Saw a forum post last week talking about study plans up to the exam and a few of the plans reminded me of the days when I used to plan out my weightlifting and exercise schedule. The study plans went something like:
Day 1: FRA
Day 2: Quant, Econ, Corporate, PM
Day 3: Ethics
Day 4: Equities, Fixed Income, Derivatives, Alternatives
The plan reminded me eerily of the days when I planned out my exercise schedule religiously with a weekly schedule of the day and muscle groups to be trained. This got me thinking about how an exercise schedule is planned and how it can relate to study schedules. A couple of things stuck out in my mind when reading through the post and relating it to my own experience on the exams.
1) Do you necessarily have to design your schedule around topics? You might try devoting a day to flashcards or summary review sheets. Think circuit training where you hit the entire body of muscle groups in one workout. This helps to breakup the monotony of trying to push through a five hour marathon like Quant, Econ, Corporate and Portfolio Management or one day completely devoted to one topic.
2) Should you change the schedule so you are not always working the same topics together? Granted, if you already have a good grasp of the material in a few topics then you can probably just pay them a little attention through quick reviews. In exercise, your muscles get used to the routine and amount of stress you put on them. This is when growth starts to plateau. In studying, you need to keep it interesting and relatively new. Always going through the same routine with the same topics runs the risk of burnout or just going through the motions.
Related to this is alternating your focus on a topic. If you always spend all your energy on one muscle group and neglect another, the neglected muscle will begin to atrophy. Grouping four topics together for one day leaves little time for anything but a quick review. Done long enough and you could start to forget some easy points that you took for granted. Try changing the focus each week to review some topics and really study others. Then switch the topics you review and study the next week.
3) Try mixing easy and more difficult topics. Another reference back to weightlifting, you do not try to work two large muscle groups in one day (example back and legs). The energy you need to work just one of these groups means that you will probably have nothing left to give to the latter half of your workout. Similarly, you might want to schedule one easy topic and one more difficult topic in a day. You will cover more material and will not tire yourself out mentally.
With just two weeks left of studying, the exact details of your study plan probably do not matter quite as much. You will be pulled by two forces, studying the material in which still need help versus not neglecting the rest of the material. Resources like summary sheets and flash cards can help on the material that you don’t want to neglect but do not need a full review. For that material where you still need to focus, videos and the condensed study guide are still going to be your best bet.
Joseph Hogue, CFA