You may not have heard the not-so-slight sarcasm in the tone of the title or see me relaxing with my beer and BBQ while I write this. Most likely you are not as relaxed, hunched over your desk feverishly pounding out practice problems.
Take some solace in the fact that there’s just one week left of your torment and the additional number of Memorial Days you’ll miss is finite.
Spending Memorial Day with your family and friends rather than with your exam books, which have become familiar enough to be considered family, is not necessarily a cardinal sin but neglecting a strong finish to your studies in this last week may be. Some will suggest a relaxed study plan and a cool-off period this week before the test. I, on the other hand, always preferred to make it a no-holds-barred studying cage match. It’s your last chance to get those last few points that might make you part of the happy few, rather than the poor slob saying for the next year, “Band 10! If only one more question.”
Strategy for that Last Week
I always took the last week off from work. Your ‘job’ this week is making sure you pass the exam. Wake up early, preferably the time you will be waking up on Saturday, and go to a private study site. Do not stay home to study! Even if there are not others home during the day, there are just too many distractions.
If you have not been taking regular 3- or 6-hour practice exams, now is the time to do it. I started each day in the last week with a 3-hour practice exam from question bank software. Your scores within each topic area will help guide your studying for the rest of the week. If you are consistently over 75-80% in a topic area, you may be able to pay it a quick review and spend more time on other areas.
Despite spending 8-10 hours a day this last week, you are not going to be able to review the entire curriculum. Hopefully, by now you understand your problem areas and can focus on those. Condensed summary sheets (available from most 3rd party providers) are a great way to quickly review all the most important concepts and save more time for detailed studying in tough subjects.
Basically, I usually tried something of a tiered-method of studying during the last week. The intensity and detail of review in each topic was determined by how well I was doing on practice exams within that area. Within those areas where I was quite confident and scoring above 80%, I would quickly review a summary sheet, maybe for half an hour. The topics in which I was scoring slightly lower, say between 65-80% consistently, I would spend an hour to review my study guides and find any particular LOS that were giving me problems.
At this point in the game, there were rarely topics in which I scored below 65%. If there are topics in which you are getting less than two-thirds of the questions, you need to assess why you are not getting the information. Is it conceptual details or formulas? Formulas are best handled with flash cards and repetition. We’ve covered some memorization ideas in other posts that you may want to review.
If you have not built your flash cards yet, now is the time. I’ve seen candidates with stacks of flash cards on every LOS and numbering several hundred. If you are writing them out, this might be a way to learn each LOS or details within the topics, but I always thought it was a bit much. I usually ended up making around 40-80 flash cards of the formulas or lists that I felt were most important or the most difficult. Write out your flash cards in a question-answer format, something like you might see on the test. This will help you get in the groove of reading through a question and picking out the important data. Copying end of chapter or blue-box questions from the curriculum is usually the easiest way to generate quality cards.
While I wouldn’t suggest taking the entire week off from studying, you do need some time to decompress from the mania that is the CFA exams. I usually took Fridays off within my normal study schedule anyway, so would take the day before the exam off as well. Take the day off but stay active. Sleeping late or doing nothing all day may make it harder to sleep that night. Just relax and don’t think about the exam.
Good luck on the exams.