CFA) exam, you would have already heard how tough these exams are. The last ten year (2006-2015) average pass rates for various levels were Level 1: 39%, Level 2: 43% and Level 3: 53%. On the whole, only 42% of candidates pass the CFA exam and if you considerer average pass rate of completing all three levels of exam sequentially, it’s only 9%.

CFA institute says that at-least 250 hours and six months of preparation is required to clear a single exam and a successful candidate takes 4 years to complete the entire program. So the time commitment for the exam is high. Odds are that you are a working professional (approximately 75% of candidates taking CFA exam are working either full time or part time), then time available to commit to CFA program would be limited. So CFA exams tests not only one’s intellect but also endurance and commitment to become a CFA charter holder. Another aspect of CFA exam which makes it challenging is the fact that multiple topic areas tested at single time. CFA exams test you in at-least in 8-10 different areas and you are expected to achieve a minimum in each of the topic area and also cross the overall minimum across all topics.

Here are some tips to help you through these tough exams:

1) Focus on your exams curriculum

Other materials may be helpful but it is important to realize that your prime focus has to be on materials and the CFA study guide provided by the CFA institute. The CFA study guide has to be your main reference for studying. Stick to a few reliable sources and don’t completely blow up your preparations by trying to go through too many resources.

2) Keep an eye out for changes

Over the years the CFA exams have changed quite a bit. In the very beginning you’d have to write open ended essays then in the 2000s the CFA Level 1 exam became all mcqs. You need to keep an eye out for any kind of changes, if you fail to know about these changes it will really hamper your chances for passing the CFA exams.

3) Know the exam format

It is important to know things like how many questions each paper has, duration for each exam, how many breaks etc. Familiarize yourself with the format of all 3 exams before giving them.

4) Practice!

Practicing is known to ease all difficulties eventually, its best if you practice in written form.

Some candidates spend way too much time on practice questions, drilling and drilling, rather than really taking the time to memorize the curriculum and understand the concepts.

Also, don’t focus obsessively on certain parts of the curriculum that you think will make up the bulk of the test while neglecting others.

It’s a dangerous game to try to figure out what’s going to be on the test, to the extent that you’re skipping chapters. That’s reducing the probability that you’re going to be able to handle the questions you’ll actually see on the exam.

5) Take care of yourself

Candidates are tempted to cram in as many last few hours of study as they can. But don’t sacrifice time usually spent on exercise, eating well or sleeping a full night for studying – especially in the days just before the exam. If possible, candidates may consider putting in a request now to take some personal time off work for review and rest right before the exam. You want to perform your best, and that means caring for your physical well-being as much as mental preparedness. If your body isn’t ready, then hundreds of hours of prep won’t mean anything.

6) Be prepared

Any day before the exam day, go to the exam center and familiarize yourself with the route. Try to find the shortest route to be on the safe side and avoid any unwanted incidents. Also make sure you have your valid passport, ticket and approved calculator – and leave the personal belongings at home.

Pay close attention to all the instructions provided to make sure you’re following the procedures properly.

7) Time management is a must

Time management is one of the essential skills for CFA exam preparation. For example, The Level I exam consists of 240 multiple choice questions, split among two 3-hour sessions. This means, on average you would have approximately 90 seconds for each multiple choice question. This is very demanding. Unless, one is well versed with topic areas and practiced answering multiple choice questions, it would be very difficult the time required during the exam to get the overall minimum score. Ideally last month or two before the exam should be devoted to practicing questions on all topic areas and thoroughly going through the CFA study guide.

8) Don’t forget to give attention to details because you are in a rush

While you have to keep your eye on the clock, some people work too fast. There are a lot of key directions in the pre-exam instructions.

Candidates fly into this without paying attention, they miss questions, misread them, or they don’t follow instructions and write on the wrong page. You have to calm yourself down and work at a steady pace without rushing.

Despite the fact that the test is timed, read all questions thoroughly. The test-question writers intended for you to read the content entirely think carefully and do whatever calculation you need to answer it correctly.

Some candidates read a question too quickly and they think they know the answer, they see one choice that seems logical and they fill in the oval and move on without reading the other options.

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