How do I get through all of these books????
November 2, 2011 5:09 PM   Subscribe

How do I tackle studying for the CFA exam?

So I've signed up for the June 2012 CFA Level 1 exam. The CFA Institute sent me six very thick and dense textbooks (which were required to be purchased upon registration). I also ordered the Schweser Essential Study package, which I expected to be much smaller and another box of six textbooks landed on my doorstep today. This seems a little overwhelming at the moment so for those of you who have taken this exam, could you please offer your tips and hints so that I can (hopefully) be one of the only 38% who pass?

I have worked in the financial industry for several years and I took a very similar exam in the UK, which covered all the same topic matter, but probably didn't go into as much depth as the CFA, so I'm not going into this blind.

Any tips are much appreciated. Thanks.
posted by triggerfinger to Education (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 7 months until the exam. Try to get through one of the CFA books every week or two.

After you have finished with each section/book, honestly assess yourself and figure out where your weak points are (Schweser is usually good for this, because they have questions for each section). Once you are done with the initial read-through, hit the weak areas harder.

Do a practice exam, figure out the weak areas again, study it. Do another practice exam, etc.

I liked to finish my studying early and just go into maintenance mode for the months leading up to the exam (I am a vintage 2006 CFA charteree). It made my life a lot less stressful to stretch it out that way. Some people wouldn't study until the week or two before the test.
posted by milkrate at 5:26 PM on November 2, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks milkrate. When you say CFA books, do you mean the CFA Institute official books or the Schweser books? I was thinking I would start reading the Schweser books and only go to the official books if I need clarification or deeper study?

I'm not trying to take shortcuts, it's just that I do have a decent background in this and a good portion of the info in the CFA Institute books appears to cover pretty basic stuff. I'm trying to optimize my study time as much as possible. Looking at ALL OF THESE BOOKS is a bit overwhelming.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:37 PM on November 2, 2011

Best answer: Yes, everyone's experience is different with CFA, so it's about working out what fits for you. Personally I did the exact opposite of milkrate.

I barely glanced at the CFA Institute books for study - they're overlong and turgid in my view. There's a lot of stuff in there that they can technically examine you on and may do so, but you can never remember it all. It's more important to understand the key concepts, which is what the study guides focus on.

So I almost exclusively used Schweser. The main exception to that was things like ethics, standards and GIPS, when I read the original texts and the case studies in full - I think that's absolutely vital. Remember you must pass ethics in its own right - I have heard stories of people who had a passing score on average but were failed because they failed ethics.

I set out planning to cover the course in advance over several months and revise, but it never really worked out like that (I think I got a couple of books done on L1 and about half of one on L2 and L3). Instead, I took two weeks off work before the exams (three for L3) and studied everyday for hours, reading through all the Schweser notes, doing the end of chapter problems as I went along, then doing practice exams and questions, including those from the CFA curriculum.

The advantage of this for me is that everything is fresh in my mind, while doing plenty of questions forces it to stay there long enough to be churned out on exam day. This worked first time for me on all papers, but obviously other people work completely differently.

I'm convinced that doing hundreds of questions is the best way to improve your chances of passing an multiple-choice exam like this. Make sure you have the two Schweser practice exam books. I didn't use Schweser QBank, but I've heard it recommended for this, especially for L1.

I had already done a undergraduate degree in finance, which covered a lot of L1 (economics, quantitative methods etc), but relatively little of L2 and L3. That helped with my kind of approach, but I assume you're in a similar position knowledge-wise. Study material-wise, general consensus is that Schweser is better (terser) than Stalla if you're already comfortable with basic finance concepts, so you've probably made the right choice there.

Incidentally, the CFA curriculum is in various places flat-out wrong, self-contradictory, out of date and lazily updated, and completely delusional about how the real world works. Unfortunately, you just need to learn what they say and recite it, however insane it makes you feel.
posted by Temagami at 6:12 PM on November 2, 2011

Best answer: Okay Temagami said everything I wanted to say. So I second everything. Especially, doing plenty of questions, taking your time with Ethics and using Qbank for Level I (not so useful for Level II or III, even though that feels very far away).
I can also suggest hanging out at analyst forum.
I read this book while preparing and might help you out too.
posted by Lucubrator at 6:20 PM on November 2, 2011

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