Here’s How to Study for the CFA Exam with One Month to Go


You’ve been consistently working hard studying; trying end-of-chapter (EOC) questions, and perhaps even attempted some practice exams already.

With 1 month left to go, a little structured CFA Level 1 study plan goes a long way.

Why? Because this is the period where your learning rate is the highest, when you are actually tested to apply what you’ve learned so far – and more importantly – the opportunity to identify and fill the gaps in your knowledge, just in time for the exams. It’s what you do in this last month that makes a difference between failing and passing.

So here’s a CFA Level 1 study plan to make the most out of the 1 month remaining – to eat, sleep, live and breathe CFA until the finish line!

What Stage Should I Be In Now?

By now, you should be in the final stages of your revision. By this I mean:

  • Completed (at least) one thorough reading of the whole syllabus, or almost done with this;
  • Tried most EOC questions as you went along;
  • Have not started on practice exams, or at least haven’t started attempting them proper exam-style.

If not, you need to wrap things up as soon as possible, either skimming through the study sessions remaining, or noting the sections you haven’t got time to revise for now and come back to it later. Basically, you need to start the CFA level 1 study plan (battle plan) below on time (i.e. first week of November), to allow yourself ample time to prepare for the CFA exams effectively.

The 5 Step Battle Plan

1) Resource Planning

If possible, take 1 week off work prior the exam. This can be a study leave allowed by your kind employer, or use your personal holiday allowance to do this. You need to be focused and not be further burdened by work stress and obligations especially the week before exam. I’ve done this since Level 1 and it has worked wonders.

How many practice exams do you have? The goal is do 2 full papers a week, and leave 1 for the last week. The rest of the time would be filled with revisions or trying out practice questions in areas you’re weak at using question bank.

2)  Practice

  • Find a quiet area where you can focus without distraction. Let your room mate or family know that you’re taking an exam and should not be disturbed.
  • Try your first practice exam in a day, preferably timed as per exam condition – one morning and afternoon session, 3 hours each. Have your lunch break in between, of course.
  • Watch your time carefully while going as quickly and as accurately as you can. Stop strictly once the 3 hour time is up.

3) Don’t forget the ethics section

Get the ethics portion of the exam right, because it can make or break your chances of passing the CFA exam.

Ethics is important to becoming an investment professional. The ethics section is not based on the candidate’s intuitive sense of right and wrong – rather, questions are based on what the CFA institute’s code and standards say and how they might be applied to behavior in various situations.

Try to take your own sense of right and wrong out of it, which is important because it can make the difference between passing and failing. If candidates do well on ethics who may have been just short of a passing score based on the rest of the exam will pass and candidates who may have passed just barely based on the rest of the exam will fail if they bomb the ethics portion.

Don’t try to cram until all hours the night before

Prioritize a good night’s sleep the night before the exam rather than staying up late studying. Put nothing on your CFA Level study plan on the day before the exam.

Do something relaxing almost all day, and don’t go out and party or cram too late. The actual exam ends up being an endurance event, with two three-hour sessions, so if you go into it tired or drained because you were pulling an all-nighter, you’d really be doing yourself a disservice.

See if you can go to the test center at some point before the day of the exam to get the lay of the land, figure out the best route to the test center, and get a feel for where you can park and where you will eat lunch. It provides a sense of comfort if you’ve been there before, because you don’t want to have to make small incremental decisions on things you haven’t experienced yet on the day of the exam.

Don’t forget the small things

Some people are more organized than others.

For example, make sure you have the right calculators, double-check your tickets, make sure not to write anything on your tickets, and either pack your lunch the night before or scope out a lunch spot within walking distance of the exam center in advance.

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