Last week before the exam! If you’re anything like I was, you might be a bit jittery, and entering a stage where you’re saying “I don’t care either way, I just want it to be over. Would be nice to pass, but I am really getting tired of looking at the happy people on the CFA book covers”.
This is normal, and a good place to be. It usually indicates that you’ve reached your ‘saturation point’, the point where you have done all you can. The only bit left is to tune your mind and body to the optimal configuration for exam day. Make sure you take the time to consider the following tips in this last week.
Take the week off. Hopefully your company would have been nice enough to give you some days off - now would be the best time to use them. Even if your company hasn’t been as generous, you should consider taking personal leave. Juggling the upcoming exam with work distractions just isn’t doable for most situations, and you want to do this right or risk having to do it all over again next year.
Bash out some practice exams, but pay less and less attention to actual scores. You should plan to attempt at least 2 sets of practice exams in the 7 days preceding exam day. However, this is not the time to be marking yourself mercilessly and obsessing about your ‘score’ - you want to increase your confidence this week, not beat yourself up. You should be doing these questions for practice, like warm-up runs before a big race. If you’ve done all your practice exams, re-doing early ones work well too - it’s still practice, you would have forgotten the specifics of most of them but they would be easier for you this time around, boosting confidence. Pepper your practice sessions with quick flicks to your study notes to clarify concepts where you’re not clear.
Stuff in the last bits of info. The CFA Institute is going to bring out the pitchforks when I say this, but there will always be certain parts where you still don’t seem to quite get, despite all your efforts. Gather these parts of the material and assess how can you reasonably tackle questions on these parts by mindless memorisation. I find understanding derivations of formulae to be the best way to remember calculation methods but the last week is always where I would cut the crap and just memorise.
Resist the temptation to study longer and longer hours. Keeping awake with caffeine will come to haunt you on exam day. Countless candidates have told me that they’ve always regretted artificially staying awake through the night with gallons of coffee, as the subsequent crash in the morning affected exam day too much for it to be worth it.
Start waking up on time. If you’ve been doing late hours and waking up late in the morning, this week is the time to reverse that pattern. If exam day is the first day you’ve woken up early in a long time, you’re not going to be as sharp as you should be. Do trust me on this one - this makes a load of difference.
Take a day off to relax. This does not mean hardcore partying, but instead take the time to de-stress as much as you can. If you can’t bring yourself to take a whole day off, take half a day off - preferably the second part of the day, that way you won’t be worrying about the topics you will be covering after you’re done relaxing.
Stop worrying. No, your brain is not going to leak information. No, you’re not going to forget everything by exam day. Worrying will translate to sleeping badly and all kinds of other anxiety-related issues, and frankly, you’ve done so much already (yes, you have), so now is the time to start relaxing and acing the exam.
Now go out there and slay the beast!
usj2 is a CFA charterholder and has held roles in financial services, advertising and technology. He can be reached at email@example.com or his blog, 300 Hours.